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4 Days in Shanghai – Oct 11 – 15, 2008 上海 ; 4th Day; Tuesday, Oct 14, 2008 Part I December 23, 2008

Posted by hslu in Travel.
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4 Days in Shanghai – Oct 11 – 15, 2008 上海

4th Day; Tuesday, Oct 14, 2008 – Shanghai 上海

While we were eating breakfast around 8:30 AM at the hotel, Maria asked me about the temple at The Temple of the Town God or City Temple of Shanghai (上海城隍廟 Cheng Huang Miao.) She said that we were there for almost half a day but she never saw a temple. She was right. We went to the market place but didn’t go to the temple. We decided to make another trip to the Temple of the Town God 城隍廟 and see the temple 廟 this time.

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The temple was a bit hard to find because most tourists at the market place didn’t know where it was. We asked a few people and finally got a half-hearted answer from a guy who looked like a local with a hand signal pointing to the back of a building. We thanked him for his help, fought through the crowd, walked around the corner of that building and saw the entrance of the temple bout 100′ away. Standing in temple’s main courtyard, we saw many vivid carvings on the roof and worshipers praying for good fortune and happiness in front of various halls inside the temple. There were a series of posters aimed at informing visitors the history of the 城隍廟 Cheng Huang Miao, the essence of Taoism and the meaning of a large abacus above the front gate.
According to the posters, the temple was founded in 1403 to honor local official Qín Yùbó, who had been designated Shanghai’s patron god by Hóngwu emperor (1328-98) of the Míng Dynasty. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) (文化大革命wen hua da ge ming), the temple was damaged and closed. In the early 1990s, the temple, the market place and the surrounding area were extensively restored to its current condition.
Also on the posters was the origin of 城隍廟 and a brief introduction of Taoism or Daoism. 城 Cheng means the wall surrounding a city and 隍 Huang means the man-made ditch surrounding the city wall. In ancient China, both 城 Cheng and 隍 Huang were routinely constructed to protect the city. 城隍廟 Cheng Huang Miao is a Taoism or Daoism (道教 Dao Jiao) temple. As early as 3,000 years ago in Zhou Dynasty, Chinese people began the practice of worshipping deity to protect their cities. In the Southern and Northern Dynasties period, about 1,600 years ago, 城隍廟 were erected by people for 城隍爺 Cheng Huang Ye. The popularity of this religion reached its highest level in the Ming Dynasty. It was estimated that back then there were 1,472 城隍廟 Cheng Huang Miao in China. In other words, there was at least one 城隍廟 Cheng Huang Miao in each of every Chinese city.

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Daoism 道教, along with Confucianism and Buddhism, has influenced China and East Asia for over 2,000 years. Daoism has also influenced some foreign countries such as America and Canada, in recent years. Daoism was founded by Lao Zi 老子 about 2,600 years ago who was the author of Dao De Jing 道德經. Dao 道 roughly translates into English as “path” or “the way.” It basically refers to an unseen power which surrounds and flows through all things, living and non-living. The Dao regulates natural processes and nourishes balance and harmony in the Universe. It exemplify the co-existence, balance and harmony of opposites such as Ying and Yang, earth and heaven, moon and sun, female and male, love and hate, harmony and chaos, etc.
The basic virtues in Daoism are compassion, moderation and humility which have been the philosophical and religious traditions governing the lives of many Chinese over the years. The traditional Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, meditation, some martial arts (Taiji Chuan and Qi Qong,) and Feng Shui were all evolved from Daoism. In addition, Daoism also emphasizes respect to and remembrance of our ancestors which has been a common practice of many Chinese families over the centuries. The famous icon associated with Taoism is called Taiji 太極 which loosely translates into “the great ultimate”, some kind of singularity or a primordial state before everything was created. According to Daoism, out of Dao came Taiji. It then split into Ying 陰 and Yang 陽 which are encapsulated in the Taiji icon. From Ying and Yang, everything in the universe was created.

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The Taiji icon consists of two colors: black and white; symbolizing Ying 陰 and yang 陽; the so-called Two Aspects (兩儀  Liang Yi.) The black dot in white implies that Ying can exist harmoniously in Yang while the white dot in black implies that Yang can co-exist in Ying.

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When we first came into the temple, we didn’t notice that there was a big abacus above the front gate until we saw this poster which explains the meaning of 13 numbers represented by the abacus. They are: 9, 7, 3, 6, 7, 2, 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 8.
The number 0 in the middle stands for Dao. The numbers to the right of 0 or Dao are 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 8. The sequence 1, 2, 3, 5 comes from the opening sentence of Chapter 42 in Dao De Jing 道德經. It says: “道生一 (dao sheng yi,),一生二  (yi sheng er,) 二生三 (er sheng san,) 三生万物 (san sheng wan wu,) 万物负阴而抱阳 (wan wu fu ying er bao yang,) 冲气以为和 (chong qi yi wei he.)” Based on my understanding of the poster, these numbers mean the following:

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1     From 0 Dao out comes the ultimate one or Taiji.
2     From Taiji comes Liang Yi 兩儀 or two Yi; the Ying and Yang. I guess here it refers  to  earth and heaven or more appropriately female and male.
3     From Ying and Yang out come three. Here it refers to something new from the    harmoniously co-existence of ying and yang. In other words, with female and male, we have babies. From heaven and earth, we have animals and plants, etc.
5     Out of growth comes Wan Wu 万物 or everything in the universe. , Wan Wu 万物 literally means ten thousand things. Here the number 5 refers to five elements in the universe or Wu Xing 五行. Wu Xing 五行 are Metal 金、Wood 木、Water 水、Fire 火、and Earth 土.
6     refers to 老陽 (lao yang) which means yang changing into yin, or moving yang; and
8     refers to 少陽 (shao yang) which means unchanging yang.
The numbers to the left of number 0 or Dao are: 9, 7, 3, 6, 7, and 2 (Reading from left to right) can be interpreted as the following:

9     老陰 (lao yang) which means yin changing into yang or moving yin,

7     少陰 (shao ying) which means unchanging yin,

36    refers to thirty six 天罡 (tian gang,) and

72    refers to seventy two 地煞 (di sha.)

