China // Shanghai and around //

Longhua Si

The Longhua Si (龙华寺, lónghuá sì), and its associated tenth-century pagoda, is one of Shanghai’s main religious sites. The pagoda itself is an octagonal structure about 40m high (until the feverish construction of bank buildings along the Bund in the 1910s, the pagoda was the tallest edifice in Shanghai), its seven brick storeys embellished with wooden balconies and red-lacquer pillars. After a long period of neglect (Red Guards saw it as a convenient structure to plaster with banners), an ambitious re-zoning project has spruced up the pagoda and created the tea gardens, greenery and shop stalls that now huddle around it.

Though there has been a temple on the site since the third century, the halls are only around a century old. It’s the most active Buddhist site in the city, and a centre for training monks. On the right as you enter is a bell tower, where you can strike the bell for ¥10 to bring you good luck. On Chinese New Year, a monk bangs the bell 108 times, supposedly to ease the 108 “mundane worries” of Buddhist thought.