Contrary to expectations, the largest temple in Shanghai is not as far out as one may think, and makes for a fantastic trip into the less-ventured southwestern region of the city. Even though the present-day structure has undergone substantial reconstruction, Longhua is one of the few temples which resembles ancient temples found in other parts of China—featuring four main halls, rambling courtyards and an impressive gilded statue of Sakyamuni (the spiritual teacher credited with founding Buddhism).
Amid devotees holding burning joss sticks (incense) and offering prayers, this is perhaps the key location where one can recover a fragment of lost religious zeal in modern day Shanghai. Spirituality is vibrantly alive at this site. The ancient seven-story pagoda just outside the Song Dynasty-era temple is the only remaining pre-modern pagoda in Shanghai. Unfortunately, however, it’s not open to tourists; yet you can still marvel at its exterior. There’s also a pedestrian street outside the temple where you’ll find numerous vendors hawking touristy souvenirs ranging from ancient coin replicas to Chinese knots. While we don’t necessarily recommend buying any of these items, the row of merchandise makes for a fascinating display and contradiction to the devout practices occurring nearby at the temple.