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Discover sacred temples in Shanghai

6th October 2015

Any trip to the Far East is going to be a memorable one. The region can feel for many like a step into the unknown but the culture and customs are worth the trip alone.

Countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand have become popular amongst those wanting a taste of the Far East, whilst China also remains a great location for a holiday. It is not just the culture that keeps people coming back, it is the amazing architecture that populates these countries. Shanghai in particular boasts a host of historic temples.

The largest city by population in the world, Shanghai combines both the modern with the traditional. While the centre is home to some of the planet's biggest businesses, Shanghai stays true to its heritage with a large number of historic temples remaining nearby. With Iglu offering cruises to the Chinese city, why not check out some of these traditional places of spirituality? Here is our rundown of the best temples Shanghai has to offer.

shanghai temple

Jade Buddha Temple

By far the most famous temple in Shanghai, the Jade Buddha is an iconic image of the city. Founded in 1882, the structure draws from both the Pure Land and Chan traditions of Mahayana Buddhism. It is an intriguing place to stroll around and learn about the history of the temple while gazing upon the many statues.

In the Jade Buddha itself is the Chamber of Four Heavenly Kings, which contains images of Maitreya, Wei Tuo Bodhisattva and the Four Heavenly Kings. These figures represent favourable circumstance and good fortune.

There is also the Grand Hall which features the statues of the Three Golden Buddhas (Gautama Buddha, Amitabha and Bhaisajyaguru), the Gods of the Twenty Heavens which are covered in gold on the eastern and western sides of the Grand Hall and of course the 18 Arhats, statues of what the Buddhists consider to be "perfected people".

jade buddha temple shanghai

Jing'An Temple

Translated as the Temple of Peace and Tranquillity, the Jing'An Temple perfectly portrays modern day Shanghai. It can trace its history back to 247 AD but set against the backdrop of towering skyscrapers, it highlights the juxtaposition between the historic side of Shanghai and its now urban metropolis.

Built in the Wu Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China and having sat in the same location beside the Suzhou Creek since 1216, the features of the Jing'An Temple are simply remarkable.

It has three Southern-style main halls each with its own courtyard dating back to 1880. Among the main features is the Guanyin Hall, which is made out of camphor wood along, with paintings by master artists such as Chu Zhishan, Zhang Daqian and Wen Zhenming.

jing'an temple shanghai

Wen Miao

The Shanghai Wen Mao is one of the understated temples in Shanghai and is set away from the city centre. However, it is one of major spirituality and pays homage to Confucius, a legendary ancient Chinese philosopher who lived between 551 and 479 BC. It is similar to the original Temple of Confucius in his hometown Qufu but smaller in its stature.

Wen Miao was first founded during the Yuan Dynasty and quickly became the most prestigious learning institution in Shanghai, when it gained the status of a county. A visit is not complete without viewing the bizarre-shaped stones and wood and, of course, the Kuixing Pavilion which is situated in the western part of the compound.

chinese lanterns in shanghai

Chenghuang Miao

Moving back into the centre of Shanghai and Chenghuang Miao is another must when visiting the city's temples. Translated as The City God Temple, Chenghuang is dedicated to three city gods - Huo Guang, Qin Yubo and Chen Huacheng.

The former was a famous Han Dynasty chancellor and is known for overthrowing a young emperor and replacing him with another. Qin Yubo lived in Shanghai during the 12th and 13th centuries and served as the Imperial examiner for the Hongwu Emperor before his death in 1373.

Chen Huacheng was a Qing Dynasty general and helped to defend Shanghai from the British during the First Opium War.

The temple acts as a shrine to these city gods and is adjoined to the famous Yuyuan Garden.

Learn more with a river cruise to China, or for more information about cruising in this beautiful part of the world, sign up for our new Asia brochure.


Practical Guide to China

14th September 2015

With diverse cultural experiences on offer and a vast expanse of land, it is no wonder that many holidaymakers are heading to China.

The country is experiencing somewhat of a boom in tourism of late with international visitors soaring to 26.36 million last year. People flock from all corners of the globe to see iconic wonders such as the Great Wall of China and embrace the culture and customs of the Chinese way of life.

Many ocean and river cruises visit China with stop offs in cities such as Beijing, Xian, Fengdu and Shanghai, making for some incredible experiences. However, there are a few things you need to know before heading for the Far East, here is our practical guide to holidaying in China.

Getting in

Hong Kong Harbour

China is hugely accessible from the UK with flights leaving airports such as London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester and Edinburgh among others. Airlines such as Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Hainan Airlines all offer direct services to reduce the need for transfers. Flight time from the UK is around ten and a half hours.

To enter China you must have both your passport and a visa, the latter can be obtained from a Chinese Embassy or Consulate prior to your trip.

Currency

China deals in the Chinese Yuan with the current exchange at 9.62 CNY to the pound.

What to see

If you are heading on an Iglu river cruise, the first destination is likely to be Shanghai. China's largest city combines modern architecture with the history and culture of the nation's past. Head down to the Jing'an District to see the famous Jing'an Temple, a Buddhist place of worship which has sat on the same the site since 1216. Literally meaning 'Temple of Peace and Tranquillity', the temple was originally built in the Wu Kingdom in 247 AD. It features the Hall of Heavenly Kings, Hall of the Three Saints and The Precious Hall of the Great Hero. Once inside you will be transported away from the urban metropolis in which it sits.

If you are visiting Shanghai for the first time then a trip to the Bund is an absolute must. From the Anglo-Indian term for muddy embankment, Bund was once considered to be the most important financial street in Asia and is filled with Western institutional banks and business buildings. A walk along will provide great views of Old Shanghai, a beautiful juxtaposition between classic and modern.

South of the Bund is Nanshi, the old town of Shanghai, which will give you a clear idea of what the city was like in generations gone by. These lively streets are filled with locals going about their daily business providing a real buzz around the place.

Make sure to visit the Zhujiajiao Water Town, a 400-year-old water village with a signature five-arch bridge spanning the Cao Gang River. This is an important place for local trade and goods being shipped up and down the river. It is a little way out from Shanghai itself but is well worth a visit and is connected via public transport.

 

Eat and drink

Chinese food

While Chinese food is attainable all over the world, there is nothing better than tasting the real deal. Different approaches and twists are taken on classics across the country but Shanghai food is characterised by some sweet and oily dishes. Pork is the meat of choice in the city and it is used in dumplings and bun fillings, as well as served in strips.

Arguably the most famous dish in Shanghai is xiaolongbao, small steamed buns served with a delicious broth and some form of meat inside. Before heading off on your cruise around China, be sure to try both xiefen shizitou, crab meat and pork meatballs, and Shanghai mao xie, the city's 'hairy crab'.

Across China food tends to be split into the Four Great Traditions - Jiangsu, Cantonese, Shandong and Sichuan. All of these display a different style of cooking, some of which you may be familiar with while others could be foreign concepts. There are other traditions such as Teochew, Guizhou, Hainan and Imperial, experience them all for a true culinary adventure.

When it comes to drinking, China loves a beer with Tsingtao remaining the nation's most popular brew. Grape wine is also popular in the nation with Suntime, Yizhu, Mogao Ice Win and Shangrila Estate widely available brands. For non-alcoholic beverages, you can't go wrong with authentic Chinese tea.

 

Stay safe

As with any major country across the globe, China's crime rate differs from place to place. While the larger cities are relatively safe, tourists should be aware of potential pickpockets at some of the popular attractions. It is always wise to bring a little extra money just in case of the unlikely event that something does happen.

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