Confucius say: new temple just as good as old one

Hidden among the market laneways of the Huangpu area of Shanghai is the Confucius Temple (or rather, 上海文庙 or Shanghai Wen Miao), a significant cultural site of the city that had, until recently, not registered on my sightseeing radar. 

The temple was first built in the Yuan Dynasty (700-800 years ago) when Shanghai was a mere fishing village and became the most important place of teaching for the surrounding county.

Confucius is probably China’s foremost thinker and educator, with his writings of 2500 years ago creating the foundation for the country’s social development.  During his life, Confucius was a successful public figure, becoming both Minister of Public Works and Minister for Crime, but subsequently was exiled after upsetting the wrong people.  

His later writings (known as the Analects) were not recognised until a few centruies after his death, but were quickly embraced as the gateway to better living.  Among other adages, Confucius pioneered the ‘do until others as you would have do unto you’ principle, which seems to have been borrowed by a number of subsequent religious figures.

Shanghai Wen Miao contains a complex of buildings, including temples and classrooms, and spaces for meditation and interaction.  It has been rebuilt several times over its history, and having been mostly destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, was most recently reconstructed in 1995.

The city has grown up around it too.  In place of the the small school within the temple, a large contemporary campus has popped up next door. 

 A pair of lions guard the entry into the original school.  One clutches a ball (the daddy), the other a lion club (the mummy), they are engaged in a frightening stare-off that is broken as you pass through the entry. 

 Although it is primarily a tourist site now, many people still attend the temple to pay respect to Confucius, but also to ask for his blessings.  These are written and attached to the trees around the temple. 


As our tour guide suggested, people may ask for “good luck, good exam results, or maybe a good body”.   Or like this one, the ability to “live a good God-fearing life”.  Confucius say: relax, life isn’t meant to be scary. 



2 Responses to Confucius say: new temple just as good as old one

  1. Adina West says:

    I wonder if the choice of ribbon colour was intentional? The red ribbon, beige paper and green of the trees is certainly a very photogenic combination! And red’s very lucky of course…

  2. bitbot says:

    Gotta watch those lion clubs! 🙂

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