Since I’ve been in Shanghai, I’ve seen a live acrobats show, visited the YuYuan Gardens, and walked amongst the Buddhas at the Jade Buddha Temple. From entertainment to history to spiritualism, every aspect of my being has been satisfied by the sights and sounds of Beijing. Our first night concluded with an epic acrobatics show, reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil, but distinctly Chinese. From a large man juggling massive ceramic vases, to Chinese daredevils flirting disaster in a motorcycle cage, my first night in Shanghai is one I will never forget. Seeing the skill and talent of the local acrobats made it clear that there is much more to China than I expected. They possess the grace and ability of the greatest French acrobats, and demonstrated raw strength and agility as great as any American performer could match.
While the show left me impressed by the showmanship and acrobatic talent of the people of Shanghai, the gardens of YuYuan left me in awe of the history and culture of this great city. The YuYuan Gardens offer a glimpse of the architecture that was prominent throughout Shanghai’s olden days, and though it is now a highly commercialized tourist trap, it still retains that element of grandeur and prestige. It is perhaps the Jade Buddha Temple that had the most profound effect on me, as it showed me the more spiritual side of China, and explained some of the origin behind Buddhism in China and its importance to the culture of Shanghai.
Founded in 1882, this temple houses two original jade statues imported from Burma, and transported to Shanghai for the purpose of founding this temple. All around the temple are aspects of Buddhism, from statues of the lesser deities overlooking worshippers, to intricate depictions of Buddha welcoming visitors to this historic cultural site. We were lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to take part in a tea ceremony with the caretakers of the temple, and though I didn’t enjoy the tea as much as I did during my tasting in Beijing, the environment was much more suited for this intricate and deliberate process. Drinking tea in the company of friends, while amongst such ancient and powerful depictions of Buddha reveling with his followers to his final hours on his death bed, was both a poignant and inspiring experience, and left me with a desire to gain the most out of this trip as I could, both spiritually and through my education. As I continue this journey I hope to continue to grow as an individual, and gain greater insight towards myself, and the culture surrounding me.