Places of Worship in Shanghai, Shanghai (Self Guided)

The flourishing city of Shanghai is made up of a broad mix of cultures, with a large Western influence. This metropolis features a great number of places of worship that reflect the religious dedications of many of these cultures. Most of the churches and cathedrals are located in the central areas of the city, so they are surrounded by other wonderful, cultural landmarks. With this tour, you will enjoy an architectural and spiritual experience in one of the world's largest cities.
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Places of Worship in Shanghai Map

Guide Name: Places of Worship in Shanghai
Guide Location: China » Shanghai (See other walking tours in Shanghai)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 4 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 8.8 km
Author: emma
1
Jing'an Temple

1) Jing'an Temple (must see)

Translated literally as the “Temple of Peace and Tranquility”, the Jing'an Temple of Shanghai is a Buddhist shrine located on the West Nanjing Road within the district bearing the same name - Jing'an.

First built in 247 AD during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China, the temple was originally set beside the Suzhou Creek in the Wu Kingdom, but then moved to its present location in 1216 under the Song Dynasty. During the Qing Dynasty it was rebuilt and, during the Cultural Revolution period, it housed a plastic factory. In 1983, the temple returned to its original service as a house of worship, upon which it was renovated and had the Jing'An Pagoda added in 2010.

Today, the temple comprises six halls including the main Mahavira Hall (the "Precious Hall of the Great Hero"), the Guanyin Hall, the Jade Buddha Hall, and three Southern-style halls, namely: the Hall of Heavenly Kings, the Hall of the Three Saints, and the Hall of Virtuous Works, each with its own courtyard. The latter three halls were added as part of the reconstruction of 1880.

Within the Guanyin Hall there is a statue of Guan Yin goddess – measuring 6.2 meters tall and weighing 5 tons – made of camphor wood, standing atop a lotus-shaped base. Opposite the Guanyin hall, inside the Jade Buddha Hall, there is a 3.8-meter statue of sitting jade Buddha placed in the center, the largest of its kind in China. Other notable features within the temple include the Ming Dynasty copper bell (Hongwu Bell), weighing 3.5 tons, stone Buddhas from the Southern and Northern Dynasties period (420-589 AD), and paintings by renowned artists, such as Chu Zhishan, Zhang Daqian and Wen Zhenming.

Opening Time
The temple operates from 7:30AM until 5:00PM.
2
St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church

2) St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church

The St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church was the chief place of worship for the Russian Diaspora who fled to Shanghai from Vladivostok and flourished here between the two World Wars. Today, there is a revival of worship and services are held in the loft.

The Russian population in Shanghai consisted of refugees who fled their homeland after the Bolshevik Revolution. They established a small community called little Russia in the city. The St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church was built by the exiles at the former French Concession known as Rue Corneille. The location was later renamed as Gaolan Lu. The structure had the traditional onion shaped domes of orthodox churches of Russia. General Glebov, a prominent Russian exile, led the initiative to build a church for the Russian refugees. It was consecrated in 1937 in honor of St. Nicholas and the deposed Tsar Nicholas II.

The church was closed for worship when Europeans fled Shanghai after the Chinese Civil War. It was ransacked and damaged during the Cultural Revolution. The building was converted into a washing machine factory and later, a laundry. In 1994, the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church was declared a city level cultural relic. The upper floor was leased by the government to a French restaurant called Ashanti and the lower floor houses a Spanish restaurant. During the 2010 Shanghai Expo, the loft of the church was re-consecrated. From May 2010, weekly divine services have been held for visiting Russian Orthodox worshipers.
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
St. Peter Catholic Church

3) St. Peter Catholic Church

The St. Peters Catholic Church is located in the French Concession of Shanghai. Foreign residents of the city worship at the church and masses are celebrated in Chinese, English, German, Korean and French.

The St. Peters Catholic Church was built by the French Jesuits for the students of the Aurora University. The university was founded by a Chinese Jesuit priest, Fr. Ma Xiangbo and members of the Society of Jesus from France. The University remained a Jesuit institution till the Chinese revolution. After the Cultural Revolution, the Jesuits were driven out and the building became a culture center. Recently, the old building was demolished and a modern church was built in 1995 to house the congregation.

