In the western part of Shanghai, a very modern and flourishing city, there is a venerable and famous Buddhist temple, Jade Buddha Temple. In 1882, an old temple was built to keep two jade Buddha statues which had been brought from Burma by a monk named Huigen . These were a sitting Buddha (1.95 metres tall, 3 tonnes), and a smaller reclining Buddha representing Buddha’s death. The temple now also contains a much larger reclining Buddha made of marble, donated from Singapore, and visitors may mistake this larger sculpture for the original, smaller piece.
During the rule of emperor Guang Xu in the Qing Dynasty (1875–1908), Hui Gen, an abbot from Mount Putuo went on a pilgrimage to Tibet via the two famous Chinese mountains Mount Wutai and Mount Emei. After Tibet, he arrived in Burma. Whilst there, Mr. Chen Jun-Pu, an overseas Chinese resident in Burma, donated five Jade statues of Buddha to Hui Gen, who transported two of them back to Jiang-wan, Shanghai. Here Hui Gen had a temple built with donated funds, and died shortly thereafter. This temple was occupied during the 1911 uprising, and the statues were moved to Maigen Road.
An Abbot by the name of Ke Chen later had a new temple built on land donated by Sheng, Xuanhuai. Mr. Sheng Huaixuan was a senior official in the Qing court, and his father and his uncle were pious Buddhist disciples. They built houses with thatched roofs at Yizhou Pond by the Zhuanghuabang River in the northeast of Shanghai. This can be accounted as the predecessor of the monastery. The construction took ten years, and lasted from 1918-1928. Ke Chen also invited Reverend Di Xian from Tian Tai Mountain to come and lecture on Buddhism in a magnificent ceremony.
In 1956, a ceremony was held at the temple by the Shanghai Buddhist Association to celebrate the 2500th anniversary of Gautama Buddha’s enlightenment.
In 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, the monks made a living by selling handicrafts.
In 1983, Shanghai Institute of Buddhism was established at the temple under the Shanghai Buddhist Association.
In 1985, Monk Zhizhi Xuan and others made a trip to Dunhuang via Xinjiang. Shortly after their return, regular scripture lectures, meditation and other features of temple life were resumed.
The two precious jade Buddhist statues are not only rare cultural relics but also jade artworks. Both the Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha are carved with whole white jade. The sparkling and crystal-clear white jade gives the Buddhas the beauty of sanctity and make them more vivid.
The Sitting Buddha is 190 centimeters high and encrusted with agates and emeralds, portraying Buddha at the moment of his meditation and enlightenment.
The Recumbent Buddha is 96 centimeters long, lying on his right side with his right hand supporting his head and left hand placed on the left leg. This shape is called the ‘lucky repose’. The sedate face shows the peaceful mood of Sakyamuni when he left this world.
In the temple there is also another Recumbent Buddha which is four meters long and was brought from Singapore by the tenth abbot of the temple in 1989. Furthermore there are many other ancient paintings and Buddhist scriptures distributed in the different halls of the temple.