The City God Temple or Temple of the City Gods is the most significant Taoist temple of Shanghai, attracting tourists from all over the world. According to a local saying, ‘One who does not reach the temple, never reaches Shanghai.’ It was built in the Yongle Period of the Ming Dynasty in 1403.
With the resultant commercial development, the surrounding area has grown into a thriving market and traditional urban center, with more than a 100 stores (most of them nearly a century old) selling all kinds of local products. The temple has become the core of the Old City of Shanghai’s well-known City God Temple Scenic Region, which includes the handicrafts and traditional art works Yuyuan Market.
The Three City Gods
Many walled cities in ancient China had one temple dedicated to the patron gods of the city. City God Temple was built in Shanghai to commemorate its urban municipal status, and three chosen city gods were regarded as patron saints of the city:
Huo Guang, a famous general in the Western Han Dynasty and a national martial icon.
Qin Yubo, who served in the late Yuan Dynasty civil service as chief Imperial examiner.
Chen Huacheng, a Qing Dynasty general, who defended Shanghai during the Anglo-Chinese War and was killed in battle against the British in 1842.
Nine Halls Of City God Temple
It is an ornate building covering over 2000 square meters. Its main feature is its nine halls including the Fumu Hall, the Fortuna Hall, the Cihang Hall, the Chenghuang Hall, the Niangniang Hall, the Guansheng Hall, the Wenchang Hall, and the Yuanchen Hall. Huo Guang Hall or the Grand Hall is the main hall of the temple, in which the Eight Immortals of Taoism are carved into its archway.
History of City God Temple
City God Temple has a rich history of more than 600 years.
- The temple was built in the Yongle Period of the Ming Dynasty, in 1403.
- The temple became popular during the Qing Dynasty, and its surrounding area became a bustling commercial district.
- The Grand Hall was damaged by fire in 1924 and rebuilt in 1926 along the traditional Chinese architectural style.
- In 1951, the temple was given to the Shanghai Taoist Association and converted into a Taoist center.
- During the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), the temple was shut down and was used for other purposes; its main hall served as a jewelry store for many years.
- The site was converted back to a temple in 1994.
- It underwent complete renovation and restoration in 2005.
- In October 2006 it was reconsecrated by Taoist clergymen with resident Taoists priests, and reopened to the public as a place of worship.
Entrance Fee: CNY 10
Opening Hours: 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM
5 Things to Do in City God Temple
- Visit the nine halls of the temple, each one full of statues, relics, and murals of various deities.
- Check out the artwork and the gift shop located in the art arena.
- The City God Temple and its surrounding area are the perfect stage to witness Shanghai’s folk customs and activities including acrobatic performances, tea ceremonies, and calligraphy lessons.
- Attend some of the several traditional festivals that are celebrated here, including the lantern show during the Lantern Festival and the Double Ninth Festival. If you are not afraid of large crowds, it may be one of the best times to visit the City God Temple for an authentic Chinese cultural experience.
- The City God Temple is famous for its local snacks square, open till 9 pm with long queues for its delicacies including steamed buns and rice cakes. Its guests list includes Queen Elizabeth II and former American president Bill Clinton.
Tips For City God Temple
- If you are interested in the souvenirs in the market area, remember to bargain for fair prices.
- To avoid big crowds, visit on weekdays and in the daytime; be careful of your belongings at all times, as this crowded place is known for pick-pockets.
- To fully enjoy the marvelous architecture of the temple, try to visit it at both day and night times for its different views.
Recommended Hotels Near City God Temple
Getting to City God Temple
Take metro line 10 and get off at Yu Garden Station. Leave from exit 3. Walk south along South Henan Rd. for five minutes and then walk east along Middle Fangbang Rd. for another five minutes to the temple.
1. Take bus 932 and get off at City God Temple Station.
2. Take bus 11, 26, 64, 304, 736, 805, 920, 926 or 930 and get off at Xinbeimen Station.
3. Take City Sightseeing Bus Line 1, Line 3 or Line 5 to get there.