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Shanghai's Best Temple Fairs 2015
by Joseph Nicolai - Feb 17, 2015
Chinese New Year is a great celebration in Shanghai. This February 18th 2015, some venues will celebrate the event for just one day while other locations will keep special events rolling for over a month. During this period various temples will set up special festivals. These “miaohui” (or temple fairs,庙会in Chinese) are a centuries old Buddhist/Taoist tradition that not only celebrated the gods but also was a celebration of life itself. It’s quite hard to differentiate what is “truly” Buddhist and what is “truly” Taoist, as a lot of people have different ideas on the matter and also because of centuries of intermixing in China.
Sadly, since the (Western) New Year’s Eve’s fatal crush in Shanghai that rang in 2015, restrictions have been put in place for Shanghai’s upcoming celebrations. Some temples have in fact cancelled all gatherings while others have tried to limit gatherings (that still number in the tens of thousands). Even if you don’t want to head to some of Shanghais better known Temple fairs this 2015, be prepared for some dragon dancing & various celebrations spreading across Shanghai’s bustling city streets. With red decorations are being set up almost everywhere – my favorite is the truck I saw this morning driving by with his hubcap decorated with red tassels – be prepared to see the world with red tinted glasses.
These temples will stay open well through the night to greet the crowds. In all of these venues it’s good to take a note that incense must be bought onsite and drinking in temples is not well received.
City God Temple Fair (城隍庙庙会)
Located within Shanghai’s old walls this temple, one of Shanghai’s “most” daoist temples, has been through a lot. But before we get to that point, lets get the basics out of the way. This temple is dedicated to three local city gods that are simply unfamiliar to Buddhist practitioners anywhere else. Converted in the 15th century, originally it was known as Jinshan God Temple, or in English something like “Gold Mountain God Temple”. It was later co-opted during the cultural revolution and used to house a variety of different establishments. From being used as a jewelry store to various other applications, it finally made its way down to the right “path” to being run by a Taoist association. When they Taoists arrived, they also made sure to remove some of the more Buddhist aspects that had made its way in to its doors the previous years. With the sprawling temple connected to next-door Yuyuan Garden, a great way to pass new years is to also pass through the quaint garden. Sadly there will be no bell ringing this year but there will be a blessing session at midnight of the Lunar New Year’s Eve if that fits your fancy. 80 RMB.
Address: 1 Yicheng Rd, near Fangbang Middle Rd, Huangpu District (黄浦区邑城路1号, 近方浜中路)
Longhua Temple Fair (龙华庙会)
If you like big then come here. It is quite simply Shanghai’s largest Buddhist temple. Located in Shanghai’s south-west, Longhua Temple (龙华寺) is the city's oldest Buddhist temple hailing from over 1,800 years ago. Today the area around the temple is filled with local snacks joints and a variety of touristy venues. This “temple street” also offers a variety of vegetarian dishes that are particularly worth a try. After getting your fill of spiritual tourism, you can come here and fill your belly with some amazing vegetarian food. Since its grand re-opening in the 1980’s, locals have been coming here since the Lunar New Year's Eve of 1988 to hear the bell ring in the prosperous times ahead. It’s probably too late to make a special reservation this year, but the first 108 people are allowed to ring the big and heavy bell - once each - which is alleged to be particularly lucky for some. At night they have various festivities on offer with some artistic performances in the neighborhood. 16 RMB.
Address: 2853 Longhua West Rd, near Longwu Rd, Xuhui District (徐汇区龙华西路2853号, 近龙吴路)
Jade Buddha Temple Fair (玉佛禅寺庙会)
Jade Buddha Temple was founded in 1882 with two jade Buddha statues imported to Shanghai from Burma. These two original jade figurines are relatively small compared to the larger Buddha statue recently brought to the temple from Singapore. While it got its name from the two smaller statues, most people now – including locals – believe it’s named after the bigger Buddha. A special blessing session will take place at midnight. Sorry, but here you can’t ring the bell yourself but you can join in others in the festivities. 50 RMB.
Address: 170 Anyuan Rd, near Jiangning Rd, Putuo District (普陀区安远路170号, 近江宁路)
Jing’an Temple Fair (静安寺庙会)
Jing’an Temple has stood the test of time. During the Cultural Revolution the temple was converted into a plastic factory. When entering the beautiful temple it’s very hard to imagine everything that this place has been through. Where did the factory go? How did they take the factory away? If it can teach us anything it’s that nothing is permanent. In 1983 it was returned to its original purpose and renovated with the Jing'an Pagoda which was completed in 2010. These renovations were not free and neither is entry to the temple. Expect to pay 30 RMB for a ring of the bell and quite a bit more for entry if you are heading there on New Year’s day. Well worth a visit. 30 RMB.
Address: 1686 Nanjing West Rd, near Huashan Rd, Jing’an District ( 静安区南京西路1686号,近华山路)
Songyinchan Temple (松隐禅寺)
Welcome to Songyinchan Temple - one of the least money hungry shrines in Shanghai. Expect to hear the bell ringing to start at sometime after 11:08 pm on New Year's Eve.
While being quite far from normal expat/tourist enclaves, if you want a more traditional & more of a community take on the New Year it may be a great place to go. While it may be very hard to get reservations at this time of year, you may still be able to get a nice experience of Chinese in and around this temple. That said getting back home from here – wherever that may be for you – might be difficult if you want to see this temple at night. Plan ahead. 3 RMB
Address: 58 Huayanta Rd, Jinshan District (金山区华严塔路58号)