Ladies and gentlemen, today we are going to visit a famous Buddhist temple---the Jade Buddha Temple. Before visiting the temple, I’d like to say a few words about the religious situation in Shanghai. Our constitution stipulates that every Chinese citizen is ensured the freedom of religious belief. There are four major religions in practice in Shanghai, namely, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and Christianity, which is sub-divided into the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church. When it comes to Buddhist temples in China, they are usually classified into three sects, i.e. temples for meditation, for preaching and for practicing Buddhist disciplines. The Jade Buddha Temple is a temple for meditation, and is well-known both at home and abroad.
The temple was first built during the reign of Emperor Guangxu of Qing Dynasty, when a monk named Hui Gen went on a pilgrimage to Burma and brought back five jade statues of Sakyamuni. On his way back to Mount Putuo via Shanghai, he left two jade statues here, one in sitting posture and the other, reclining. He had a temple specially built as a shrine for these two statues in 1882. later the temple was partly destroyed by fire and in 1928 a new temple was completed on the present site.
Just opposite the temple gate, there stands a giant screen wall. Various designs, such as dragon, phoenix, elephant, crane and peony are carved on it. In Chinese legend, all these things are considered the symbols of fortune, wealth, longevity and auspiciousness. Chinese people used to set up a wall in front of the house so as to keep the evils away.
Now ladies and gentlemen, please turn around. Here we can see the temple gate. It is also called the Sanmen Gate, or say, the Gate of Three Extrications. The door in the middle is called the Door of Emptiness, to its right is the Door of Non-phenomenon, and to its left, the Door of Non-Action. Sanmen Gate is also called the Mountain Gate because most famous temples in China are found deep in mountains. But the Sanmen gate does not open except on the first and the fifteenth of every lunar month. Now this way to the entrance.
Ladies and gentlemen, the first hall is the Heavenly King Hall. We will use the rear door, please follow me.
(in the Heavenly King Hall next to the southern entrance)
Here we can find the statue of a fat and smiling monk with bared belly. He is Bodhisattva Maitreya. His smile is so contagious that you will smile with him and forget all your worries. So he is also called the Laughing Buddha. According to Buddhist scripture, he is now practicing Buddhism in the Tusita Heaven. After 4000 years, which is equal to 5.67 billion years on the earth, he will become successor to Sakyamuni under a Long Hua Tree in Hualin Garden. Hence another name the Future Buddha. But this statue we see here is not the real image of Bodhisattva Maitreya, it is just his incarnation.. it is said that During the Five Dynasties Period, 1000 years ago, there lived in Fenhua in Zhejiang Province a monk named Qi Ci, who always carried a wooden staff with a cloth sack on his shoulder. He often went around towns and in streets to beg alms. Therefore he became known as “the Cloth Sack Monk”. He always smiled and laughed, looking as happy as ever. When he was dying, he left the message saying that he was the incarnation of Bodhisattva Maitreya. So his image is enshrined in the Buddhist Temple as the incarnation of Bodhisattva Maitreya.
(on the eastern side of the Heavenly King Hall)
On the two sides of the hall are enshrined four statues. They are so-called Four Heavenly Kings. In the Buddhist legend, there is in the center of the world a highest mountain called Mount Sumeru. Halfway on it is a mountain called Mount Ghandara with four peaks. On each peak lives a Heavenly King protecting the Buddhist heaven. The first one is the Southern King---King of Developing Merits. His duty is to educate all living creatures and develop king-heartedness. He is holding a sword in his hand which can emit a ray to chop off the enemies’ heads. The one next to him is the Eastern King---King of Protection for Buddhism. He is holding in his hand a pipa, which is somewhat like a guitar. With this pipa, he offers music to the Buddha. Meanwhile this pipa is a magic weapon. It can send out a musical rhythm to defeat the enemy by tormenting brain and causing him to lose combatability. Now ladies and gentlemen, please come over to this side.
(on the western side of the Heavenly King Hall)
The first one on this side is the Northern King---King of Virtue. He is so called because of his virtue. He is holding a parasol-shaped stela in his hand. The parasol can be opened into a canopy in Buddhist processions. It is at the same time a magic umbrella. Once it is opened in the battle field, the sky turns dark and a wind-storm rises, defeating the enemy with a dizzy spell and then it closes up capturing all the enemies. Next to him is the Western King---King of Far Sight. He observes the world with his penetrating eyes. He is holding a dragon-shaped silk rope. The rope is actually a net, with which he converts people to Buddhism just like catching fish with a net. This dragon also has a magic power. It can spurt water from its mouth and drown the enemy in floods.
