The other day I was running errands – in Pudong of all places – and when I exited Yuanshen metro station I saw a massive temple directly across the street. Marked on my dog-eared city map as a Confucian Temple, I went inside to investigate. What I found was a vast and ornately decorated Taoist temple with just a handful of worshipers inside. My 5-yuan entrance ticket gave the only clue as to the temple’s name: Shanghai Taiqinggong. (My Lonely Planet guide, which I later consulted at home, lists the temple’s name as Qinciyang, though the rest of the details are the same.) Supposedly the largest Taoist temple in Shanghai, it was surreal to have the place almost entirely to myself for an hour.
The first prayer hall in the central courtyard contains an effigy of the Emperor of the Sacred Eastern Mountains. He is a judge of humanity with the power to reward the good and punish the wicked, with 72 hells and 36 hell prisons at his disposal. This is definitely a deity you want to have on your side.
The second of the central halls contains the “Three Pristine Ones.” These virtuous heavenly sages live in clarity with perfect qi (life force or energy) and are the incarnation of Tao (the natural order of the universe and the basis for Taoism). They have the power to spare humans from suffering.
Towards the rear of the temple complex, the Supreme Jade Emperor holds court in the Heavenly Imperial Golden Palace. Considered the king of the heavens and the ruler of all the other deities, this powerful God also governs human beings and ghosts. It’s fitting that he should have the largest building of the site.
In the galleries lining both sides of the temple, smaller prayer halls hold an astounding variety of lesser-known Taoist gods. These include the City God, the Wishful God of Wealth, the Sacred Vision Lady of Improving Eyesight, the Mercy Queen of Heaven, the East China Sea Dragon King, and the Magic Medicine King. Upstairs I found an imposing collection of 61 Taoist generals, a veritable army to fight the forces of evil. I’m expecting to wake up tomorrow with 20/20 vision, a fatter bank account and a talent for sailing.
Shanghai Taiqinggong Address: 476 Yuanshen Road, Pudong, Shanghai, China Entrance Fee: 5 RMB (about 0.90 USD)