Monday, May 2, 2011

Labour Day Weekend: Jade Buddha Temple & Sheshan Cathedral (5/1-2/2011)

Sunday, May 1, 2011
Today is the official International Workers Day or Labour Day (except in the U.S. where we don't labour, I guess!). For us Cold War veterans, May 1st was always the day when the Soviet Union and China celebrated their military might by parading all their armament down the main streets of their major cities. So although the inspiration for International Workers Day came from an event in the U.S. (Haymarket Square Massacre in Chicago), we (and Canada) have chosen to celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday of September.
Today we chose to go north in Shanghai. Popped out of the Metro station to see this apartment building with a rock wall:
The corner newstands all have magazine rooftops:
Messages or massages?
Our destination was the Yufo Chan Si/Jade Buddha Temple:
Several groups of ladies were dancing to drumming and singing:
One of the four Heavenly Kings (each guards a cardinal compass direction):
A corridor full of lanterns:
Inner courtyard:
Roof detail:
Wood carving:
Note the placement of coins in the carving:
A reclining marble Buddha:
The Jade Buddha Temple was founded in 1882 when monk Hui Gen brought two exquisite jade carvings of Buddha from Burma. The original temple was destroyed in the 1911 rebellions, and a new temple was completed in 1928. During the Cultural Revolution, the monks survived by selling handicrafts. Temple life resumed in the 1980s.

The two jade Buddhas are kept in separate upstairs rooms which require an additional entry fee. No photos allowed, so check out: The photos do not do justice to the detail and the jewels.

One of many granite etchings:
Bird carving:
Pink pine cones:
So, they say the Chinese do not practice religion. You could understand if the older generations were the ones in the temples kneeling to the different gods or holding burning incense in their hands as they bowed and prayed:
But you see everything from the 20-somethings to the elderly.
And who is tying prayer ribbons to everything in sight?!
Koi pond:
Feeding the koi:
We had lunch in a restaurant at the temple, for a total of 54 yuan ($9).

Monday, May 2, 2011
Since Labour Day was on a Sunday this year, Monday was a holiday. Kent had off, so we decided to do another trip that required a lot of walking. It also required a long Metro ride out towards the Songjiang District of Shanghai, 22 miles from the city center. The Metro became elevated and we rode through flat land dotted with factories, office buildings, farmland, some highrises and other homes.
We got off at the Dongjing station, rather than the Sheshan station, since we read it was closer to Sheshan, one of two hills in the area.
The land on either side of the road was landscaped into parks.
Here are peach trees:
Picnic in the park:
We saw many tents, but they seemed to be used for shade or for the kids.
No horn blowing, ha!
There are always newish looking buildings that appear abandoned:
There must have been twenty of these, all looking the same.

Are these leaves okay?
Finally, we spotted the hill through the haze, and there is a cathedral!
I believe this is an entrance to the Sheshan Forest Park:
An observation platform on a hilltop:
Getting closer:
Catholic's Gate:
Now begins the climb up the 100m/328' hill:
Century-old cinnamon camphor trees:
At the Middle Church, you begin to follow the Via Dolorosa, or the Stations of the Cross. In May (the month of Mary), people make pilgrimages here, and we passed a large group starting up the zigzag path:
At each zig and zag, there are two stations:
View from the hill, too hazy:
Made it to the top, to the Church of the Holy Mother of China:
The hilltop was home to French Jesuits in 1844. In June 1870, during Tianjin unrest, the priests vowed to build a church if they were left unharmed. By 1872 a church was built, and in 1894 the stations of the cross were established along the path up the hill. In 1925, it was decided that the church was inadequate, and it took 10 years to build the cathedral, the largest Catholic Church in East Asia.
In 1942, Pope Pius XII ordained the church a minor Basilica. During the Cultural Revolution, all iconography was destroyed including the stained glass windows, the carvings of the stations of the cross, and the statue of the Madonna & Child atop the belltower. The statue was initially replaced with a cross, but was replaced in 2000 with a copper Madonna & Child:
We weren't allowed to go down the zigzag path, but had to follow a road downhill through bamboo groves:
We ended up on the far side of the hill and had to walk all the way back to where we started.
Note tree growing in the road, or rather, how the road was built around the tree. As you can also see, there is also an astonomical observatory built next to the Basilica, also built by the Jesuits.
Passed a tea plantation:
Hand-picking tea leaves:
We did not tour the observatory, because we wanted to see the ancient earthquake-monitoring device. According to maps, it was near the Catholic Gate. Once back at the gate, we climbed the stairs again. We walked to a building which was a science museum. It only cost 5 yuan each to enter, so we paid the fee. On the ticket was the device we wanted to see, so we lucked out this time! The ticket told us this was the Shanghai Earthquake Popular Science Museum, and everything was in Chinese.
Room full of seismographs:
A replica of the earthquale device invented by Zhang Heng in 132:
The urn held a pendulum, and it was sensitive enough to swing if an earthquake occurred somewhere in China, even if it could not be felt here. Depending on the direction the pendulum swung, it would cause a brass ball to fall from the dragon's mouth into the frog's mouth, and they would know in which direction the earthquake happened.
This device was so ingenious, that because the mechanics of the device were lost, it took centuries before anyone could figure it out and replicate it. I guess the secret was that it was an inverted pendulum...

What the...? Oh, you could practice/learn CPR in this room:
A final viewing pavilion rockery garden:
We wanted to get a taxi to Songjiang Town, but didn't know how to say "Town," since the taxi driver indicated we were in Songjiang (District). When we were stopped to figure out where we wanted to go, a guy in a motor scooter truck swiped the left rear of the taxi. (We were in an accident!) There was some yelling and fist shaking on the part of the "truck" driver, and then he took off! So our taxi driver got back in to look at our map, and we decided just to go to the closest Metro station. The driver didn't understand us, but he understood we could direct him there. Took the Metro home for a very late lunch. 

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