Statues still standing in Jade Temple move

September 04, 2017 |

Shanghai’s 135-year-old Jade Buddha Temple began shifting its main pavilion 30.66 meters northward from this morning after tens of thousands worshippers and monks prayed for a smooth progress.

Mahavira Hall, built around 1918 and listed as a protected historic structure of the city, has been moved by 25 centimeters as of noon along with three huge Buddhist statues and other cultural heritages inside.

The temple's abbot Jue Xing announced to start moving the 18.2-meter-tall pavilion, covering 450 square meters and weighing over 1,000 tons, at 10am today, after a praying ceremony to wish the project successful.

Experts from the Shanghai Museum have placed planks wrapped with fireproof cloth on the shoulders and waists of the Buddha statues in either clay or wood to protect them during the move, said Li Yaming, the chief engineer with the Institute of Shanghai Architectural Design and Research Co.

The wooden and brick structure will be moved by 2 meters today and about 6 meters each day for the following days. After reaching to the new position a week later, the hall will also be raised by 0.3 meters every day to become 1.05 meters taller.

The shifting project is expected to be completed in two weeks when some 500 square meters of space will be released in the main square, doubling its current size, for worshipers and visitors to pray.

"Shifting progress will be suspended in extreme weathers such as thunderstorms and gales to ensure the safety," Li said. The pavilion will be stabilized temporarily on site during the bad weather with proper protections, he added.

Engineers have cut off wooden supportive pillars from the current stone foundation of the hall and placed the pillars onto a 0.8-meter-tall platform.

Ten rail tracks have been built beneath the platform from which the building will both “roll and slide” to its new position, said Lan Wuji, the founder of the Shanghai Evolution Building Shift Engineering Co. Lan took charge of a similar project in 2002 to move the Shanghai Concert Hall, built in 1930, by 66.46 meters southeast. Over a dozen of sensors have been installed on each pillars to monitor the moving process, he said.

The company has stabilized the pavilion structure with steel bars. Since no welding is allowed inside the holy space, all the steel beams are fixed with screws, Lan said.

The renovation project was launched by the temple in July 2014 after the city’s housing quality watchdog highlighted safety concerns, and pointed out that many buildings across the city have been damaged by insects, warping the structures. The main pavilion was sealed in May 2017 to prepare for the moving project.

The main square area in front of the pavilion is only 495 square meters and is often packed out, especially during the Spring Festival and the first and 15th day of each lunar month. Safety concerns caused by tightly packed crowds will be addressed by the extra space, according to the temple.

The cost of the moving operation hasn’t been released. But Lu Xilin, a professor with Tongji University, said the relocation costs nearly half of that to demolish and rebuild the structure. It can also cut the schedule by roughly 70 percent.

The temple, built in 1882 is among Shanghai’s most popular attractions, with 2 million visitors a year, a third of them from abroad.