Saturday, May 2: This morning, I eat the buffet breakfast in the hotel and thus get a later start than I planned, leaving around 9:30. I take line 2 of the metro to Jing’an Temple Station then switch to line 7, where I go 2 stops to Changshou Road Station. It has been forecast to rain all day today, and as I walk the 10 minute walk to Yufo Si, the Jade Buddha Temple, the skies are getting heavier and more foreboding. By the time I reach the temple, it’s looking like the skies will open up any minute.
The temple was originally built in 1882 to keep two jade Buddha statues which had been brought from Burma by a monk named Huigen. The temple was destroyed during the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty, but the statues were saved and a new temple was built on the present site in 1928. It was named Yufo Si, or the Jade Buddha Temple (Travel China Guide: Jade Buddha Temple).
The temple is a lively place of worship, with believers kowtowing before past and future Buddhas, and incense wafting from large incense burners in the courtyard.
As I enter the courtyard, it starts to sprinkle, so I head indoors to the central Great Treasure Hall, which holds three huge figures of the past, present and future Buddhas.
The gods of the twenty heavens, decorated with gold leaf, line the Great Treasure Hall, like stern headmasters welcoming new students to a prestigious school.
Monks and worshippers are actively praying and making offerings in the Great Treasure Hall.
At the back of the Great Treasure Hall, I see a monk and I motion with my camera to ask if it’s okay to take his picture. He doesn’t say no, but as I put my camera up to take the picture he opens his umbrella to block himself from my photo. An Italian woman who is nearby scolds me: “No! You can’t take a picture, not of him!” I said, “Oh, no one told me.” Obviously her tour group leader must have told her that. I’ve taken pictures of monks all over China and Myanmar and have never had a problem. She scolds me again, “No! Not him!” I feel like saying but I don’t: “Who appointed you the photo police?” I wish now I had said it! I really hate it when bossy and nosy tourists try to tell me what I can and cannot do.
According to China Travel Guide, “the two precious jade Buddhist statues are not only rare cultural relics but also porcelain artworks. Both the Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha are carved with whole white jade. The sparkling and crystal-clear white jade gives the Buddhas the beauty of sanctity and make them more vivid.”
I have to pay an extra 10 yuan to see the the Sitting Buddha, housed in the Jade Buddha Tower. It is 190 centimeters high and encrusted by agate and emerald, portraying the Buddha at the moment of his meditation and enlightenment. Sadly, no photographs are allowed. Again, these no-photo rules annoy me because I honestly don’t see any reason for them. If they want to keep their temple for worshippers only, then they should do so, and they shouldn’t open it up to tourists. If they open the temple to tourists, they should allow photos.
Below is the courtyard of the Jade Buddha Tower.
After leaving the Jade Buddha Tower, I walk down a corridor under red lanterns toward the Recumbent Buddha Hall.
The Recumbent Buddha is 96 centimeters long, lying on the right side with the right hand supporting the head and the left hand placed on the left leg; this shape is called the ‘lucky repose’. The sedate face shows the peaceful mood of Sakyamuni when he left this world. In the temple there is also another Recumbent Buddha which is four meters long and was brought from Singapore by the tenth abbot of the temple in 1989 (Travel China Guide: Jade Buddha Temple).
Below is the Recumbent Buddha brought from Singapore. Again, no photos are allowed of the smaller and more famous recumbent Buddha from Burma.
In front of the small recumbent Buddha (which of course is not pictured), a group of older Chinese ladies are chanting with their hands over their heads in prayer stance.
When I return to the courtyard, the rain is coming down in a steady drizzle and I’m hoping as I prepare to leave that I can simply take a taxi to Renmin Park.
Outside Yufo Si, there are no taxis in sight. I walk down the street to a more heavily traveled road, but the taxis that whiz past are all occupied. I accidentally step in a puddle and one foot is then soaked. I stand for quite a while in the pouring rain hoping for a taxi, but I finally have to give up and walk the 10 minutes back to the metro. By the time I arrive at the Changshou Station, the bottoms of my pants and my feet are soaked through.
I take the #7 line back to Jing’an Temple station, and then switch to the #2 to People’s Park, also called Renmin Square. As I walk toward the square, I pass by the Shanghai Grand Theatre, with its convex roof and its transparent walls and pillars.
Renmin Square, or People’s Square, is the modern heart of Shanghai. The area was originally the site of the Shanghai racecourse, built by the British in 1862. In 1941, Chiang Kaishek converted it to a sports area, as he thought gambling immoral. During WWII, the stadium served as a holding camp for prisoners and a temporary mortuary (Lonely Planet China).
I am in search of museums today since it is raining and forecast to rain all day, but when I get to the pot-shaped Shanghai Museum, I see there is a long line of people huddled under umbrellas waiting to get in. I guess everyone has the same idea. I decide not to bother.
