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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

No. 9: Chenxiangge, Shanghai

The last hall (殿) at Chenxiangge (沉香阁) in Shanghai
(上海) has a statue of Guanyin (观音) made of an aromatic
wood called agarwood--"chenxiang" (沉香) in Chinese.
After visiting Ningbo's Qita Temple, I spent a full day traveling to Shanghai. Then, the next morning, I visited one of the prettiest little temples I've seen, the Chenxiang Ge.

"Chenxiang" is the Chinese word for an incense-producing tree, variously called "Chinese eaglewood" or "agarwood." As "Ge" means "pavilion" (usually with two stories) we could call Chenxiang Ge something like "Incense Pavilion."

The fragrant wood is not the substance of the pavilion itself, however, but of a beautiful statue of Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, which is housed on the second floor of a small, elegant building at the back of the temple compound.

The temple itself is a nunnery; these places make me happy, as Buddhist nuns are almost always sweet-hearted and accommodating. Typical of this trend, this temple serves free vegetarian lunch at noontime.

The temple is located just a few blocks from Shanghai's busy City God Temple; between the two was located Song Yue Lou, which claimed to be Shanghai's oldest vegetarian restaurant, though there are counterclaims. (Note: On a more recent visit to the area, the restaurant location was undergoing renovation, and it was unclear if it was a remodel of the old restaurant, or the installation of a new one.)

Also nearby is the justly-famous Yuyuan garden, and tons of "traditional Chinese" shopping. It's strange to say, but when I think of this area, I think of it as a "Chinatown" like the ones I've seen in the States!

Anyway, Chenxiang Ge makes a nice respite from the clamor of the shoppers and worshippers in the City God Temple area.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily February 20, 2012.)

GPS Info:
  • 31.227094, 121.490067



Map:




GALLERY

Chenxiang Ge is squeezed into a side street in Shanghai's busy City God Temple area
This elegant small building is the home of a fragrant statue of Guanyin (postcard above)
This cabinet houses the fragrant statue of Guanyin
Shanghai's oldest vegetarian restaurant is (was?) located near Chenxiang Ge
Beyond the restaurant--and surrounded by shopping--is Shanghai's City God Temple

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