Shanghai Confucian Temple, worshiping nature

Hall in Confucius Temple

Worshiping in Shanghai can assume very different facets. For a start, I’m not sure why there is a sanctuary devoted to Confucius since, although I truly admire his philosophy, he’s not really a God. However, since China is not exactly a clerical state, I came to understand that probably the word “temple” is used with a wider meaning.

The beautiful Confucian Temple situated in Wen Miao Road (Wen Miao Lu, 文庙路), in Huangpu District, not far from Xintiandi, was founded with the purpose of studying Confucius philosophy. Moved to four different locations, in 1855 it finally ended up where it is now. The temple is very big, with many areas, each of which devoted to different activities: worshiping (so they do worship Confucius!), studying and one to completely immerse in nature surrounded by the typical Chinese gardening style.

Confucius statue inside the Temple

In China everything is possible, so also every religion is possible, as long as it stays such, a religion, without the possibility to interfere in political matters. The most widespread creed is Buddhism, and the country is studded with temples. I remember I asked once who were all the people whose statutes were worshiped in Buddhist temples, and a friend of mine tried to explain it like this to such a disillusioned person like me: ” They were very good people so they were ‘promoted’, that’s why now they are gods.”

This is how I would interpret Confucius’ presence in a temple. Certainly, his philosophy has had, and still has, a great influence in Chinese mentality and civilization. I’m a big fan of Confucius myself, I think his theories of contact with nature are among the most powerful and important men can follow in order to respect and preserve the planet, hence a visit to a sanctuary devoted to him was absolutely a pleasure.

Pagoda in Confucius Temple

Both during the Taiping Rebellion in the mid-19th century and the ten years of Cultural Revolution (1966-76), the Confucian Temple was heavily damaged, and its reconstruction was finalized and made official in 1999, in honor of the sage’s 2550th birthday.

After passing the entrance main gate (which was closed when I went so I got in through a tiny side door), visitors find themselves in a wide courtyard before the temple itself. At the entrance of the temple there is a big statue of Confucius along with the small area where functions are performed, be them daily prayers, special festivities, funerals or remembrance celebrations.

Inside, it’s decorated with ancient (or ancient-looking) drums, and traditional Chinese characters cover the walls. The worship area is just in front of another Confucius statue, with the typical cushion for the worshipers to kneel. It doesn’t really look like the typical Buddhist temple, I found it more modest, and definitely not with all the amount of flowers, fruits and food in general I saw in other Chinese temples.

In fact, it looks more like a place for studying: if you face the main temple, on your right hand-side, is the entrance to the part devoted to scholars and researchers, an area with the unmissable lake and pagoda to inspire peace and tranquility.

Lake in the garden of Confucian Temple in Shanghai

I loved browsing around the different halls and pavilions, stumbling on statues, carvings, natural rocks in proper Chinese style, and traditional paintings.

I would recommend without hesitation a visit to the Confucian Temple to whoever goes to Shanghai, it might be a little hard to find as Wen Miao Road is a very small street off the bigger South Xizang Road (Xi Zang Nan Lu, 西藏南路), but definitely worth it. The nearest metro station is Loaximen (老西门) on line 10 and it’s in a very central and vibrant area.

I paid 5 Chinese yuan for the entry because I had a student card, otherwise it’s 10 yuan for everybody, around 1 GBP or 1.5 USD, more like an offering rather than a proper entrance fee.

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  1. says

    I was in Shanghai earlier this year and missed this. It’s such a big city, and there’s so much to do without enough time. I guess that means I’ll have to go back. The photos remind me a little of the gardens in Suzhou.

  2. says

    After reading your article, I would definitely make it a point to visit the Confucian Temple. Your article is really very interesting about Confucius and historical background. The temple looks quite beautiful, too.

    • says

      It was beautiful, but the Confucian philosophy is really interesting, and it’s interesting also to see how the Chinese believe in it and put in into practice, I might write a post all about Confucius…

  3. says

    What a nice little treasure you found here. Its certainly looks more peaceful and serene than the Shanghai I experienced. I especially love the photo of the traditional temple with the beautiful garden contrasted by the taller high rises. Its very Shanghai.

    • says

      True, also in Jing’An Temple you can see the contrast between old and new very well. The Confucian Temple is very peaceful, in line with the sage’s philosophy, which I find very fascinating.

  4. says

    From the pictures it looks so beautiful and tranquil. I have always found Confucius very interesting. I think I might add going here to my bucket list. Great article.

  5. Oh well says

    There is confucian temple because originally it was a religion. He is not God, but he believed in monotheistic God called Tian (Heaven), and for many he is the teacher of Heaven’s ways…a messenger, you might say.

    Abraham was not God, but holy for jews. Mohammed was not God, but holy for muslims.

    Kong Fuzi taught us the wisdom of Heaven, and under his religous teachings, implemented later, great governance was achieved. That made him sacred.

    people need to stop considering confucianism simply a philosophy. i am a religious confucian and it annoys me that westerners don’t understand it really isn’t just philosphy.

    • says

      Thanks for stopping by and clarifying things up, although I don’t think comparison with Abraham and Mohammad is appropriate, I think they are quite different concepts. Also, since I’ve always considered Confucianism a philosophy, one of my very favorite I must say, I’ve asked Chinese people when I was in China and they told me it’s a philosophy, that’s probably the source of my confusion. I thought I could compare it to Buddhism, which many people think it’s a religion but when I asked Buddhist monks in Thailand just last week they confirmed that Buddhism is not a religion but a way of life.

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