I thought of a series I should do about the touristy things that we see here in Shanghai, so over the next few weeks, or longer I can post on some of the sights on and off the beaten track here in Shanghai, and then at home, when I return for a few weeks over the summer holiday. Let us begin…. Welcome to the first installment of Tourist in My Own Town.
As you know I am NOT Chinese, nor do I speak Chinese, although I do try. I am starting to understand a few words and my feeble attempts can sometimes turn into a very brief conversation which I am extremely proud. This small understanding is showing progress and a grasp I now have of a difficult language that when I first arrived was a jumble of angry, loud sounds. I thought everyone was always arguing. Now I can understand the difference between words, some of which I recognise and sometimes I catch an odd word that I can actually understand. I have never taken a lesson and I work in an English environment, so my learning curve is pretty slow 😉 Who knew that one day we would call China home? I always dreamed about living abroad and getting to see more of a city, culture and lifestyle very different from my own, but never in a million years did I ever dream it would be Shanghai.
After 3 years of calling Shanghai home I have had a few opportunities to get out and do the touristy things. Often, just like home work and every day life take up the majority of our waking hours, so we visit the same few block radius to eat, shop and explore. Our radius expanded 8 months after we arrived with the opening of the Kerry Parkside which is a complex that houses a high-end hotel, marvelous mall with Western shops like the Gap and H & M, delicious restaurants and coffee shops. Since our time is limited here I decided we should start to get out and explore a bit more of this world class city before we head home for good.
As you know I LOVE the show the Amazing Race and have been watching it since season 1. The Race has been in Shanghai 2-3 times and the one season visited Shanghai was just after I accepted the job here and was starting to pack for my overseas adventure. We have hit many of the spots the Race went to including Science and Technology Museum, The Bund, and Yuan Garden. One spot I had been looking for was a temple that had hundreds of golden Buddha statues. We thought it was at Jing’An temple and kept planning to go, but always got sidetracked. Finally we planned a few weekends back that we would go. After a last minute search I discovered Jing’An was not the place the Amazing Race went, nor the one with all the golden Buddhas. Instead we went to a more out of the way Temple at the South End of the city on Line 3 called Longhua Temple.
Off the tourist track and a little out of the way we took a subway (after a few connections and about 50 minutes from where we live) and exited in a location that had more locals and next to no tourists. The directions we found on the internet were vague at best and no signs directed us where to go next. We asked a woman who understood some English and she pointed us in the direction of the street we wanted. The directions we had said walk East for 15 minutes, but the street veered off and we were not sure where to go. A large intersection with many lanes of traffic demanded a high pedestrian bridge, so we used it as a vantage point. From this height we could see a pagoda style building and decided that was it and headed for it. Once we arrived at this building we discovered it was an apartment complex,so where to next since our only option was right or left? Still no signage to point us in the right direction and neither one of us thought to bring a map.However, to the left was something that looked like a park, so left it was. Small shops selling fireworks and other funerary style offerings lined the right side of the street, so we figured we must be getting close? Once we came around the end of this block of building we saw a small towering pagoda that was no longer open to the public, but across the road large red gates with lion head knockers and a ticket booth with a 10 Yuan sign in the window told us we must be at our destination, Longhua Temple.
The temple was actually a courtyard and a series of small
temples housing many different displays and offerings. As we entered we could take some incense to burn. Many people were in prayer and bowing before continuing inside the series of buildings. It was a very peaceful and quiet place. I wish I understood more about Buddhism as I saw the many gods, fruit and food offerings and some people kneeling before gods and praying. Each building was different and held colourful and golden statuary of gods. According to China Travel Guide it is the oldest temple in Shanghai and the original temple was build here in 242AD. It is also the largest in Shanghai and built in the traditional symmetrical style. The pagoda across the street is actually a bell tower which is seven stories (or 40 m) tall. It is one of the few remaining structures from 977AD and is very fragile, so its balconies and views from the top are no longer accessible to the public. Wikipedia further states it comes from the Tang Dynasty, but after most of it was damaged and destroyed in war it was rebuilt in the Song Dynasty (977AD). It was refurbished in 1954, but kept the same style and design in the newer reconstructions of the Song Dynasty.
Each building held something new and learning about the history and traditions of a foreign culture are quite interesting. Seeing something that is in the city where I live that I had never seen before made it even more fun and I felt like I went on a mini vacation without even getting on a plane, or needing a passport. All this was right in my own town. Why not play tourist and share something from your home town? Put a link to your post in the comment section below (and link back to this post) and we can all learn about a new place to visit, or take a mini break without even leaving our living room 😉
Stay tuned… I will still post on the photo challenges for this week.