Traveling down memory lane: A moment in the City God Temple of Shanghai
Years ago, Bob traveled to Shanghai, China, and during that trip, he took time to visit the City God Temple of Shanghai. As Bob discovered, the ceremonies of worshiping the City God of Shanghai is a solemn and dignified event.
At the main gate, Bob joined the crowd of people who had come to this temple to pray. As part of that process, each person gave a donation to the priests at the entrance. In return for Bob’s small donation, he received 3 incense sticks. The people had come to this temple to give prayers for things like improved health, personal safety, longevity, and to honour the birth of their new children.
In the middle of the main courtyard was this burning fire in which attendees could light their incense sticks. As Bob learned on his trip, this temple had only just reopened after having been closed down during the Cultural Revolution starting back in 1966. For decades, the Communist Party of China had forbade people to pray to their gods here, but all that changed during the year that Bob traveled to Shanghai.
As time passed, the worshipers lit their incense sticks and prayed.
This Taoist temple was built during the Ming Dynasty back in the 15th century.
The Taoists believe “All things have spirits, and deities of the heavens and earth are around us. Heavenly deities are always watching over us, caring for us, and blessing us without us knowing.”
As people prayed, the sound of bells could be heard ringing near the temple building.
As Bob looked on, people turned and made prayers to the four corners of the Earth.
During Bob’s visit to this temple, he took time to reflect on his surroundings and life in general.
Though most people used their right hand to hold the incense, many Taoist members believe that the highest form of respect and “yang” can be had by lighting your incense with your left hand. One man did just that.
Along with burning incense, many people were burning the red joss paper or “spirit money” in honour of their deities or their ancestors. Outside, people were given a red joss paper to be taken with them into the temple where their wishes would be written out for them on the red paper by young priests.
After having their prayers blessed by the more senior priests, the red joss papers were carried outside to the main alter to be burned in order that their wishes would rise with the smoke up to the gods.
Inside the temple, Bob saw some of the gods that make this temple their home. In 2006, shortly before Bob visited this temple, the government of China allowed this Taoist Temple to reopen and permitted it to be reconsecrated as a Taoist temple for worship.
Today, 85% of Chinese people have some form of religious belief. Taoism is but one of the five religions that are officially recognized by the government of the People’s Republic of China. 185 million people believe in Buddhism with 33 million having faith in Christianity and the existence of God. Only 12 million people in China are Taoists, along with Chinese members of Confucianism and Islam.
Just before taking leave of the temple, Bob noticed this very young girl learning how to undertake her prayers to the gods.