Jing An Temple
Jing An Temple (Jing'an Temple, by Pinyin Chinese convention) was originally built in CE 247 near the stretch of Suzhou Creek that passes through Shanghai proper (a 24 kilometer stretch of Suzhou Creek is located inside Shanghai proper, while the stretch of the creek that runs through greater Shanghai measures 54 kilometers), in the then Kingdom of Wu (CE 229-280) - and thus before Shanghai itself was founded - during the Three Kingdoms (CE 220-280) period (the other two kingdoms being the Wei (CE 220-265) and the Shu (CE 221-263)). The temple was moved to its current location, presumably for reasons of flooding, in the 9th year (CE 1216) of the Jiading (CE 1208-1224) reign of Emperor Ningzong during the Southern Song (CE 960-1279) Dynasty (Suzhou Creek is a tributary to the Huangpo River, which is a large body of water that runs alongside The Bund in Shanghai and which river is known for its propensity for breaching its banks, which explains the high levee that now separates The Bund from the river).
Jing An Temple was restored several times, and was completely rebuilt during the Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty. It was almost completely destroyed (only one of the temple's halls was left standing) during the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864) as part of the Taiping Tian Guo (Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace) rule, which had, for a time, wrested a large swath of southern China from the then rulers of the Qing Dynasty, Emperors Xianfeng (1850-1861) and Tongzhi (1861-1875 - albeit Empress Dowager Cixi was the defacto ruler during this period), and which was an odd, heterodox Christian movement characterized by what might today be termed Taliban-like intolerant leanings.*
In 1921, the Hall of the Three Saints was added, and thereafter the temple was gradually restored to its present scale. In 1999, the temple, which has three main halls - Hall of Heavenly Kings (aka Precious Hall of the Great Hero), Hall of the Three Saints, and Hall of Virtuous Works - was completely renovated, and underwent another face-lifting, as it were, as recent as 2008.
The rest of the temple consists of Guanyin Hall, Jade Buddha Hall, and the Abbot's Chambers. A 6-meter tall, 5-ton statue of Guanyin, or Bodhisattva Guanyin (aka the Thousand-Hand Goddess of Wisdom), carved in camphor wood and standing on a lotus-shaped base, stands in Guanyin Hall, while Jade Buddha Hall features a 3.8-meter tall sitting Buddha carved in jade, situated at its center. This is the largest jade Buddha statue, in sitting position, in all of China. The temple also houses the Hongwu Bell, a large, 3½ ton Ming Dynasty copper bell from the reign (CE 1368-1398) of Emperor Taizu (aka The Hongwu Emperor, hence the name of the bell). Finally, the restored temple has also received two stone Buddhas dating from the Southern and Northern Dynasties (CE 386-588) period.
* The Taiping Rebellion is one of the quirkiest oddities of China's relatively recent history. It began, in essence, as a Han Chinese cultural revolt against the ruling Manchus (the rulers of the Qing Dynasty were, ethnically speaking, Manchus), brought on principally by the humiliations that China continued to suffer at the hands of foreign powers around the middle of the 19th century. Indeed, in the eyes of the Han Chinese, who felt themselves culturally superior to the Manchus (Manchu being a name change that the Jürchens of the hated Jin (CE 1115-1234) Dynasty had later assumed in order to rid themselves of the negative association with all things Jürchen), the Manchus were themselves foreign rulers. (The Jürchens cum Manchus were a Tungusic folk, or a branch of the Altaic peoples, which group also includes the Turks, the Mongols, the Koreans and the Japanese.) The Jürchens had settled in the northern part of China referred to as Manchuria, hence the idea for the name change.
But the rebellion was also brought on by a series of natural disasters as well as by a general economic collapse due to inept and corrupt government officials. The Taiping Rebellion was carried out mainly by lower-class members (laborers) of the Han Chinese ethnic majority who were resentful of Manchu minority rule.
A certain charismatic demagogue-in-the-making, Hong Xiuquan, who had failed to pass the Civil Service Examination that would have provided him with access to a secure, well-paid career in government administration, cast himself thereafter headlong into the study of the Christian scriptures (the Bible), with the help of a Protestant missionary. Hong soon announced that he had had a vision in which it was revealed to him that he was none other than the brother of Jesus of Nazareth (!).
Using this "revelation" as a means to further his aims, Hong began "preaching" against the ruling Manchus, and since there were many Han Chinese laborers who, like Hong, no longer found themselves in a position of automatic favor, the proselytization efforts of Hong fell on attentive ears. Soon a full-scale rebellion was under way, which had great success initially, though it was eventually quashed. The "precepts" of Hong's variant of Chinese Christianity held that the sexes should be segregated, that the tradition of binding women's feet should be abolished, that land was common property - and indeed, that trade and commerce should only be for the common good, not for private gain. Hong also advocated that the three ancient religions of China - Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism - should be replaced by his brand of Christianity.
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