Jade Buddha Temple: History, Statue & Facts

Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

In this lesson, we are going to learn about an interesting Buddhist monument: The Jade Buddha Temple. Discover the history of the temple, the statues, and learn about the different rooms inside this building.

The Jade Buddha Temple

The Jade Buddha Temple is a Buddhist religious building, located in Shanghai, China. It is famous for its Buddha statues made from jade. These statues are believed to have been brought to the temple from Burma by a Buddhist monk. The temple was founded in 1882 CE to house them.

The Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai
The Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai

Various Mahayana Buddhist traditions, common in China, like the Pure Land and Chan, have found a house in this temple. At least 70 monks live there, performing ceremonies that have been continuously celebrated over time.

History of the Jade Buddha Temple

The Jade Buddha Temple dates from the late 19th-century, when the Emperor Qing of the Guangxu Dynasty, ruled over China (1875-1908). During those years, a Buddhist monk, known by the name of Huigen, who was a native from an island near Shanghai, made a pilgrimage to Tibet.

After his pilgrimage, Huigen visited Burma and met another Chinese resident named Chen Jun Pu, who donated five Buddha statues made of jade to the wandering priest. Huigen took two of these statues back to Shanghai. The whereabouts of the other statues are uncertain.

In Shanghai, a temple was constructed using funds from donations. The temple was built with the purpose of being a place to shelter the statues. Shortly after the construction, the Buddhist monk passed away. In 1911, during the Chinese Revolution, the original temple was occupied and damaged by the rebels. The temple, as well as jade statues, were moved to their current location.

A few years later, in 1918, a Buddhist monk by the name of Kechen, led the project for building the new temple on terrain that was donated by a member of the Qing imperial court, Sheng Xuanhuai. It took almost ten years to be completed with the current building being completed in 1928.

The grounds of the Jade Buddha Temple
The grounds of the Jade Buddha Temple

The temple faced difficult times during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 60's and the monks had to make a living by selling handicrafts. Since 1983, the Shanghai Buddhist Association has used the temple as the headquarters of The Shanghai Institute of Buddhism.

The Statues and Rooms of the Jade Buddha Temple

One of the main attractions of the Jade Buddha Temple is the multiple statues that are displayed in the different halls and chambers.

The Jade Statues of Buddha

The Jade Buddha is one of the most important statues of the temple. The Buddha was carved out of white jade in a meditation position. The statue is located on a pedestal inside the Jade Buddha Chamber. It is over 6 feet high and has a robe decorated with emerald and agate stones. There is a fee if you want to ascend to the room and see the statue.

The other white jade statue, brought from Burma, is the Recumbent Buddha. This is figure portrays Buddha lying on his right side and is about 3 feet long.

Inside the temple, there is also a large Reclining Buddha, made of marble, which is about 12 feet long. It was donated by Singapore. This statue is often confused with the Recumbent Buddha statue.

The Reclining Buddha
The Reclining Buddha

The Statues of the Chamber of Four Heavenly Kings

Located inside the front hall of the temple, there is a collection of statues representing Buddhist figures. It consists of Maitreya the bodhisattva, Skanda the bodhisattva and the Four Heavenly Kings. These last four figures represent the favorable circumstances wealth, wisdom, passion, and peace.

The Statues of the Mahavira Hall

In the Grand Hall of the temple, we find another collection of Buddhist figures.

  • Three Golden Buddha statues: Sakyamuni, Amitabha and Medicine Guru; all of them over 12 feet tall.
  • The Gold Statues of the Gods of the Twenty Heavens.
  • 18 Arhats, which are small monuments dedicated to those that achieved enlightenment.
  • The golden statue of Guanyin and Sudhana accompanied by their 53 masters.

The Golden Buddha Statues
The Golden Buddha Statues

Other Interior Areas

Besides the display of statues, the temple also features a variety of areas. There is a public restaurant area with an independent entrance from the street. The hall at street level serves noodle dishes, and another, and a more elegant restaurant is located upstairs. Both halls are accessible to the general public. In the southernmost part of the temple, there is a pool with fish that can be fed by the visitors.

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