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Places of Worship in Shanghai (Self Guided), Shanghai

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 or 5.5 Miles
Author: emma
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Jing'an Temple
  • St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church
  • St. Peter's Catholic Church
  • Fazangjiang Temple
  • Shanghai Confucian Temple
  • Peach Garden Mosque
  • Shanghai Town God's Temple
  • Holy Trinity Cathedral
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 Hours:
Daily: 7:30am-5pm
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
St. Peter's Catholic Church

3) St. Peter's Catholic Church

There are about 10 million Catholics in China, less than 1 percent of the population. St Peter's Catholic Church in downtown Shanghai is one of the country's few officially approved catholic shrines.

The original St Peter's Church was built in the 1930s by the French Jesuits for students of the Aurora University, a Jesuit-founded institution. When the Japanese attacked Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the church sheltered many hundreds of refugees. Because of its International Settlement status, the building was spared during the fighting and remained under Catholic administration until after the Cultural Revolution, when the Jesuits were expelled and the old church became a cultural center.

Later on, the original church was razed to build a modern one in 1995, with very colorful stained-glass windows. Today it attracts a healthy crowd of foreigners and offers masses in English, French, German and Korean. English language mass is held on Saturdays at 5pm and Sundays at 11am.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am–8:30pm
Fazangjiang Temple

4) Fazangjiang Temple

Fazangjiang is one of the four most prominent Buddhist temples in Shanghai, alongside those of Yu Fu Chan Si (the Jade Buddha Temple), Jing'an Si (the Temple of Peace and Tranquility), and Longhua Si (the Luster of the Dragon Temple). Its unique architecture would make it a top attraction of the Old Town, but curiously enough it does not advertise itself and, without stepping through its doors, people (locals or foreigners alike) may never know it is there. On the outside, it looks pretty much like any other gated entrance with no sound or smell passing from behind the wall, even if there is a prayer in session or incense burning underway.

The temple was built in 1924 and, similarly to the acclaimed Jing’an Si temple, was used as a factory during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s-70s. Now restored and reconsecrated, some parts of its main hall reflect Art Deco motifs, adding to the uniqueness of its location inside a tower-like structure. A large statue of Buddha Gautama Sakyamuni sat on top of a lily dominates the hall. There are also two gilded walls with the images of “Arhats” – enlightened persons who have reached nirvana – as well as golden sculptures of the Buddhist trinity. There is even a small shrine dedicated to Dizang Wang, the Chinese God of the Underworld in Buddhist mythology. Swastika, the ancient Buddhist symbol of eternity, is found on many prayer ribbons hanging around.

Much to its merit, Fazangjiang has kept its historical identity intact and is now a welcoming oasis amid the hustle and bustle of a busy metropolis. No entry ticket is required, and the serene atmosphere of the temple makes it a fine place to acquaint yourself with the merits of Chinese Buddhism.

A vegetarian restaurant run by the temple, serving simple dishes, is right next door and is quite handy for those seeking to quench their hunger other than purely spiritual.

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

5) Shanghai Confucian Temple (must see)

This ancient shrine is the main temple of Shanghai and a definite must-see for those visiting the city. It is dedicated to the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius and was founded under the Yuan Dynasty, when Shanghai, then a small fishing village, was granted the status of a county seat. With time, this shrine became China's most prestigious academic institution and a religious temple combined.

The complex is well-tended and is much larger than it looks on the outside. Within its walls are a number of scenic spots such as the Music Terrace, Study Gate, Etiquette Gate, Hall to Listen to the Rain, Sky and Cloud Reflection Pond, and Confucian Study Hall, to mention but a few.

Facing the front gate is the Dacheng Hall, or the Hall of Great Perfection, to the right of which is found the eponymous huge Dacheng Bell, weighing some 1500 kg. They say, the sound of this bell is loud and clear, and its reverberations last up to three minutes!

The appealing atmosphere of scholarly introspection infuses the complex and is enhanced with the statues of Confucius, particularly the seated golden one beside the Dacheng Hall, flanked by the statues of his two most illustrious disciples, Yan Hui and Zeng Shen. Modern-day students, wishing to excel at exams, come here to tie a red ribbon around the pine tree for good luck.

In addition to the ancient Confucian texts, the temple houses a collection of ceramics and a tea house where tea lovers can enjoy a Chinese tea ceremony and sample local varieties of tea free of charge.

In keeping with the ancient tradition originated in the Ming and Qing periods, each Sunday in the northeastern part of the temple there is a book fair where people come to buy, sell or exchange books. Some truly old and rare editions can be found there, so it's well worth attending.

The area outside the temple is packed with stores and several eateries selling authentic Shanghai food at reasonable prices. Also nearby is the famous Xintiandi district.

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 gets 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
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.
Shanghai Town God's Temple

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

Traditionally, any notable city in China with a sense of history has a temple to its patron deity placed in the old quarter. The Ming-era Taoist temple in the Yuyuan Gardens serves this purpose for Shanghai and deserves a visit if you are in the vicinity, especially given the scarcity of old-style buildings in this part of the city.

Until 1950, this was the center of what is sometimes referred to as "popular Taoism", which is quite removed from the philosophical Taoism of the Tao Te Ching teaching by Lao Tzu. However, the new communist government was equally unsympathetic to any form of Taoism, and promptly removed from the temple all the statues allegedly supporting religious superstition.

Apparently, that reformation still wasn't enough and during the Cultural Revolution the temple was fully converted to a secular use with the main hall housing a jewelry shop for many years afterwards. The return of the traditional Chinese culture to political respectability saw the temple back in the hands of Taoist priests and reconsecrated in 2006.

Inside the temple, passing through its medium-size main courtyard, in front of the main gate, opens way to a number of halls, including the Huo Guang Hall, on the north side, with a large statue of Huo Guang, the prime of Shanghai's three City Gods. Going round the back of the hall one can see a short corridor leading to the hall of Qin Yu-Bo, Shanghai's second major deity. Around that are additional small halls featuring, among others, the Gods of Wealth, Literature, and Knowledge. Few more gods can be seen in the other halls around the main courtyard.

The area outside the temple is packed with souvenir shops selling everything, from postcards to key-chains to handicrafts to clothing, plus many other stores to choose from, mixed up with the beautiful modern but traditionally-styled buildings housing food courts and restaurants offering a wealth of regional cuisine.

At night, when they are lit up, or even during daytime, these old-style buildings are great for taking memorable photos contrasting the Bund's high-rises in the background.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am–4pm
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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