Shanghai, was once a small fishing village. It has been described as the “showpiece” of the booming economy of mainland China. In spite of its tumultuous history, Shanghai, China has become the leader in the economic growth of China. It is predicted that China will overtake the United States in the market for luxury goods, and possibly become the financial capital of not only China, but all of Asia.
Shanghai history expands beyond China. Shanghai played an important part in World War II. It is reported that more than 30,000 Jews escaped the horrors, finding sanctuary in Shanghai. Shanghai, was the only large city which did not turn these refugees away. In fact, in Shanghai the numbers of refugees were equal to the total among all of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, and South Africa combined. Those who left Shanghai, after the war, and until the 60’s considered Shanghai as their second homeland, while referring to themselves as “Shanghai Jews.”
The City God’s Temple (Lao Chenghuang Temple) is located south of Yan’an Road on the Fanbang Zhong Road in the old city of Shanghai. This temple has a 600 year old history. The original name was the Jinshan God Temple, major Taoist temple in Shanghai, dedicated to the spirit of Jinshan or “Gold Mountain” which is an island off of the coast of Shanghai. The temple is also referred to at the “Old City God’s Temple.” The City God Temple is made up of multiple halls such as the Grand Hall, Middle Hall, Bedroom Palace, Start Gods Hall, Yama Palace, and Xuzhen God Hall, along with the Yuyuan Garden and East Garden. The temple is more than a place for worship or prayer. It has become not only a tourist attraction but a large attraction for locals to sell their wares, but for other businesses such as boutiques, jewelry stores, eateries, and various forms of entertainment, especially during the various festivals. It is said that there is a famous saying: If you go to Shanghai and do not visit the Shanghai City God Temple, then you have not visited Shanghai!
Buddhism is one of the primary religions in Shanghai. One of the authentic, Buddhist temples where monks continue to live, work, and worship is the Jade Buddha Temple. The temple was built in 1882, in the symmetrical style of the Song Dynasty from 900’s A.D. The purpose of the temple was to hold two white jade Buddha statues that were brought from Burma. The temple is easily identified by visitors as they come upon the bright saffron colored, exterior walls. One of the interesting Buddhas is the reclining Buddha that lies on a redwood bed. Throughout the temple are various deities, gold-plated Buddhas, and over 7000 Buddhist Sutras (Buddhist texts) along the walls. The temple is located in the middle of the city, yet provides solitude to the approximately 70 monks that live there. The public is allowed, however, the taking of photographs is not permitted.
The Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum is the former Ohel Moshe Synagogue was built in 1927 (Jewish Year 5688). The synagogue is located on No. 62 Changyang Rd. The Ohel Moshe Synagogue was the place for religious services and activities for the refugees. On Jan. 13 2004, the former Ohel Moshe Synagogue was acknowledged as an historical building. The People’s Government of Shanghai’s Hongkou District declared it to be a protected cultural relic site.
Although the Jewish refugees left for other parts of the world, they have returned not forgetting what the people of Shanghai did for them. In 1986, survivors returned and presented a plaque to the People’s Government of the Hongkou District. The plaque was inscribed, with the words “20,000 Jewish refugees were survived in Shanghai during the Second World War. To all the survivors and friendly Chinese people we dedicated this plaque.” The visits, showing appreciation did not stop with the plaque. The former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin visited what is now the museum, leaving these words in the guestbook, “The Jewish People were protected by Shanghai People when they were murdered and driven out by Nazis and wandered the world. The Israeli Government, Jewish People and I give thanks for their help from the bottom of our hearts.”
The Yuyuan Garden, dates back to its completion, by the Ming Dynasty, in the 1500’s. During the 1700’s, wealthy merchants purchased the now neglected garden. They added various buildings, while reconstructing the gardens over a 20 year period, to only see the garden destroyed during the Opium war. The garden, again in the 50’s was reconstructed to finally open to the public in 1961. Today, the garden covers about 5 acres with several halls such as the Cuixiu Hall containing curios, the Yuyua Hall where a beautiful jade rock, one of the three unusual rocks that can be seen. It is said that if you if you burn a joss stick just below the rock, the smoke will magically float out from all of the holes. Pan Yunduan built the Yuhua hall so that he could look out and view the jade rock. The furnishings of the hall were made of rosewood from the Ming Dynasty. Other parts of the garden contain ornamental ponds, beautiful flower walls, pavilions and other natural beauty such as the maidenhair tree which stands about 70 feet tall, and estimated to be over 400 years old.
The Shanghai Museum is a wonderful to place to go see, and learn about Chinese history. Located in the People’s Square of Shanghai, is the Shanghai Museum that contains, within 11 galleries and 3 exhibition halls, an extensive collection of Ancient sculpture, ceramics from the Neolithic age through other dynasties, jade, coins, Ming and Quing furniture, and painted porcelain. Over 400 pieces of bronze which explains the history of Chinese bronze art of the Shang and Zhou dynasties. The galleries contain a multitude of coins, art, jade, seals among many other items. One of the most interesting galleries is the Gallery of Arts and Crafts by Chinese Minorities which is a collection of over 500 pieces of art that is comprised of colorful items such as dyed embroidery, ancient clothing, bamboo ware, metal art, personal adornment items such as masks.