(in the Heavenly King Hall next to the rear door)
The Statue facing the rear door is Bodhisattva Skanda. He is always dressed in armour with a worrior’s club in his hand. Originally he was one of the eight heavenly generals under the Southern King of Developing Merits. Later he has been enshrined here because of his bravery. He is also a god of message, a fleet-foot runner, so when visitors come to the temple, he will immediately report to the Buddha in the Grand Hall.
Now ladies and gentlemen, that’s all for the Heavenly King Hall. Please follow me and look out the threshold and the steps.
Now we can see a giant tripod in the courtyard. It is actually a giant incense burner. It was donated by some Buddhist laymen who believed that by donating something the Buddha they can help purify the souls of their dead relatives from sins and relieve them from purgatory.
Now this is the main hall, known as the Grand Hall or Grand Hall of the Great Sage. It is the main structure in every Buddhist temple, where the statue of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism is enshrined.
(in the Grand Hall)
Ladies and gentlemen, in the middle of the hall is the statue of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism. On his right is Medicine Buddha and on his left is Amitabha Buddha. Each is seated on a lotus blossom and has a back halo. Sakyamuni’s original name was Siddhartha Gautama. He was a contemporary of Confucius. He was born to a warrior’s family in the Himalayan foothill in ancient India, or say, in present-day Nepal. He spent his youth in great luxury. But he renounced the human world at the age of 29 in search of an ultimate solution to the problems of human sufferings. After six years of spiritual discipline he got enlightened at the age of 35. he spent the remaining 45 years of his life teaching his religion and establishing a community for monks to continue his work. He was entitled “Sakyamuni”, which means “the great sage of the Sakya Clan”. He died at the age of 80.
On his chest there is a sign that resembles a swastika but it has nothing to do with Hitler’s fascism because it is in an inverted order. It is actually a religious talisman used in ancient orient, symbolizing the concentration of happiness and auspiciousness.
The Medicine Buddha is responsible for the Eastern Bright World. Since he can relieve people of all pains and sufferings, he is called the Medicine Buddha. He is holding a wheel, which signifies the unremitting effort of converting people to Buddhism just like turning a wheel.
Amitabha Buddha is in charge of the Western Paradise. He is holding a golden lotus blossom stand with which he extradites Buddhist believers to the Western Pure Land, therefore he is also called the Buddha of Guidance.
In front of the Medicine Buddha is a hollow wooden fish. It is actually an instrument used by the monks to accompany the chanting of their prayers. But do you happen to know why it is in the pattern of a fish? Now let me tell you about it. The monks think that fish is the most diligent animal in the world because it never closes its eyes, therefore the image of the fish is used to advise people that they should practice Buddhism as diligently as the fish.
On both sides of the hall stand 20 Heavenly Gods, all protectors of Buddhist laws. They all bend slightly as if they are listening attentively to Sakyamuni’s preaching.
The first one on the right side is Brahma, the chief god of Brahmanism in ancient India. It was believed in ancient India that all living creatures in the world, including gods and men, were created by him and he was thus honored as the Great Creator. Next to him is Yamaraja, the God of Hell, who is in charge of the nether world.
The fourth one on this side is Goddess of Loving Children. There is an interesting story about her. It is said that before she became a goddess she was a wicked woman. She herself had many children, 500 in all, including 3 sons and 497 daughters. Her favorite child was her youngest son named Ai Nu, now standing by her side. As she always ate the children of other people, Buddha decided to convert her. One day, he hid Ai Nu in a jar. When the woman found her child missing she looked for him everywhere but could not find him. Then Buddha came up to her and said, “If you are worried when your child is missing, what about other mothers whose children you have eaten?” From then on she began to discipline herself and finally became a goddess.
This is the Emperor of the Solar Palace, or say the Chinese Apolo, opposite him is the Chinese Diana, the emperor of the Lunar Palace. The last statue on this side is the Dragon King.
(at the back of the Grand Hall)
Ladies and gentlemen, behind the statue of Sakyamuni there is a giant mural sculpture. In the middle is the statue of Bodhisattva Guanyin. Guanyin was originally named Guanshiyin but later abbreviated into Guanyin because the character “shi” was one of the characters in the Tang Emperor Li Shimin’s name and was considered a forbidden name. Guanyin often takes the image of a goddess in order to convert women to Buddhism. Actually he can incarnate into 32 images to convert people from all walks of life and relieve people from all kinds of sufferings. Any living creature in trouble needs only to recite his name and he will respond to the cry and readily come to help riding on the head of a huge turtle. That’s why he is described as a Bodhisattva of Great Mercy. By her two sides are her two disciples, San Cai the boy and Long Nu the girl. Above Guanyin is a statue of Sakyamuni when he was doing ascetic practices in a forest. A monkey on the right is offering preaches to him and a deer on the left is giving him milk to drink.
