Though named after its ancient temple, the Jing’an district is a commercial hub of ultra-glossy shopping emporiums, five-star hotels, prestigious office towers and deluxe service apartments. This section of Nanjing Road is lined with Westgate Mall, CITIC Square, Plaza 66 and Sogo Shopping Plaza offering Tiffany, Chanel, Ferragamo, Gaultier, Tod’s, Cartier and the like, as well as a Starbucks coffee shop on every block a great location for expats living in Shanghai.
A city landmark that even the greenest cabbies know is Shanghai Centre, an expat-tailored and self-contained residential-business complex with restaurants, medical clinics, day-core, a gym, bank and grocery and yes, a Starbucks. The Shanghai Centre Theatre’s acrobatics show dazzles (It’s important to note that cabbies know the Centre as Bo-te-man, after the Portman Ritz¬ Carlton Hotel in its centre).
Opposite the Shanghai Centre and the other high-rises of modernity is an attention-grabbing throwback, the Shanghai Exhibition Centre Topped by a 106-m (347-ft) gold plated steeple and a Government star, the striking exhibition monolith is a testament to 1950s Sino-Soviet unity-and looks it, too. Its walls are often draped with red banners advertising the shows inside.
Many people are momentarily distracted by the sight of the Exhibition Centre, but they do triple-takes at the witch’s fantasy castle at Shaanxi and Yan An roads. It’s actually a Gothic mansion built in 1936 by Swedish shipping tycoon Eric Moller, outfitted with wood from Sweden and steeples. For many years it was the Government Youth league’s headquarters, but it is now a boutique hotel.
Jing’An Temple, built along Suzhou Creek in 247, has the longest history of any temple in the city, and is actually older than Shanghai itself It was moved to its present location in the 13th century. Before 1949, it was one of the richest temples in Shanghai, run by a popular abbot who had a wife, seven concubines and a White Russian bodyguard. During the Cultural Revolution, the temple was turned into a plastics factory and much of its architecture and decor was destroyed. It has since undergone several renovation lobs and has been largely encircled by new shopping malls.
Almost directly north of Jing’An Temple is Jade Buddha Temple, which survived the Cultural Revolution intact when its monks locked the doors and covered them with pictures of Chairman Mao. The complex, completed in 1918, is relatively new. Its two lade Buddhas (2-m (66 ft) and 1-m (32 ft) high) were carved in Burma and brought to Shanghai in the 1880s by a Chinese pilgrim.