Today was my day off, so I decided to visit the Jade Buddha Temple, just 3 stops on the tube away. Today’s forecast was storms and 100% humidity, which I think is down to the typhoon that I have been told is moving across china from Taiwan. For now, it means that you will have to use an umbrella to shield yourself from the torrential rain, but it’s 28 degrees so you’re still in Summer clothes and you’re soaked to the skin from the hot moisture in the air. Not great when you want to go and explore!
Despite being one of the ‘Top Sights’ in my Lonely Planet book, the Temple exterior was not very showy at all and I had to ask (i.e. use gestures as sign language) if I was in the right place, especially with just 20 RMB entry (just over £2).
The Temple is made up of several chambers and a Grand Hall. Here are some of the statues in the smaller chambers – I think the first one was the most beautiful:
The status had flowers, fruit and incense burning, and sometimes some other items that people had left on the alters which I initially thought were litter, until they were deliberately ignored by the cleaner, e.g. a yoghurt, a lollipop. There were also square cushions to pray on, and I was fascinated to watch countless people come and go and complete their unique, repetitious prayer routines. It was strange to see so many Western tourists (more than I have seen in any other place so far) mixed in with the locals who just come to pray. It was also very sweet to see a little girl copying her parents:
My favourite part was the Grand Hall, and it was absolutely stunning. Having done my research a bit more now, I know that the first three golden statues are (from left to right) Amitabha, the Buddha and Bhaisajyaguru. Then (I hope I haven’t got this wrong) there are 18 Arhats- the original followers of Buddha- which are the extremely tall statues standing against 2 walls of the Hall. I found it so interesting that people were specifically approaching and praying to a certain 1 of the 18 – they all knew exactly what each represented.
The final two photos above show statues of Guanyin, Sudhana and 53 smaller sculptures representing each of his teachers.
You could genuinely walk around this one hall for hours absorbing every tiny detail and just soaking up the incensey atmosphere. Personally, I felt a bit out of place/invasive, as I usually do whenever I am in some kind of temple or religious place, so I didn’t stay too long. Of course, I also wanted to see the main attraction: The Jade Buddha.
Unfortunately this was the one part of the Temple which allowed no photography. The Jade Buddha is a similar size to the other very large ones here. The room is dark and you are not allowed to get close to the statue, but it is illuminated perfectly to see how pearly and beautiful the jade is. The room is also far less decorated than the Grand Hall, but if you look up there are literally hundreds of small golden Buddhas lining the ceiling. I felt so privileged to be able to see these beautiful sights that probably took so so long to build and mean so much to the people who worship them.
If you haven’t really spent time going to new places by yourself before, I 100% would recommend it. No matter where you are in the world, even if you are on your own, you usually don’t need to go far to find something beautiful!
Luckily for me, I had room for more beautiful things on the way home from my trip: