There was plenty of action this morning at the weekly Sunday book market held at the Shanghai Confucius Temple. Plenty of blasts from the revolutionary past piled on the vendors’ tables as well. As I browsed through the books, comics, magazines, and other mementos, I felt like I was back in China as a student in the mid-1980s. There’s nothing like a touch of nostalgia to rejuvenate the body and mind.
Although the origins the Shanghai Confucius Temple go as far back as 1294, the complex has been moved to a number of different sites and undergone multiple reconstructions since that time. The current incarnation has a charming southern Chinese architectural style that’s easy on the eye. The graceful curves of its russet halls and pavilions stand in stark contrast to the towering steel and concrete blocks surrounding it.
There are some idiosyncrasies, too, starting with the statue of a sword-bearing Confucius standing in front of the main Dacheng Hall. Among all the sage’s many virtues, a martial spirit doesn’t exactly spring to mind. The natural stone sculptures of all shapes and sizes that are dotted around the Zunjing Pavilion are also unusual for a Confucius Temple. I can’t say I’m a big fan of them myself, but they’re a very popular Chinese art form.
The Shanghai Confucius Temple, generally known in Chinese as the 文庙/Wen Miao (literally Culture Temple) is a leisurely ten-minute walk from the Lao Xi Men (Old West Gate) Station (老西门站) on lines 8 and 10 of the subway. The entry fee is only 10RMB.
If you’re interested in getting an idea of what this old part of the city was like before modernization arrived, you should also take a stroll along the nearby Menghua Street (梦花街). With its quaint little shops and restaurants, this small alley makes you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.