Now a few words about San Cai, the boy and Long Nu, the girl. It is said that when San Cai was born, a number of treasures came with him, hence his name. By the way, “Can” in Chinese means “wealth”. He was later converted by Bodhisattva Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Great Wisdom, and went on a pilgrimage to the south in search of teaching. He was going to call on 53 teachers and then met Guanyin, hoping to obtain the guidance to buddhahood. There are altogether 53 statues on the mural sculpture, excluding the 18 arhats. They were all supposed to be San Cai’s teachers. He came to them one after the other. Guanyin was his 27th teacher. Long Nu, the daughter of Dragon King, was a genius. At the age of 8 she often attended lectures by Manjusri. Later she met the Buddha and attained buddhahood.
Below are 18 arhats, all disciples of Sakyamuni. According to Buddhist scripture, Sakyamuni asked them to stay permanently on the earth to help convert people to Buddhism. Arhats have three characteristics, namely, they can rid of all worries, they should be supported and offered by all people, and they enter nirvana once for all and never incarnate again.
(in the Hall of the Reclining Buddha)
Ladies and Gentlemen: in the middle of the hall we can see a jade statue of the reclining Buddha. This is Sakyamuni in his deathbed, or say, entering nirvana. We can see him looking slightly upward and reclining on his right arm. Some may ask why he looks so calm and carefree. It is said that in his entire life-time he had taught 500 disciples, therefore, he felt no worry because he firmly believed that his disciples would carry forward his principles and preach his doctrines to emancipate mankind. This statue, 96 cm long, is carved out of a single piece of jade. It was brought from Burma together with the other statue in sitting posture. The carving was exquisitely done with delicate features and a slender figure, it is considered a rare Buddhist relic, which contributes to Jade Buddha Temple’s reputation. Now ladies and gentlemen, over here we can see four pictures on the wall of the hall which describe the life story of Sakyamuni. The first one, “Tonsure”, describes Sakyamuni having his head tonsured and clothes changed into a monk’s robe when he came a monk at the age of 29; the second, “Enlightenment”, after six years ascetic practice he became enlightened and attained buddhahood at the age of 35; the third, “Preaching”, Sakyamuni is preaching to his first five disciples; and the fourth, “Nirvana”, Sakyamuni entered nirvana at the age of 80.
(before entering the Jade Buddha Chamber)
Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to visit the last main structure on the axis---the Jade Buddha Chamber. It is located on the second floor. Please do not take pictures or video tape-recording in the chamber.
(in the Jade Buddha Chamber)
Ladies and Gentlemen, the statue in front of us is the Jade Buddha in sitting posture. Since Buddhism is a leading religion in China, there are a great number of statues of Sakyamuni all over the country, and most of them are made out of stone, clay, or wood, but a jade statue of the Buddha of this size is rare. It is 1.92 meter in height and 1.34 meter in width. The jewels on his head, arms and feet are all genuine ones. They were donated by Buddhist believers. The statue was carved out of a single piece of jade. It is soft in luster, even in color, pure and flawless in texture and exquisite in workmanship. This statue reflects Sakyamuni’s getting enlightened. We can see that his left hand rests on his left knee showing his great determination of deep meditation while his right hand stretches out onto the ground indicating that he had devoted himself to the emancipation of all mankind and this could only be witnessed by the great earth. When monk Hui Gen found the jade in Burma, he had it excavated under the permission of the Burmese King and had the an artisans carve it into a Buddha Statue, so it is a crystallization of the friendship of different nations. This statue looks life-like, with gentle and soft features and is considered a precious relic of Buddhist art. This is the reason why the temple enjoys a high reputation.
In the cabinets on both sides are kept a complete set of Buddhist scripture, Da Zang Sutra, which was block-printed in 1870. this set of scripture covers Sakyamuni’s teachings by moth, Buddhist doctrines, and Buddhist theories.
(in the courtyard in front of the Abbot’s Room)
This is the Abbot’s Room, where the abbot priest lives. It is also a sermon hall where the monks attend lectures by the abbot priest. On the middle wall is hung the portrait of Priest Dharma, honored as the founder of the Chan Sect in Chinese Buddhism.