A classroom blog on contemporary art & new media in China, w focus on Shanghai. Run by students. Instructor: Defne Ayas (since '06), Francesca Tarocco (since '10). Past lecturers included: Yang Zhenzhong, Qiu Anxiong, Gu Wenda, Ding Yi, Hu Jieming, Birdhead, Zhao Chuan, Lynn Pan, Yang Fudong, Davide Quadrio, Jian Jun Zhang, Barbara Pollack, Lisa Movius, Phil Tinari, Li Zhenhua, Aaajiao, Shi Yong, Xu Zhen, Lorenz Helbling, Yan Pei Ming, ShuFu, Liu Ying Mei. Since Fall 2006.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
On our March 10 class trip we visited the Jade Buddha Temple, 玉佛禅寺. This site is important to China both historically and culturally, but what stood out most to me, is how it embodies many of the cultural paradoxes that run throughout Shanghai’s society. The juxtaposition of old and new, between sacred and commercial is inescapable in this city, and the Jade Buddha Temple is no exception. One of the oldest temples in Shanghai, its construction was prompted by the donation of several important jade statues of Buddha. The current structure was completed in 1928, which gives the temple a fairly long history in Shanghai-years.
The “front” building is called the “Chamber of Four Heavenly Kings” and houses several statues. The “Grand Hall,” the back building, is much larger and has a somewhat somber tone. Three Golden Buddhas, massive, impressive statues, greet visitors upon their entrance. The two side walls are lined with The Gods of the Twenty Heaves covered in gold. Each of these statues is different, but their details are masked by the shadows in the dark hall. A closer examination reveals intricate features that meld into the mass of gold. On the back wall is a large gold statue of Guanyin, accompanied by likenesses of his 53 teachers. These too are greatly detailed works of art.
The day of our trip was somewhat overcast, and the temple was not overly crowded during our afternoon visit. While most of the other visitors seemed to be Westerns or tourists, several people were worshipping outside the temple with sticks of incense. These acts of prayer were important reminders that behind the gold gilt and gift shop, this site is at its core an important spiritual site.