The temples of Shanghai

With its surreal cityscape and bustling streets, it's hard to imagine Shanghai has a spiritual side.

Step beyond the gates into the temples of this melting pot of old and new and you'll find a world of calm. Here the Shanghai locals seek enlightenment and pay their respects to their most beloved ancient figures.

Leave your troubles behind

The Jade Buddha Temple has to be one of the most spectacular temples in Shanghai. Feel the chaos of the city slip away as you enter a sacred space furnished with strings of red lanterns and a lotus pond swarming with multi-coloured fish.

The Great Treasure Hall is the place to go if you want to see monks chanting and students praying alongside Shanghainese worshippers. You can’t miss the temple’s centrepiece - a nearly two-metre tall pale green Buddha crafted from pure jade. It’s believed to have been brought by Buddhist monks from Burma and installed during the 1800s.

Just as impressive is the larger reclining Buddha made of marble, and the three Buddha statues in the second hall of Daxiong Baodian. After you've explored the temple's classical Chinese architecture and gilded statues, stay for lunch at the vegetarian restaurant around the corner.

Close to Wen Miao market you'll find the Confucius Temple, a truly ancient Shanghai landmark built between 1368 and 1398.

Serenity in the city

Not far from the Wen Miao market you'll find the Confucius Temple, a truly ancient Shanghai landmark built between 1368 and 1398. The temple has been restored several times, but if you want a photo with its only original structure, stand by the three-storey pagoda near the entrance. Look out for the great thinker himself in statue form, alongside large stone carvings that make up the temple's 28 buildings.

Make a wish in the Sky and Cloud reflection pond, then wander over a bridge embellished with stone dragons and lion heads. If you're after a memento, the small teapot museum is well worth a look. You could also make a point of visiting on a Sunday for the book market, a fascinating place to browse through a huge selection of books, cartoons and periodicals from ancient times to the present day. Nearby you'll find all manner of stores selling antiques, paintings, ancient coins and stamps.

A place of grace

If you're curious to see how the Buddhist Shanghai residents pay their respects, head to the south of the city. Here you'll find Longhua Temple, the largest and oldest temple in Shanghai. First built in 242 AD and reconstructed several times, you'll easily recognise this oasis of calm by its ornate seven-storey pagoda.

Listen for the gently ringing bells swaying from the pagoda's eaves and breathe in the scent of incense burning as the locals show their devotion. You might even see the monks in their gold robes wandering through the courtyards or past the many gold Buddhist statues in the temple's attractive halls.

It's worth visiting Longhua Temple late in spring, when the peach trees in the park are in full bloom. If you happen to be here for New Year's Eve, don't miss the famous Evening Bell-Striking Ceremony, when the temple's huge copper bell rings out across the land.

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