Jing‘an Temple (静安寺) is undoubtedly the most famous temple in Shanghai. Located in the city center, Jiang An temple is one of the main tourist attractions in Shanghai and it is included in all city tour trips and tourist guides. Even if you’re not into temples and Buddhism, you should give this Shanghai landmark a quick visit.
History of Jing An Temple
It is said that the temple is more than 780 years old. The truth, however, is that over the centuries this temple was repeatedly rebuilt, restored and originally it was not even at this location… So it’s difficult to say if and how much the contemporary temple resembles the original one.
Jing‘an Temple was initially built in the 3rd century on the bank of the Wusong River, during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280). Back then it was named Hudu Chongyuan Temple. In the 12th century, during the Southern Song Dynasty, it was moved to its present location and it slowly became a popular place of worship.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the temple had already become one of the busiest and most popular spots in the city. In 1908, when the first tramway was built in Shanghai, Jing’an Temple became its first station.
It was in 1945 when it was officially renamed Jing’an Temple.
In the 1960s, during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the temple was used as a plastic factory.
Unfortunately, in 1972 a fire burnt down to ruin the entire building. The temple was almost destroyed.
In 1984 the reconstruction began. The temple was rebuilt completely in traditional Chinese style. By 1990, the reconstruction was completed and the temple opened to the public.
What to see in Jing An Temple?
The temple is not very big. It is composed of one big yard that is surrounded by two side pavilions, the main hall, and the entrance hall. The visitors enter from the entrance hall and go directly into the yard.
The main hall of the temple is located in the north part of the courtyard, just opposite the entrance wall and the main temple entrance. This is the first building you’ll see when entering JingAn temple. The central room of the Main Hall is devoted to Gautama Buddha, the main figure of Buddhism. The woodwork of this hall is outstanding. It has a wooden structure, with massive teak pillars and carefully carved beams. The ceilings are also decorated with carved wood panels.
You will notice that the central room of the main hall is the only room in the temple that has such a beautiful wooded sealing. The other rooms are much simpler.
Jade Buddha Hall
On the opposite side of the main hall you will find The Mahavira Hall, also called the Jade Buddha Hall. As the name suggests, this room houses a huge Buddha statue made of pure jade. This is actually the biggest pure jade statue of Buddha-Sakyamuni in Mainland China.
The statue is 3.78 meters in height and 2.6 meters in weight. It is said that the jade Buddha weighs 11,000 kilograms! It is so heavy, that apparently the temple walls had to be torn down to place the statue in the room.
The secondary pavilions
The two secondary pavilions are located on each side of the courtyard. These pavilions include several small worship rooms, including the Hall of the Three Saints and the Hall of Virtuous Works.
Hall of Four Heavenly Kings
Another popular room in the temple is the Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings. It hosts statues of the Four Kings, popular gods in Buddhism.
The Hall of Four Heavenly Kings is a standard component of all Chinese Buddhist temples. In Chinese, they are known as the “Fēng Tiáo Yǔ Shùn” (风调雨顺). Each of the four gods is believed to watch over one cardinal direction of the world (north, south, east, and west).
Although they are more commonly called the Four Heavenly Kings, each one of them has a name and its cardinal direction to look for. According to the Buddhist tradition, each king is depicted in different colors and holds a different weapon.
Vaiśravaṇa (he who hears everything): he is the chief of the Four Heavenly Kings and the protector of the North. He is depicted in yellow or green and is holding an umbrella or a pagoda. He is the god of water or rain, which in Buddhism is also the element that represents wealth and money. Even though, in Buddhism there are many gods of wealth, Vaiśravaṇa is one of the most powerful and is said to rule over the others.
Virūḍhaka (he who causes to grow) is the protector of the South. He is usually depicted in blue and holds a sword. He is the ruler of the wind and he helps the crops to grow.
Dhṛtarāṣṭra (he who upholds the realm) is the ruler of the East. His color is white and he holds a stringed instrument, called pipa. Dhṛtarāṣṭra is the god of music and he uses his music to convert others to Buddhism. He brings harmony and compassion to the world.
Virūpākṣa (he who sees all) is the protector of the West. He is usually depicted in red and holds a snake. He protects all people from the sky and converts the infidels in Buddhism.
One of the most important relics housed inside the Jing’an Temple is the Hongwu Bell. This is a large bronze bell, cast during the Ming Dynasty (14th – 17th centuries). It is believed that the bell belonged to Emperor Taizu, also known as the Hongwu Emperor. The bell was named after him.
Today it can be seen at the top of the golden pagoda of JingAn temple.
Useful tourist information
The temple is not big at all and you’ll need 1h or maximum 2h so see everything and take some photos. Jiang An Temple is open every day from 7:30am until 5:00 pm.
You will need to pay an admission fee of 50 RMB to get into the temple. Children below 1.3m are free of charge. The entrance is free on the 1sh and 15th of each month. You will need to scan the mini-program of the WeChat official account of “Jing’an Temple” to purchase the tickets.
The only disadvantage of Jiang An is that, because of its central location, the temple is too commercialized and it’s always busy.
The temple is worth visiting in the evening as well. It is not open after 5pm, but all the facades are lit in magnificent lights until 10 pm.
How to get there?
The temple is very convenient to visit because it is located in the heart of the city and literally next to a metro station with the same name (Jiang An Temple Station).
To get there you need to take Subway Line 2 or 7 and get off at Jing’an Temple Station. Exit 1 brings you in front of the temple wall and all you need to do is turn left and reach the temple entrance.
If you are going by taxi, the exact address is 1686, West Nanjing Road. In Chinese: 上海市静安区静安寺南京西路1686号