I decide to go in search of the Shanghai Art Museum. The park is huge and I see some signs for the museum, but whenever I follow them, they don’t seem to lead anywhere. Some girls stop me and ask if they can take a picture with me. I let them and then ask about the museum. They tell me it is no longer here in Renmin Park but has been moved across the river to Pudong and is now called the China Art Museum, moved in 2012 to the former China Pavilion of Expo 2010. That’s what I get for depending on my 2010 edition of Lonely Planet China.
Both of the girls who have stopped me are very fluent in English and are asking me all kinds of questions about where I’m from and what I’m doing in China. The next thing I know, they’re asking me to accompany them to a tea house ceremony. Alas, this is my first encounter with the famous Shanghai Tea House Ceremony Scam, a common scam pulled on Westerners in Shanghai and Beijing. The scam involves a small group of friendly Chinese students (usually 3-4) who approach Westerners, talk to them in a friendly manner, and invite them to a tea ceremony which can end up costing 650 – 2000 RMB.
Luckily I recognize the scam for what it is, and I suddenly tell the girls I have to leave. They protest too loudly, but I continue to walk away.
Next, I go in search of the Museum of Contemporary Art in the midst of the groves and ponds of Renmin Park. Here, I find an exhibit called “Echos” by Oliviero Rainaldi, an exhibit of human forms in utmost simplicity. You can read about the exhibition here: ARTLINKART: ECHOS – SCULPTURES BY OLIVIERO RAINALDI.
Walking upstairs at the museum, I find a kind of children’s area, where children can make art.
I also find an inviting cafe where I decide I will eat, mainly because I need a place to sit down and rest out of the rain. I order a set lunch with an appetizer of mousse with crabmeat and grapefruit and a glass of white wine, followed by a main course of shrimp, asparagus and mushroom pasta. I figure I can’t go wrong with Western food in such a nice restaurant. The meal is quite expensive too, at 238 RMB (~$38), the most I’ve spent in any restaurant during my entire year in China. I realize I’m spending all this money just because I’m tired and want a place to sit out of the rain.
A group of well-heeled Chinese women of a certain age, maybe in their 40s and very stylish, are enjoying lunch at the next table. I feel generally miserable and frumpy, as my hair is a mess and my clothes are wet. Though I have a nice view of a lotus pond out the window, I still don’t enjoy the lunch mainly because I feel so grubby and unkempt.
I soon find that I’m wrong about not going wrong with Western food. As I’m eating the meal, I feel progressively sicker and sicker. What is wrong?? I’m so baffled by all my stomach problems in China. No matter what I eat, almost everything makes me sick. This is from someone who, during three weeks in India, where EVERYONE gets sick, NEVER got sick. I’ve been a whole year in China and have been sick almost constantly. The meal looks perfectly harmless, doesn’t it?
I also eat some waffles with berries and ice cream, hoping the waffles will settle my stomach. They don’t.
I visit the bathroom, where I find some very unusual wallpaper. Don’t be shocked by what you read between the petals.
After I leave the museum, I walk through Renmin Park. Finally, it has stopped raining, but now I’m no longer in any mood to explore as my stomach is cramping and I’m exhausted.
I decide I don’t feel like doing any more sightseeing today. I’ve been defeated by the weather. I go in search of the metro, which takes a long time to find, and take it back to Zhongshan Road. I bypass the hotel and go straight to a massage place, where I have a great Chinese massage for an hour, for 168 yuan (~$27). It feels great and is something I really need. I feel pampered and refreshed after.
I stop at the Family Mart near the hotel and buy an orange juice, a grapefruit juice, a banana and a Snickers bar. I eat and drink all this for my dinner and then take a long hot bath in my nice hotel.
I feel a lot better after all that, so I decide I should take advantage of the nice bar in the hotel, so I go downstairs, sit at the bar and order a glass of red wine, just before the 8:00 happy hour deadline. A young man next to me asks where I’m from and I tell him I’m American. He mentions that he just met an American girl today who works in Shanghai and told him where he could buy some curtains. He says he’s a pilot with Lufthansa. I say, isn’t that the airline where the pilot committed suicide and brought down the whole jet, taking all those innocent people with him? He says that was Germanwings, owned by Lufthansa. I say, it must be a hard job, sitting in that cockpit for hours on end. He says he loves it because it’s what he’s always wanted to do. I say, you seem so young to be a pilot and he responds that he’s 36. I say, from where I sit, I think everyone seems to be in their 20s.
What a ridiculous conversation it is, with me saying so many foolish things! Anyway, I head up to my room after that one drink, ready to get a good night’s rest so I can tackle Shanghai for one more day!