Another of Shanghai’s peaceful temples is the Buddhist Longhua Temple in the southwest part of the city. When I visited it yesterday the temple was surprisingly busy – the Chinese are not an overly religious lot – but a friendly local explained that between 9am and 1pm on this particular date was a very auspicious time on the lunar calendar. Pray for wealth on this day and your prayers are apparently more likely to be answered.
Some devotees were having a special ceremony in the temple courtyard. At the monks’ feet were three small net-covered boxes filled to bursting with flapping sparrows trying desperately to escape. As the chanting intensified I got more worried that these sparrows were going to die of sheer anxious exhaustion and overcrowding before the end of the prayers. Worries unfounded. At the conclusion of the ceremony the devotees stepped forward and released the sparrows, who flew to the adjacent garden for a quiet rest before the next ceremony.