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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day...the jaded version

The view from the Yán'ān Elevated Road 延安高架路

Back when I was living in Taiwan, Father's Day was an occasion I didn't look forward to. The reason had nothing to do with the day itself, but rather the date on which it was observed by the Taiwanese. Because the words for "father" and "eight" are homophones in Mandarin (ba), Father's Day is held every August 8. Which means, of course, that in most years, Dad still has to get up early and go to work as usual on the so-called special day that is supposed to honor him. I could never see anything auspicious in that, and so we always followed (and still do) the American custom of observing it on the third Sunday of every June. And I can think of no better way to celebrate the occasion by visiting, say, a Buddhist temple.

Compared to Taiwan, China doesn't have very many Buddhist and Taoist houses of worship, and China's financial capital of Shànghăi 上海, in particular, seems to suffer from a shortage of spiritual retreats (although one of the few benefits of living under an authoritarian, officially atheist regime is that we don't have to suffer from the likes of Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses,  Hare Krishnas, Sōka Gakkai 創価学会 members or anyone else who feel the need to intrude into your life in order to show you "the way"). Still, there are a handful of functioning monasteries and temples, with Yúfó Temple 玉坲寺 (aka Jade Buddha Temple), built between 1918 and 1928, being one of the more active ones. The first building of note after paying the entrance fee and entering the complex is the Hall of Heavenly Kings:

Across the courtyard is the Great Treasure Hall:

Inside sit the Buddhas of past, present and future:

Lining the walls on either side of the Buddhas are the gods of the twenty heavens...:

...while in the rear stands a copper Guānyīn 观音, providing some much-needed holy water:

Other items of note inside the Great Treasure Hall include the ceiling, drum and bell:

My wife was proud of herself for being able to balance this one mao coin on its end (note: I was able to do it, too):

My daughter ponders the transitory nature of existence:

Behind the Great Treasure Hall sits the Jade Buddha Hall, which required a separate admission of ten RMB ($1.60) to go in. Inside sits one of the two jade Buddhas which were brought over to Shanghai from Burma in 1882, and which give the temple housing them its name (not to mention its raison d'être). 1.9 meters (roughly my height) tall and, unlike me, made of pale green jade, the figure can only be admired from afar by visitors. Photography is also prohibited, but thanks to Google, I can share its image with you here:

On the way to the other jade Buddha:

This one can be photographed, as it relaxes in the Ancestral Hall, conveniently located in same courtyard as the temple's gift shop:

Amber and I pose with the mementos of our visit to the Jade Buddha Temple. The two of us are holding good luck amulets connected to our signs according to the Chinese zodiac. Mine is...never mind. My daughter's animal is a controversial issue in our household. If you believe coffee mugs purchased in Chinatowns, the year 2006, when Amber came into this world, is the year of the Dog 狗 (戌). However, the Chinese Zodiac conforms to the lunar calendar, and on the day when my daughter was born, there was still one week remaining in the year of the Rooster 鸡 (酉), which means she's actually a chicken. Amber would prefer to be one of man's best friends, but you can't argue with the heavens:

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