"Longhua Bells in the Evening" at the Longhua Temple is the only one left over from the original 8 sceneries of Old
Shanghai. As one of the popular 8 sceneries in old Shanghai at the turn of 20th century, it can compare favorably with the evening bells at the Hanshan Temple in Suzhou. Whenever at midnight, the wonderful bell sounds heard in tranquility make people feel refined and refresh.
The Longhua Temple literally "Lustre of the Dragon Temple" is a Buddhist Temple dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha in Shanghai. Although most of the present-day buildings date from later reconstructions, the temple preserves the architectural design of a Song Dynasty monastery of the Buddhist Chan sect . It is the largest, most authentic and complete ancient temple complex in the city of Shanghai.
The temple was first build in 242 AD, during the Three Kingdoms Period. According to a legend, Sun Quan, King of the Kingdom of Wu, had obtained Sharira relics, which are cremated remains of the Buddha. To house these precious relics, the king ordered the construction of 13 pagodas. Longhua Pagoda (Longhua Ta), part of the Longhua temple complex, is said to have been one of them. Like the function of the pagoda, the name of the temple also has its origin in a local legend according to which a dragon once appeared on the site.
The temple was destroyed by war towards the end of the Tang Dynasty and rebuilt in 977 AD, during the Northern Song Dynasty. (According to another version of the story, as contained in Song and Yuan Dynasty local histories, the temple was first built by the King of Wuyue in the early Song dynasty.) Later in the Song Dynasty, in 1064, it was renamed Kong Xiang Temple, but the original name Longhua Temple was restored in the Ming Dynasty during the reign of the Wanli Emperor.
The present architectural design follows the Song Dynasty original. However, whereas the core of the present Longhua Pagoda survives from that period, most buildings in the temple proper were rebuilt during the reigns of the Tongzhi Emperor and the Guangxu Emperor in the Qing Dynasty. A modern restoration of the entire temple complex was carried out in 1954.
The temple and monastery were originally surrounded by extensive gardens and orchards. Viewing of the peach blossom in the Longhua gardens was an annual attraction for people in surrounding cities. These gardens have since been entirely absorbed into the neighbouring Longhua Martyrs Cemetery and have been.
The Longhua Temple Fair has been held since the Ming Dynasty period on the third day of the third month of the Lunar Calendar, the on which - according to the local legend - the dragons visit the temple to help grant the people's wishes. It coincides with the blossoming of the peach trees in Longhua Park . Since its inception, the fair has been an annual event interrupted only by the Cultural Revolution and the SARS outbreak.