Old City God Temple of Shanghai

City God Temple

The City God Temple or Temple of the City Gods (simplified Chinese: 上海城隍庙; traditional Chinese: 上海城隍廟; pinyin: Shànghǎi Chénghuángmiào; Shanghainese: Zånhae Senwonmioh), officially the City Temple of Shanghai, is a folk temple located in the old city of Shanghai. It commemorates the elevation of Shanghai to municipal status and is the site of the veneration of three Chinese figures honored as the city gods of the town. It is also known by some locals as the “Old City God Temple”, in reference to a later “New City God Temple” which no longer exists.
In Chinese, “Chenghuangmiao” is also used as the name of the commercial district near the temple. This is generally known in English as Yu Garden, after a nearby Chinese garden. The district is now incorporated under the name Yuyuan Tourist Mart.

Introduction of City God Temple


Regardless of size, many walled cities in ancient China contained a temple dedicated to one or more immortal or god as the spirit(s) or protector(s) of the city.The City God Temple in Shanghai originated as the Jinshan God Temple, dedicated to the spirit of Jinshan, or “Gold Mountain”, an island off the coast of Shanghai. It was converted into a City God Temple in 1403, during the Yongle era of the Ming dynasty.

During the Qing Dynasty, the temple grew popular. Residents of the old city as well as nearby areas visited the temple to pray for good fortune and peace. The temple reached its largest extent in the Daoguang era. The popularity of the temple also led to many businesses being set up in the area, turning the surrounding streets into a busy marketplace.
During the Cultural Revolution, the temple was closed down and used for other purposes. For many years, the main hall was used as a jewellry shop.

In 1951, the Board of Trustees of the City God Temple was dissolved, and the temple was handed over to the Shanghai Taoist Association and made into a Taoist center. The institution made changes to the temple, removing statues representing folk underworld personalities such as Yama, the judge of the dead, and placing an emphasis on Taoist spirituality instead.
In 1994, the temple was restored to its former use as a temple, with resident Taoist priests. The Temple, together with nearby Yuyuan Garden and the surrounding streets, are now part of a large pedestrian zone dedicated to restaurants and retail.
A complete restoration of the City God Temple took place between 2005 and 2006. In October 2006 the place of worship was reopened and reconsecrated by Taoist clergymen.

Religious Festivals

The temple had an area of more than 10,000 square meters including two gardens: West Garden (Yuyuan Garden) and East Garden. The City God Temple has a great influence on the residents of Shanghai. The religious festivals of the temple are considered to be the festivals for all Shanghai people.

Especially when the Sanxun festival (a day when the City God start to inspect his people) comes, nearly all people will come to the Temple to burn incense and worship the God, while all shops inside or close by would hang red lanterns to celebrate the festival. In addition, some folk arts, like cockfight, penmanship performance and acrobatics, are fairly attractive.

Yuanchen Hall

There are nine halls including, the Jiazi Hall, the Fortuna Hall, the Cihang Hall, the Chenghuang Temple, the Niangniang Hall, the Parent Hall, the Guanshen Hall, and the Wenchang Hall.
The Yuanchen Hall is dedicated to the Yuanchen God who brings good luck. The believers worship the life in this temple, and pray for peace and good luck. In the Cihang Hall, there are three goddesses, Yanmu, Cihang, and Mazu; the Wealth Hall is dedicated to the God of Wealth, the lucky sage; the Wenchang Hall is dedicated to the Wenchang Emperor.

Snack Square

Perhaps City God Temple of shanghai attracts the visitors with all kinds of tasty snacks around rather than the statues of immortals inside. There is a big snack square next to the temple. Hundreds of the local snacks and great treat to the taste sense are right here to tempt visitors who want to probe into the real Shanghai gourmet. The most famous snack shop at City God Temple snack square is Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant around which there is always a long queue.

City gods

The temple is dedicated to three city gods:

  • Huo Guang (d. 68 BC) was a famous Han Dynasty Chancellor. He is remembered for his role in deposing one young emperor and replacing him with another. Huo Guang was the original City God for the County of Shanghai from the Yuan Dynasty.
  • Qin Yubo (1295–1373) lived in Shanghai and served in the late Yuan Dynasty civil service. When the Hongwu Emperor founded the Ming Dynasty, he resisted two summons to serve at the court. He finally relented, and served in various roles including chief Imperial examiner. After his death, he was anointed City God of Shanghai by the Hongwu Emperor.
  • Chen Huacheng (1776–1842) was a Qing Dynasty general, responsible for the defence of Shanghai during the First Opium War. He vowed to defend the Yangtze to the death, and was killed in battle against the British.

How to Get There

  • By Bus: Take the bus No.11, 64, 801, 920 or 930 and get off at the Xiao Dong Men Station (小东门), it takes about 8 minutes walk to Chenghuangmiao street;
  • By Metro: Take subway line 10 to Yu Garden Station (豫园站), it takes about 10 minutes walking to Chenghuangmiao street.

Useful Travel Tips

  • Recommended Tour Time: March 28th (Lunar calendar) when the locals come over to celebrate festival for the God.
  • Chenghuangmiao area now has development into a shopping mall which is popular among travelers. Various kinds of shops such as clothing shops, toy shops and travel souvenir shops are spread here and there.
  • There are lots of famous Shanghai local snacks can be found in Chenghuangmiao Old Street. Both domestic and foreign travelers prefer to come here to have a Shanghai snack experience. 

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Edited by  Lynette Fu/付云锐