The original church was built in Byzantine architectural style. It had a central dome and five chapels. Religious ceremonies in a small part of the old building were revived in 1984. The Culture Centre relocated and returned the church to the diocese. The new structure has two floors. The church is on the second floor and chapels are on the ground floor. St. Peters Catholic Church remains one of the principal places of worship for catholic expatriates in Shanghai.
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Fazangjiang Temple

4) Fazangjiang Temple

Fazangjiang is one of the four most important Buddhist temples in Shanghai along with the Jade Buddha, Jing'an, and Longhua. Its unique architecture would make it a top destination in the Old Town, but curiously enough it does not advertise itself and without stepping through the doors, tourists would never know that it is there and even some Shanghainese are not aware of its existence. Along the city street, it appears as just another gated entrance into a neighborhood. Going past the wall, the feeling inside is quiet, even with people praying and burning incense.

The temple was built in 1924 and like the far more advertised Jing’an, it too was used as a factory during the Cultural Revolution and then restored. Some parts of the structure have been designed with unique Art Deco motifs, and adding to the uniqueness is the location of the main hall inside a tower-like structure. A large modern statue of the Sakyamuni, also known as Gautama Buddha, is now found in the hall sitting on top of a lily. There are also two gilded walls with images of "arhats" or so-called "perfected persons" who have attained nirvana. Other walls have golden sculptures of the Buddhist trinity, and there is a small shrine dedicated to Dizang Wang, the Chinese God of the Underworld from Buddhist mythology. The swastika, the ancient Buddhist symbol meaning “all” or “eternity”, can be seen on many prayer ribbons hanging around.

Much to its merit, Fazangjiang has kept its historical identity intact and is a welcome oasis within the hustle a bustle of a very busy city. No ticket is required here, but the serene atmosphere and friendly local crowd make it a fine place to get a sense of Chinese Buddhism today.

Tip:
Please note that there are two doors at number 271. The one on the left leads into a small vegetarian restaurant, but has a back door to the temple, while the one on the right leads directly into the temple complex.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7:30am-4pm
5
Shanghai Confucian Temple

5) Shanghai Confucian Temple (must see)

This ancient temple is a must-see for visitors to Shanghai, giving a small window into the Chinese championing of learning. It's the main temple in Shanghai dedicated to the famous Chinese philosopher, first founded during the Yuan Dynasty, when once a small fishing village, Shanghai was elevated to the status of a county seat. With time, it became the country's most prestigious learning institution with a combination of temple and school.

The complex is well-tended and much larger than anticipated just from the view at the entrance. There are usually few visitors, but quite a number of nicely preserved buildings here, as well as the beautiful Sky and Cloud Reflection pond.

You can visit several rooms containing statues of Confucius and ancient copies of the most famous Confucian texts. An appealing atmosphere of scholarly introspection infuses the complex – students wishing for good exam results or for admission to the college of their dreams tie red ribbons to branches of pine trees, and there’s a statue of Confucius himself looking mighty professorial.

The main building of the Temple is Dacheng Hall, which you see in front of you as you enter the temple grounds. To the right is a huge bell, the Dacheng Bell, weighing some 1500 kg. It is said that the sound of this bell is loud and clear and that when sounded the reverberations last for three minutes.

Going into the hall, there is a golden, seated statue of Confucius, flanked by the statues of his two most outstanding students, Yan Hui and Zeng Shen.

The temple also houses a collection of ceramics and a tea house, where it's nice to attend a tea ceremony and perhaps enjoy some kinds of tea for free.

In its northeastern part, the temple hosts a book fair in the tradition of book houses that thrived during the reign of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Every Sunday, book traders come to buy, sell and exchange old and rare books at the venue, which makes for some fun browsing.

The surrounding area is full of toy stores, school items, anime and manga, for there are several schools and kindergartens nearby. A beautiful and traditional area, where you can also enjoy authentic food at very good prices. The temple stands not far from the famously modern Xintiandi area.

Tip:
The Sunday book market has to be visited as it is something different in Shanghai, but beware that it opens at 8am and closes early around 3-4pm.
If you want full access then pay 10RMB; otherwise, you can just go to the book market inside the inner courtyard. 10RMB lets you into the temple as well as the other courtyards.
Go towards the temple and the guards will ask for your tickets. Most people think they cannot go up, but that's what your ticket covers for.

