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China is old. Very, very old. My new friends and I discovered a bit of “recent” Chinese history today during a short bike ride to the Shezhuang Temple in Jinqiao – literally a block away from our very modern neighborhood. My use of the word “recent” is relative as this temple was built in the late 17th century, during the Ming Dynasty.

I was told about the temple from a neighbor, who found it on a bike ride. Then, I read a blog written by another neighbor – Lost in Shanghai – in which he describes his visit and tells the history of the temple. Check out his blog.

Anyway, to reach the temple, we had to cross a 4 lane road which is a very dangerous undertaking in Shanghai. Once we made it across, a quick left down a dirt road brought us by the few remaining migrant homes. We turned a corner past a pile of trash and found ourselves right in front of the temple. I didn’t take photos of the squalid remains of the migrant village, that topic deserves it’s own post.  Check out the photos of what it used to look like:  Shezhuang Temple.  This two minute YouTube video is enlightening – Future of Shezhuang Temple.

The temple was built to honor a generous man, named JinSan, who became a local hero. He was the official of the Granary and while transporting grain up the river, he distributed some to the starving people living there. Before the Imperial Court could carry out their death sentence for such a crime, he committed suicide.

The temple is beautiful in it’s own way. Sure, it’s dirty, but it is well-maintained and used for festivals. Today, the only other person there was a woman working selling incense.

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Shezhuang Temple is a Taoist temple (not sure what that is? Read about Taoism here. Ever read The Tao of Pooh?

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My friend, Lan, purchased some incense for us all and explained that the people would light three sticks of incense, bow three times, say a prayer – always praying for someone else, never for yourself – bow three more times, then put the incense out in one of these:

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You should never blow on the incense sticks. That’s improper.

We wandered around the temple, talking and appreciating the beauty of this deserted place in the middle of the modern city. The area surrounding the temple is covered in rubble, awaiting some kind of new development.  Today, I also read this blog post about a migrant area that was just torn down – Hunting Cheese in China – strange coincidence.  This city is growing way too fast…

Enjoy the rest of these photos. I’m looking forward to more of these everyday adventures during my time here. I want to see it all – the good, the bad and the dusty/grimy beauty of ancient history.

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The three “spikes” on top are a sign of sorts – telling those who want to enter that they must leave their weapons outside.

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How cool is this bell?

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These are 1 yuan coin offerings…

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