Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jade Buddha Temple

Entering the Jade Buddha Temple serves as a brief respite from the stresses modern Shanghai presents. Within the temple grounds, monks patrol in groups and chant with the assistance of instrumentation. The monks aren't too loud, but one feels as though they could be heard from anywhere on the temple grounds. The temple itself is resplendent in shades of red and gold, striking the eye but never appearing too garish. The massive human figures within the temple appear much the same way; imposing and colorful, but demanding of respect and attention. The larger-than-life statues of deities tower over patrons of the temple, and the soft red cushions on the floor before them practically demand anyone who enters to genuflect.

Within the courtyard, billowing pillars of smoke stem from ancient cauldrons where 21st-century Shanghai reconnects with its past. Either one by one or in small groups, people take smoking sticks and bow towards each of the compass directions. But it is not a somber affair. A woman drops her torch after nearly burning herself and shrieks in simultaneous fright and excitement. No one shushes her or appears upset, beyond making sure she's okay.

The Jade Buddha Temple could easily appear in a worn and ragged state today, given its age, and yet it stands today as a testament to the dedication of its patrons. Every section of the temple seems as if it could have been built within the past few years. Yet the utmost care and respect has been paid to every detail, and it is evident. The Jade Buddha Temple is a fascinating location, one every visitor to Shanghai should visit.

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