Shanghai’s revered “City God Temple” is considered to be the most important Taoist shrine in the vast Chinese city. Situated within the ancient walled city, this temple is dedicated to the deities who are believed to safeguard and protect the city. In fact, it was the custom in many ancient Chinese cities to construct a shrine to these guardian spirits, often identified as gods or immortals, so that they could be invoked when needed.
However, in Shanghai today, ‘City God Temple’ refers not solely to the expansive temple compound but also to the traditional commercial district of the city which surrounds the place of worship. More than 100 shops and stores may be seen in this locality, and many of the store buildings have a history stretching back almost a century.
The shrine itself had its origins as a place of worship dedicated to Jinshan, a local spirit deity. In 1403, it became an actual city god temple, during the Ming dynasty’s Yongle period. The shrine became increasingly popular in the time of the Qing Dynasty, when the residents of the local neighbourhood as well as outlying areas began to frequent the place of worship to entreat the deities for peace and favourable fortune.
With the ever increasing popularity of the temple, many small-scale businesses migrated to the area, making the locality a thriving marketplace. However, in more modern times, in the year 1951, the shrine became a fully-fledged Taoist temple, and significant changes were made at the place of worship. Popularly venerated underworld figures like Yama, judge of the deceased were removed and Taoist deities were installed instead.
Today, three central city gods are honoured within the temple. These are Huo Guang, a well-known Chancellor during the Han Dynasty; Chen Huacheng, a general of the Qing Dynasty; and Qin Yubo, an official of the civil service of the Yuan Dynasty.
Anyone interested in finding more about Taoist beliefs and traditional Chinese culture will be captivated by a visit to this shrine.Visitors considering Greater China hotels will find an outstanding selection in the Millennium & Copthorne Hotels China. These hotels in China offer quality accommodations and attentive hospitality.
Angela Fernando is an impassioned travel writer who composes pieces under the pen name Sumaira Narayan. She loves writing about new and exciting places around the world and hopes to visit them all someday.