The concept of using 6, 8, 9, and 7 to infer as 老陽,  少陽,  老陰, and  少陰 came from Yi Jing 易經.  易 yi means change and 經 jing means classic text and 易經 yi jing means “the Book of Change.” This is something that very few people in the world know anything about. I of course know very little and dare not to offer any interpretation here. I guess I would just take what the poster says and that’s the end of it.

Now, let’s see what 36 and 72 on the abacus mean. 36 refers to thirty six Tian Gang Stars (天罡星 tian gang xing) where 天罡 (tian gang) is the first star of the Big Dipper of the Great Bear constellation. 72 refers to seventy two Di Sha Stars (地煞星 di sha xing) in the same constellation. According to ancient Chinese astrology, each of the 36 Tian Gang and 72 Di Sha stars has its own god. Together, they refer to 108 obstacles facing each of us while we grow up. If we can overcome each and every one of these 72 obstacles, a great future, luck and happiness await us in our life.

There is also a very important phrase on the abacus which says “不由人算 bu you ren suan” which loosely translated into English as “Not according to your scheme.” It suggests that no matter how you plot against others, one should realize that heaven has already chosen one for you which is “Good deeds bring fortune while bad deeds bring nothing but evil upon yourself.”

From these posters, I realized that Chinese has been influenced by scriptures like this in their daily life over the centuries. I routinely visited a temple near our house call Bao Jue Si  寶覺寺 with my parents when I was a kid. We went there to pay respect to my grandmother who died when I was 10 years old. We also went there to burn paper money for her and for our ancestors to use in their after lives. Over there, my parents would show us similar scriptures which warned us not to do bad things to others; if you would, “不由人算 bu you ren suan.” That is also why we take our kids to temples whenever there is an opportunity. It teaches them Chinese culture and shows them the custom of paying respects to our ancestors. Growing up in the United States, they are not very familiar with Chinese culture and customs. I wished that we had done more when they were growing up. Unfortunately Maria and my families had already moved to the United States and we only visited Taiwan a couple of times when they began to understand and appreciate their origin and root.

One of halls in the temple is 財神殿 Cai Shen Dian or “the Hall of the Fortune God.” It was a very popular hall and many people including us worshiped there wishing good fortune in our life. Of course, we prayed to have good business at China King for years to come. Before we left the 城隍廟, we burned some paper money for our ancestors and wished them to protect members of our families, bring them safety and guide them in their lives’ endeavors.

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When we left the 城隍廟, it was time for lunch. Since we would host a banquet this evening, we decided to have something light for lunch. Among many restaurants there, we chose a big self-serve type 食堂. This was a huge place with hundreds of dim sums, various dishes and at least 500 customers in a big dinning room. There were all kinds of dim sums from many regions of China plus at least 40 kinds of desserts. Several waitresses pushed carts around with more selections and drinks. We quickly finished our lunch and called a taxi to Yang Pu district   楊浦區 to meet our agent at 1:30 PM.

For the next 3 hours, our agent took us to see five apartments: 3 in Yang Pu 楊浦 and 2 in Pu Dong 浦東. All apartments were small: from 1,000 to 1,600 square feet and all but one were occupied. One apartment had one bedroom and other four had three bedrooms. The purpose of this exploratory visit was to show Maria what was available in Shanghai and what was like to live in Shanghai. Maria has had many reservations of buying a property in Shanghai: it is far away from where we live and the stability of the communist government can be unpredictable. I told our agent that if we ever ready to buy an apartment in Shanghai, we will for sure contact him and ask for his professional assistance. After the visit, I didn’t think Maria had changed her mind but at least she wasn’t dead against the idea as she used to. At least, it was a good start. I guess that I have to do more to make her change her mind and actively help me to look for a place to buy in the future.

We left our agent and called a taxi back to our hotel. We quickly changed and went back out again. The evening traffic was very busy and it was hard to hail a taxi. We finally got one and told our drive where we wanted to go: “和平官邸 He Ping Guan Di” in 徐汇区  Xu Hui Qu. 徐汇区  Xu Hui Qu is very popular with Taiwanese businessmen. I was told that there are approximately 300,000 Taiwanese businessmen who currently live in Shanghai. These people live in Taiwan but maintain a second residence in Shanghai. Many of them also have mistress in Shanghai, nicknamed “Er Nai  二奶” and travel back and forth between their two residences.

和平官邸 He Ping Guan Di is one of a few 4-star Shanghai restaurants in Shanghai. 和平 He Ping means peace in Chinese and 官邸 Guan Di means private residence of someone with statue. 和平官邸  He Ping Guan Di used to be the private residence of Mr. Dai Li 戴笠who was the head of the secret police for Mr. Jiang Jie Shi 將介石, who was the President of the Republic of China for over 30 years. Mr. Dai Li 戴笠, who was also the head of the fascist organization Blue Shirt Society and Sino-American Intelligence Agency, conducted intelligence and security work for Mr. Jiang. During WWII, his security force grew to 70,000 men and women and was one of the most feared people in China. Dai Li戴笠 died in a suspicious place crash and to date still remained as a mysterious person.

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