So the story goes: When Chairman Mao visited Shanghai he asked, ‘I know there is a Shanghai (上海：on the sea), but is there a Xiahai (下海：under the sea)?’ We assume that this was followed by uncomfortable forced laughter as none present (save possibly Zhou Enlai) had the heart (read: cojones) to tell him that the joke stunk.
Little did he know that there is, in fact, an ‘under the sea’ (cue your ‘Little Mermaid’ soundtracks for optimal reading conditions); the Xiahai Miao in Hongkou district’s Tilanqiao neighborhood a.k.a. the neighborhood formerly known as the Jewish Ghetto. Well, actually it used to be the Xiahai (夏海：Summer Sea) Miao, same pronunciation different characters, and before that the Yiwang (义往：Justice) Miao. In fact, it’s unclear why the name has been changed for any other reason than to serve as the Great Helmsman’s rubber chicken, but we digress.
This temple was originally built along the Xiahai Pu, one of several pu’s (man-made tributaries) that ran every five kilometers along Suzhou Creek, dug during the Song dynasty but long since vanished. Its aquatic theme used to draw in many a nervous seaman praying for good luck on their voyage in the years before (irony of ironies) the water temple was burnt to the ground by the Japanese. The current incarnation is the 1941 redux and was refurbished in the early 1990s.
This quiet nunnery is one of the better kept secrets in Shanghai as far as Buddhist temples are concerned, with its relatively remote location keeping most of the tourists away. The woodcarvings, sculptures, and architecture here are exceptional and we tend to think this is just about the best of the temple bunch. For more information on Xiahai Miao click
here and here.
Xiahai Miao (下海庙), Kunming Road near Haimen Road (昆明路 近海门路)