A Tour of Shanghai, China
Our tour of China continues with Shanghai after our visits to Beijing and Xian. Our hotel was nice with a setting that was close to everything you could possibly want.
The area around our hotel is very safe, clean and enjoyable to walk around. Unfortunately, we had such little time for that as our day would start early and be filled with many enjoyable activities, tours and wonderful places to visit.
After a great buffet breakfast that offered Asian, European and American style food, we were soon headed to the Shanghai Jade Buddha Temple. It was a great way to see how the Chinese people worship and the serene temple was a wonderful place to slowly ease into the hustle-bustle that is Shanghai.
Shanghai is situated on the central coast of China and is the largest city and the global financial hub of the country. The Shanghai Jade Buddha temple was built in 1882 and is named for the two jade Buddha statues on the temple grounds. The smaller statue was imported to China from Burma in 1882 by Monk Huigen, the larger statue was brought from Singapore by Zhenshan, in 1890. The Monk moved the Buddha from Putuoshan to Myanmar via Tibet, then shifted it to its current place. He then went off in search of contributions to construct a temple for it.
The Shanghai Jade Buddha temple was actually destroyed during the revolution in 1912 that overthrew the Qing Dynasty. Somehow during the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, the statues were saved from destruction and a new temple was built on the present site in 1928.
Please take note that tourists are required to pay a modest extra fee if they want to see the jade Buddha statues. This is in addition to any entrance fees that are collected.
Families gather with tourists as they worship in the serene temple complex which is in stark contrast to the surrounding flurry of commotion and activity of Shanghai.
The temple is a place where tourists and locals intermingle. It is a place of sights, sounds, and smells. The sights are impressive, the sounds are subtle and the smells are of fragrant incense burning as offerings.
Above, a moment of reflection as a monk offers spiritual guidance.
Above and below, despite the significant amount of people who visit the Shanghai Jade Buddha temple, there are plenty of places on the compound that offer time to be alone and reflect on the spirituality and beauty of the place.
The air is filled with the smell of incense burning as offerings are made. It is said that incense purifies the surroundings and brings forth an assembly of Buddhas, gods, and even demons. Incense plays a valuable role in Chinese Buddhist ceremonies and rites as well as those of Chinese Taoists.
The first recorded use of incense was by the Egyptians during the Fifth Dynasty, 2345-2494 BC. Incense use in religious rituals was also developed in China and eventually passed on to Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Above, a local drives his “custom” motorbike to the Shanghai Jade Buddha temple for a day of reflection.
Above, a vendor sells magical sounding flutes made of dried, ornately carved gourds just outside the Shanghai Jade Buddha Temple.
Above, after leaving the temple we were whisked away to the local Shanghai Fish Market. Whenever I travel I always love to visit local markets, especially fish markets as these are the places where you can get the real cultural experience. In Asia, there are typically no huge supermarkets. Instead, the locals purchase their food from open markets that sell meats, fish, vegetables and fruit. These are very colorful places that are run by warm, friendly people. Visitors will usually see items that they have never seen before.
Above, a vendor hawks a long, lotus root that is typically sliced and can be boiled, braised, stir-fried, sauteed, stuffed or deep-fried. It is a very popular ingredient in Asian cuisine.
Above, a taro root which is also very popular in Asian dishes. It can be prepared in much the same fashion as the lotus root. The starchy root has a low glycemic index, which helps keep your body’s blood sugar levels stable.
Although I really enjoy local markets and their variety of provincial fare, it is really the people who make these places so very interesting. These are what I consider “people of the Earth.” They are who provide us with sustenance and their hard work sometimes goes unappreciated. Rarely does one find a market person who is not warm, caring and friendly.
Above, colorful gloves drying outside the colorful fish market make for an equally colorful photo.
Rice is a staple in China, and they say that you should eat every grain of rice on your plate because the farmer worked so hard to put it on your table. This is an aphorism that should be applied to all that is put on our plate.
Above, a shopper points out what he would like as part of his next meal. From the wonderful aromas and the delicious looking nature of the dishes, one could simply close their eyes, point at anything and be treated to a wonderful tasting meal.
Shanghai is a shoppers paradise, but one must be careful as it is also a land of “buyer beware.” There is an abundance of good quality and an overabundance of poor quality, so the buyer must understand the workmanship and provenance of the items they purchase. Haggling is a tradition and if you understand that most items are overpriced to take this into account, you will get a better price and a more enjoyable experience. Start very low, as if you really can live with the item, then work from there.
Above, a magnificent “painting” made with millions of silk threads.
Above, a unique Chinese stringed instrument. Note the elaborate headstock and the precision joinery at the corners.
In the heart of Shanghai is the Bund which is bordered by a large, sweeping waterfront promenade that is lined with colonial-era buildings. In stark contrast, the promenade adjoins the Huangpu River and offers a spectacular view of the Pudong district’s modern, futuristic skyline.
Above, the classic “Beatles-crossing-Abbey-Road” photo that I enjoy taking every time I see a similar crosswalk.
Signs, signs, everywhere the signs! Another thing I enjoy is seeing is the literal interpretation of Chinese to English signs. Although they are somewhat incorrect, seeing them makes you stop to read them and perhaps even take note of what they are trying to say.
As a dedicated traveler, I enjoy seeing new places, but I really enjoy meeting new people and I am always amazed at the friendliness and welcome that I am made to feel.
Above and below, a peaceful place to send a text, check your e-mail, take a selfie or just watch brightly-colored Koi swimming lazily in a serene Shanghai park.
Three generations spend time in the park listening to the grandmother who has seen China go through many changes.
Unlocking China is the key to understanding this fabulous land. A trip to China is a unique experience that will fill the traveler with a taste of new foods, a vision of new sights and the existence of new sounds and a perception that we humans really do have a lot in common.
China is a vast country, filled with diversity and so much to see and do that it may take many lifetimes to experience it all. Shanghai is China’s biggest city and a global financial hub, with a population of over 24 million as of 2018. It is a must-see/must-do on any bucket list and memorable drop in the bucket.
All photographs are the copyright of Jim Jackson Photography. Please contact me for authorization to use any photos or for hand-signed, high-resolution copies.