The tallest building in Shanghai, with its 88 stories, is the Jinmao Tower. Located in the center of the financial and trade center, the public will enjoy a panoramic view of Shanghai from the observation deck, which is one of the only two floors that is open to the public. Another spectacular view from the observation deck is the popular Oriental Pearl TV Tower, one of the tallest TV towers in the world, is located in Pudong Park. Another great view is the Bund which is a waterfront area, along Zhongshan Dong Lu Road, which parallels the western bank of the Juangpu Jiang River. The area is known for the various buildings, each with their own unique architectural style. A walk along the promenade at night, with the various buildings lit, as well as the various towers such as the Oriental Pearl TV Tower is a view that visitors won’t want to miss.
Nanjing road is a 3.4 mile long road that starts at the famous Bund in the east, ending west where the Jing’an Temple and Yan’an West street meets. Nanjing road is Shanghai’s largest shopping district with over 600 businesses that include a bit of the West with high-end stores such as Tiffany’s along with East where traditional items such as silk can be purchased. The Jing’an Temple, originally called Hudoa Chongyuan Temple, when it was first built during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), is one of the most famous temples in Shanghai. In 1972, the temple met a terrible fate, being totally destroyed by fire. Reconstruction began in 1984 with the Hall of Heavenly Kings and the Three-Sage Hall being two of the three main halls, with the third being the Mahavira Hall which is the home of the largest, pure jade, portrait of Sakyamuni in Mainland China. The large Buddha stands approximately 12 feet high, weighing 11,000 kilograms (approximately 24250.85 pounds). The temple also houses numerous relics, paintings and calligraphy. One of the most famous features is that of the bronze bell from the Ming Dynasty. After leaving the temple, you can return to the hustle and bustle, much like large metropolitan districts in the East, enjoying the street musicians, walking along Nanjing Road, or rest a bit on the unusual trackless train as it tours through this amazing area.
Water towns are what those in the Easy may call waterfront property. In China, however, water towns are a bit different, being more similar to towns like Venice, Italy. The towns were built along the canals which are used for transportation. The various water towns are great places to visit, as the residents have maintained much of the ancient ways of life and traditions. One of the oldest water towns is Zhujiajiao which is approximately 1700 years old. Zhujiajiao is also called the “Pearl Stream.” The town is described as being fan shaped which glimmers like a pearl, while surrounded by various lakes and mountains.
Zhujiajiao, like other water towns consist of ancient architecture along with gardens such as the Ke Zhi Yuan garden, as well as ancient wooden bridges, and those that have been constructed with stone, and marble. One of the famous bridges in Zhujiajiao is the Fangsheng Bridge, constructed in 1571 with stone, and the largest, as well as the longest bridge in Shanghai. Those who stroll along the bridge will be met with by the Dragon Gate Stone, a stone tablet, which is engraved with 8 coiled dragons surrounding a glistening pear. Atop the bridge is 5 lifelike stone lions.
Walking along the narrow streets, passing by shops and stores, certainly takes you back in time, even more so with the ancient looking awning boats as they are docked, and the stone bridge over the Dianpu River, as well as the residential buildings, all from the Ming and Quing styles. Many of us have seen the art work depicting these ancient towns, but as a visitor, the art is brought to life.
Qibao Ancient Town with a history spanning over 1000 years is located in the Minhang District, less than 12 miles from downtown Shanghai. The name Qibao means “Seven Treasures” in Chinese. There are tales told by the locals of the seven treasures which consist of a bronze bell that appeared mysteriously, an iron Buddha from the Ming Dynasty, a Gold Script Lotus Santra that was to be have written by an imperial concubine. The Script and bell exist today. A one-thousand-year-old Chinese catalpa tree, jade axe, gold cockeral and a pair of jade chopsticks are also among the seven treasures about which the tales are told. It is not known as whether all of the seven treasures ever existed, since only a few have been verifiable.
Qibao still maintains many of the ancient ways of the people. As visitors stroll through the town, they may pass a unique activity which is called “cricket fights.” Of course, these unusual insects are also on display in the museum that was constructed to display the crickets, as well as live cricket fights. Those who appreciate the arts may appreciate the Shadow Plays, or an array of traditional snacks such as flavored cakes made from rice which is called ‘Qibaogao” as they walk along the streets of this ancient town. Other unique treats found are sugar coated hawas on sticks (Tanghulu) or Hebao doufugan which is dried bean curd that is wrapped in lotus leaves. Qibao is certainly a town where you can experience ancient history, tradition, folklore, food and art as well as the changes that have taken place as time has gone on in Shanghai, as well as in China.
- Jion Beijing Great Wall International Travel Agency Immediate Exposure to China Expo 2010 (prweb.com)
- Shanghai renews reputation as Paris of the Orient (travelnews.britishairways.com)
- My Sporadic Trip to Shanghai (myerstwhilethoughts.wordpress.com)
- Shanghai to Matlock (worldisourlobster.wordpress.com)
- Photo of the day: Ohel Rachel Synagogue, Shanghai (treeofmamre.wordpress.com)
- Architectural Brilliance and Pink Buses (carlylarson.com)
- Shanghai: Yu Garden – An Excellent Preservation of Classical Chinese Gardening Architecture (weixiangxu.wordpress.com)