Burning Incense at Jade Buddha Temple

In Burma he saw fine carvings of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in pure jade. The high skill of the artists and the beauty of their works gave him a dream. He wanted to bring examples of this fine art back to China to inspire other Buddhists. He found Chen Junpu, an expatriate businessman living in Burma to support the work. He got all of the government clearances, supervised the digging of appropriate pieces of jade and hired artists to complete the works. In all, five Buddhas were carved of various sizes.

In 1882, the work was finished and he was ready to return to Pu Tuo Mountain. He traveled by ship and when he passed through Shanghai, he donated two of the Buddhas to start a new temple in Shanghai. This was to become the Jade Buddha Temple (玉佛寺 Yùfó Sì) of the Chan or Zen sect (禅 Chán). Both were of white jade, one was a reclining Buddha, symbolic of Buddha's parinirvana, death and release from reincarnation. The other, of even greater beauty, was a sitting Buddha. An official of the Qing court, Sheng Huaixuan and his family donated land and had thatched cottages built that served at the first temple. In 1900, the monastery was moved a new 72 room temple in what was then the suburbs of Shanghai.

During the revolution of 1911, the monastery was occupied and burnt and the jade Buddhas were housed in the open in a park, attended by the remaining monks. A new abbot came from Tianmu Mountain in Zhejiang and with funds from other monasteries, rented a house on Maigen Road to serve as a temple and living quarters.

China Index >> History of Shanghai and Suzhou Region >> Jade Buddha Temple

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Last update: February 2007
© Marilyn Shea 1996, 1999, 2002, 2007