Temple Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am-4:30pm
6
Peach Garden Mosque

6) Peach Garden Mosque

The Peach Garden Mosque is the largest active mosque in Shanghai. It was here that the Shanghai Muslim Association was founded.

The building called the Mosque of the Small Peach Garden was founded in 1917. The present building dates back to 1927. The structure was constructed with donations from the Muslim community. The foundations were laid in 1925 and the building was completed two years later.

The peach garden Mosque has an inner courtyard surrounded by outbuildings. The main hall can hold several hundred worshippers. It has two green cupolas at each end. The center has a pavilion with a crescent emblem. Only male worshippers are allowed in the main hall and women are allowed in a separate smaller hall. It has a minaret for the Islamic call for prayer. The building has a West Asian Islamic architectural style.

Today, the Peach Garden Mosque is the headquarters of the Shanghai Islamic Association. The municipal government has declared the building as a protected cultural relic. The structure suffered damage during the Cultural Revolution but has now been restored.
7
Shanghai Town God's Temple

7) Shanghai Town God's Temple (must see)

Any city in China with a sense of history has a temple to their town god always located within the old quarter. Dating back to the Ming era, this Taoist temple merits a visit if you're in the immediate area to visit the Yuyuan Gardens, especially given the scarcity of old-style buildings to see in Shanghai.

Until 1950, it was a center of what is sometimes called "popular Taoism" which was quite removed from the philosophical Taoism of the Tao Te Ching. However, the new communist government was unsympathetic to any form of Taoism, and changes were promptly made by removing statues that allegedly supported superstition.

Apparently, that still wasn't enough of a reformation, and during the Cultural Revolution, the temple was converted to secular use, the main hall having been used as a jewelry shop for many years. With the return of traditional Chinese culture to political respectability, the temple was put back into the hands of Taoist priests and was reconsecrated in 2006.

It has a medium-size main courtyard in front of the main entrance and from it there are a number of halls including the Huo Guang Hall on the north side, where you can see the large statue of Huo Guang himself, the very first of the three Shanghai City Gods. Going round the back of this hall one can see a short corridor leading to the hall of Qin Yu-Bo, the second of the City Gods. Around that are additional small halls for the Gods of Wealth, Literature, and Knowledge, among others. Other gods can be seen in the other halls around the main courtyard.

Then, of course, the large "festive area" in the temple's vicinity is perhaps the best place for souvenir shopping in all of Shanghai, with everything from postcards to key-chains to handicrafts to clothing – and, yes, there are plenty of shops to choose from, but also some big beautiful buildings built in traditional styles from centuries ago with food courts and restaurants inside each of them, so you have plenty to choose from for local dishes as well.

Tip:
At night the various old-style buildings are decorated with lights and are great for photos, but even in daytime one can get some memorable pictures of old Chinese architecture in the foreground with the Bund's high-rises in the distance – the contrast is quite interesting indeed!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am-4pm
8
Holy Trinity Cathedral

8) Holy Trinity Cathedral

The Holy Trinity Cathedral was the principal place of worship for British expatriates who flocked to Shanghai after victory in the Opium wars. Recently, extensive repairs were undertaken and the interiors have been restored to its former grandeur.

Construction of the Holy Trinity Church was started in 1866 and completed in 1869. Sir George Gilbert Scott, the famous Neo Gothic architect formulated the design and the construction was supervised by his student William Kidner. He changed the original plans to reduce the cost of construction and to seat an increasing congregation. The organ installed in 1914, was at the time, the biggest in Asia. There was a school for boys attached to the church where the author J.G.Ballard was a student. He recounts his childhood days in Shanghai and describes the cathedral in the novel, Empire of the Sun. The Shanghai Scout movement of Baden Powell began in the cathedral building.

The building was damaged during the Cultural Revolution and the spire destroyed. It was converted into a cinema. A stage was erected and the brickwork painted over. In 2006, the building was returned to the church. With funds received from the UK and America, the Chinese architectural design company Zhang Ming restored the interiors and installed new carved teak pews.

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To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Shanghai, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

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