Arguably the biggest city in the biggest country on the planet, Shanghai has emerged from a colorful colonial past into being one of the world’s great modern capitals. It is China’s capital of commerce, industry and finance and is the one city that best shows the progress China has made in the last hundred years or so.
For many years in the past, Shanghai has been the playground of foreign adventurers. In the romantic days of the 1930s, many Europeans, especially the French decided to stay in Shanghai, building many large neighborhoods of foreign architecture.
The foreign legacy gave Shanghai its dramatic character, very visible in the facades of its buildings. The whole city is a veritable testament to the best East meets the West in China.
Today, these large foreign inspired neighborhoods make for wonderful strolls. Shanghai’s great river of commerce, the Huangpu, a tributary of the mighty Yangzi River, is lined with rows of colonial architecture, known as the Bund. Most of these homes, grander than any other in the East, have been recently refurbished and open to the curious visitor.
The mansions, garden estates, country clubs, and cathedrals of the foreigners who made their fortunes in Shanghai over a century ago are scattered throughout the city. There is even a synagogue, dating from the days of an influx of Jewish immigrants to China.
One of the city’s main attractions, the Bund is the classic image of Shanghai. Stretched along the western side of the Huangpu river, the bund’s majestic buildings date back to Shanghai’s grandest days.
Many banks and financial companies built impressive offices here in the early 20th century when Shanghai was the financial capital of Asia.
The city side of The Bund is packed with classic architecture. Buildings to look out for include, the old Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, the Customs House and its landmark clock, the Bank of China and the Peace Hotel.
The Peace Hotel epitomizes the foreign legacy in the city. The 1929 creation of a Jewish millionaire, the hotel today is a masterpiece of Art Deco.
The ancient river towns of Zhujiajiao and Zhoushi are filled with every type of bridge imaginable, from wood to stone to marble, in differing sizes and unique styles. This is due to the fact that the two towns are built on top of the crisscrossing waterways that run from Dianshan Lake.
The two towns are also knownto have the simple but elegant architecture from the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911).
Duolun Road is a quiet reminder of the past showing attractive examples of the fusion of Chinese and International architectural styles. A former American business area, Duolun Road is located in the Hongkou District.
Today the road is home to a wide selection of art and antique shops as well as the more usual souvenir stalls selling Chinese curios and collectibles.
Former Residence of Sun Yatsen
Song Qingling, (1893-1981) was wife of Dr Sun Yatsen, founder of the Republic of China and one of the famous “Soong Sisters”.
She has been described as one of China’s outstanding women of the 20th century and was a great advocate of civil rights, democracy and freedom from aggression. She has also been Honorary Chairman of the People’s Republic of China.
All the interior furnishings in Song’s former home, which could be found along Beiheyan-Street, are as they were in her lifetime. Visitors can visit the living room where Song held meetings with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai.
In the front annex, you can read her correspondence with famous leaders as Jawaharlal Nehru and Joseph Stalin, as well as personal family letters.
Considered to be the father of modern China, Sun Yatsen, lived in this 2 story house in the French Concession from 1919-1924. His wife Song Qingling continued to live here after Sun’s death until 1937. All the furnishings were arranged by Song Qingling the way she remembered and most of the objects are original.
It was here, in the summer of 1922 onwards that Dr. Sun Yatsen met with Li Dazhao, Lin Boqu and other representatives of the Chinese Communist Party to discuss Kuomintang-Communist cooperation that led to the first alliance between the 2 parties.
Zhou Enlai was premier of the Central Communist Party from 1949 until his death in 1976 and was one of the most revered Communist leaders. The former residence is a wonderful 3 story building located in the former French Concession.
Founded in 1862 in southwest Shanghai as a result of the Treaty of Nanking, the French Concession is a nice mix of wide tree lined avenues and interesting European style architecture. It now covers the Luwan and Xuhui districts.
The foreign diplomatic quarter, top hotels, great shopping and international restaurants and bars are all found in the art deco buildings that fill the area. The former residences of Sun Yatsen, Song Qingling and Zhou Enlai are also to be found here.
Grand View Garden
The Grand View Garden is located by Dianshan Lake in Qingpu County. It was inspired by the gardens described by Qing dynasty writer Hung Loumeng (1644-1911) in his classic novel Dream of the Red Chambers.
The garden is a good mix between the simple elegance of Southern Chinese landscaping and the magnificence of the royal residences. Many structures in the garden were also designed after the residences of the main characters of Loumeng’s novel.
Huangpu River Cruise
For a totally relaxing way to see both old and new Shanghai, the Huangpu River Cruise at the Bund waterfront is ideal. As the cruise sails down the river towards the East Sea, visitors are treated to a full sweep of the Bund and the modern cityscape of Pudong.
For the most dramatic views of Shanghai, tourists may take the night cruises, but cruises can be enjoyed all day. The cruises available vary in length between 1 to 3 hours. They depart from the waterfront every hour from 10am to 9pm.
Jade Buddha Temple
Built in 1882, the famous Buddhist Jade Buddha Temple was made to keep two jade Buddha statues which had been brought from Burma by a monk named Huigen.
The temple was destroyed during the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty. Fortunately the jade Buddha statues were saved and a new temple was built on the present site in 1928.
Lu Xun Museum
A very spacious and modern museum, the Lu Xun Museum was opened in 1999. It pays tribute to Lu Xun (1881-1936) one of China’s major literary figures of the 20th century.
One of Xun’s greatest legacy was his role in heading the move towards the creation of simplified Chinese script.
Located north of Suzhou Creek in the Hongkou district, Lu Xun Park was also renamed in honor of Lu Xun, widely regarded as the founder of modern Chinese writing.
Lu Xun’s tomb is located at the western end of the park. Hailed by the Communist Party as an advocate of Social Realism, the respect he earned from the CCP is marked by an inscription written by Mao and a tree flanking his tomb that was planted by Zhou Enlai.
Oriental Pearl TV Tower
Located in Pudong, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, stands a staggering 468 meters (1535ft) making it the tallest tower in Asia. Visitor’s can go to several observation levels and in clear weather can get an excellent view of The Bund and Shanghai, and in the distance, Sheshan, Chongming Island and the Yangzi River.
Considered to be the most rapid developing part of Shanghai, it is located on the eastern bank of the Huangpu River.
Only 10 years ago, Pudong was mainly marshland and paddy fields. In 1990 however, Pudong was named a Special Economic Zone and this sparked billion dollar investments to the area transforming it into a major business and financial center.
Today, Pudong represents modernity and economic growth – the tallest tower in Asia, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower can be found here as well as the Nextage Department Store, Asia’s largest shopping mall.
A traditional Chinese park, the Yuyuan Garden is complete with beautiful pavilions, miniature lakes, bridges and rock formations.
This small park is located in the heart of Shanghai’s old Chinese quarter and links to Yuyuan Market.
Found beside Yuyuan Garden, the Yuyuan Market is a bazaar of stores that sells traditional Chinese arts and crafts and souvenirs. The stores sell a mish-mash of items including chopsticks, Chinese medicine, walking sticks, fans, silk umbrellas, bamboo and rattan furniture, goldfish, pottery, plus much more. Part of the market has also been transformed into an indoor mall.
Found on Tianmashan in Songjiang County, the Huzhou Pagoda, built in 1079 AD, is the leaning tower of China, with an inclination now exceeding the tower at Pisa by at least 1.5 degrees. The 19m (62ft) tower started tilting about 200 years ago.