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December 4, 2009

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Longhua Temple for New Year's, Jing'an for downtown respite


Longhua Temple is the largest and most complete Buddhist architecture in Shanghai and it's a magnet for Lunar New Year's Eve bell tolling and celebration.

Every New Year's Day people hang their wishes, written on red paper, in branches of a massive tree - the higher you manage to toss your wish, the better the chances of its coming true.

The temple in Xuhui District is also known for a three-day temple fair in spring. It falls on the third day of the third lunar month, putting it in April. Peach trees in Longhua Temple are in bloom and dragons are said to visit on that day to make wishes come true.

The lively fair features food of all kinds, performances, acrobatics, traditional crafts and other attractions.

It is said the temple was first built in AD 242 by Sun Quan, the king of the Wu Kingdom (AD 222-280).

Over the years it was destroyed and rebuilt several times. It was devastated the first time by war in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) and reconstructed in AD 977 during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

Most of the present-day buildings were reconstructed in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

One of the better preserved is the reconstructed Song-style monastery of the Buddhist Chan sect. It is known as the Sangharama Five-Hall Style.

The temple has five main halls, including Maitreya Hall, Heavenly King Hall, Grand Hall of the Great Sage, Three Sages Hall and Abbot's Hall. The Sutras-Keeping Hall (behind the Abbot's Hall) contains many sutras, relics and treasures.

In front of the temple stands Longhua Pagoda and the Bell Tower is nearby.

The pagoda has been rebuilt several times but the Song Dynasty style remains.

The wood and brick pagoda is 40.4 meters high, with seven stories and eight sides. It has turned-up eaves and is strung with bells.

It is not open to the public because it can be easily damaged by tourist traffic.

The Bell Tower houses a bronze bell that weighs more than 3 tons. On Lunar New Year's Eve, it is struck 108 (auspicious number) times in the evening bell-striking ceremony.

The event is very popular.

Down an outer corridor is a vegetarian restaurant serving only vegetarian noodles. It's open from 7am-3pm daily. The price is from 10-15 yuan.

Jade trinkets and souvenirs are on sale inside and outside the temple.

Address: 2853 Longhua Rd

Hours: Daily, 7am-3pm; 1st and 15th days of each lunar month, 5am-4:30pm

Admission: 10 yuan

Tel: 6456-6085

Transport: Take Metro Line 3 to Longcao Road Station, or buses No. 41, 44, 809, 734, 933, 864, 73, 87, 104, 166 Jing'an Temple Yu Wei

Unlike its name Jing'an, which means serenity, Jing'an Temple today is situated in a bustling area adjacent to an enormous beehive shopping mall. The temple remains relatively tranquil, however, and you can attend to both your spiritual and material needs in one easy trip.

The red and ochre temple, one of Shanghai's oldest, is a landmark in downtown Jing'an District, seated squarely on the Nanjing Road shopping artery.

Major renovation has been underway since 2008 and some buildings and a well-known vegetarian restaurant are closed temporarily.

They are expected to re-open before the World Expo 2010.

Jing'an Temple has a history of more than 1,760 years, and much was destroyed over the years and rebuilt. It was built in AD 247 during the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220?280) near what is now Suzhou Creek.

It was named "Huduchongxuan," and then renamed "Yongtai" (meaning perpetual peace) in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618?907).

It was relocated from the creek area because of erosion and named Jing'an in 1216 during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

In the temple is the Grand Hall of the Great Sage, a plaza, Sakyamuni Palace, Avalokitesvara (Guanyin) Palace, Gold Buddha Palace and a vegetarian restaurant which is closed for renovation.

At the core is the Grand Hall with three statues of Sakyamuni, a key figure in Buddhism.

Ten years of reconstruction and restoration of the Grand Hall were completed in 2008. Over the years it had been used as a plastics factory.

It is 26 meters high, with 46 intricately carved teak pillars. A 15-ton pure silver statue of Sakyamuni is enshrined.

Adjacent to the Grand Hall is Avalokitesvara Palace, sacred to the goddess of mercy, Guanyin, who is widely worshipped in China. Her camphor wood statue is 6.2 meters high and weighs 5 tons. She is seated on a lotus-shaped base.

In the middle of the temple plaza is a three-story pagoda. It is a tradition to throw coins as high as possible into the tower to bring good luck.

The temple houses many antiquities, including a 3.5-ton copper bell named Hongwu cast in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The temple stores many sutras.

Souvenir shops are open, of course, selling Buddhist items, incense, jewelry and trinkets.

Just a few steps away is Jing'an Park, a respite from the hectic shopping area.

It's tranquil and there's a Southeast Asian restaurant where you can eat outside overlooking a pond on warm days.

Address: 1686 Nanjing Rd W., near Huashan Rd

Hours: Daily, 7:30am-5pm

Admission: 20 yuan

Tel: 6256-6366

Transportation: Take Metro Line 2 to Jing'an Temple stop, or buses No. 15, 20, 45, 71, 76, 93, 94, 113, 138, 506, 824, 830, 831, 921, 927, 925, 939.


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