Shanghai Travel Guide

Shanghai is China's largest city and is situated on the banks of the Yangtze River Delta. The city's development in the past few decades have made it one of the most important economic, commercial, financial and communications center of China. Shanghai beguiled foreigners with its seductive mix of tradition and sophistication. Now it is reawakening and dusting off its party shoes for another silken tango with the wider world.

Shanghai expreses today the huge disparities of modern China: monumental building projects push skyward and glinting department stores swing open their doors to a stylish elite while child beggars, prostitutes and the impoverished gather outside. Always a city of jostling juxtapositions, Shanghai is entering the new millenium running hot on the friction of contrast and the energy of its own fevered growth. Shanghai has been the domain of adventurers, drug runners, swindlers, gamblers, idle rich, dandies, tycoons, missionaries, gangsters and backstreet pimps; a dark memory during the long years of forgetting that the Communists visited upon their new China. The architects of this social experiment firmly wedged one foot against the door of Shanghai's past.

Facts in a glance

Area: 6,340 sq km
Population: 13.4 million
Country: China
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +8 (Standard Time)
Telephone Area Code: 021


Shanghai was part of Songjiang county, governed by Suzhou prefecture. The county was formed around 1000 years ago.

960-1279: From the time of the Song Dynasty, Shanghai gradually became a busy seaport.

1553: A city wall was built, which is generally regarded as the beginning of Shanghai City. The wall is stated to have been from three to four miles long and twenty-three feet in height, with six gates and twenty arrow towers. Its principal purpose was to ward off attacks by Japanese pirates, who at that period frequently raided and pillaged the coastal towns of China. The last remnants of the wall disappeared after the Revolution in 1911. The Shanghai of the 16th century was notable in another way. It was the birthplace of Lu Tsih and Wang Ke, two of China's greatest writers, and Hsu Kwang-ch'i, friend and pupil of Matteo Ricci, the Jesuit missionary.

Before the 19th century, Shanghai was not a major city, and in contrast to other major Chinese cities, there are few ancient Chinese landmarks there. Before 1927 Shanghai belonged to Jiangsu province with the capital of Nanjing. Since Shanghai became a Special Administration City in 1927, its official position has been equal to a Chinese province.

19th century: The role of Shanghai changed radically, as the city's strategic position at the mouth of the Yangtze River made it an ideal location for trade with the West.

1832: Shanghai open to foreign trade came when Mr. Hugh Hamilton Lindsay was entrusted with a commercial mission to the North from Macao by the East India Company. He was denied entrance to Amoy, Foochow, and Ningpo, but succeeded in obtaining a hearing by Chinese authorities at Shanghai. The decision, however, was that foreign trade should be restricted to Canton. In a report of his voyage Mr. Lindsay said Shanghai had great possibilities as a commercial centre. He was right.

1840-43: The Opium War, the conflict between Great Britain and China, and one result of this war was the birth of modern Shanghai. In the course of their operations the British sent a combined naval and military expedition to the North, captured Amoy, Ningpo and Chapoo, forced the Woosung forts and a landing party entered a district now included in the International Settlement.

1849: The nucleus of the present French Concession was created April 6, when the first Consul for France at Shanghai, M. Montigny, reached an agreement with the Chinese authorities for the creation of a defined district which should be under French government. The area was 164 acres. France has ever since exercised exclusive control over its own Concession. A proposal to unite the French Concession and the International Settlement was once brought forward but failed to receive the approval of France.

1850: The Taiping Rebellion broke out, and in 1853 Shanghai was occupied by a triad offshoot of the rebels, called the Small Swords Society. The fighting destroyed the countryside but left the foreigners' settlements untouched, and Chinese arrived seeking refuge. Although previously Chinese were forbidden to live in foreign settlements, 1854 saw new regulations drawn up making land available to Chinese. Land prices rose substantially. The year also saw the first annual meeting of the Shanghai Municipal Council, substantiated in order to manage the foreign settlements. In 1863, the British and American settlements joined in order to form the International Settlement.

1894-95: The Sino-Japanese War fought over control of Korea concluded with the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which saw Japan emerge as an additional foreign power in Shanghai. Japan built the first factories in Shanghai, which were soon copied by other foreign powers to effect the emergence of Shanghai industry.

1927: Shanghai was then the biggest financial city in the Far East. Under the Republic of China, Shanghai was made a special city, and a municipality in May 1930. The Japanese Navy bombed Shanghai on January 28, 1932, in an effort to crush down Chinese student protests of the Manchurian Incident and the subsequent Japanese occupation. Shanghai was lost to Japan in the Battle of Shanghai in 1937 until its surrender in 1945. During World War II, Shanghai was a centre for refugees from Europe. It was the only city in the world that was open unconditionally to the Jews at the time.

1949: On May 27, Shanghai came under communist control and was one of the only two former ROC municipalities not immediately merged into neighbouring provinces (the other being Beijing). It then underwent a series of changes in the boundaries of its subdivisions, especially in the next decade.

1950 and 1960: Most foreign firms moved their offices from Shanghai to Hong Kong. Shanghai became an industrial center and center for revolutionary leftism. Yet, even during the most tumultuous times of the Cultural Revolution, Shanghai was able to maintain high economic productivity and relative social stability. In most of the history of the PRC, Shanghai has been the largest contributor of tax revenue to the central government compared with other Chinese provinces and municipalities.

1980: 70-80% of the entire national tax revenue came from the municipality of Shanghai alone. This came at the cost of severely crippling Shanghai's infrastructure and capital development. Its importance to China's fiscal well-being also denied it economic liberalizations that were started in the far southern provinces such as Guangdong during the mid-1980s. At that time Guangdong province paid nearly no taxes to the central government, and thus was perceived as fiscally dispendable for experimental economic reforms.

1991: Shanghai was not permitted to initiate economic reforms untilthis year. Shanghai has traditionally been seen as a stepping stone to positions within the PRC central government. In the 1990s, there was an often described "Shanghai clique" which included the president of the PRC Jiang Zemin and the premier of the PRC Zhu Rongji.

1992: The central government under Jiang Zemin, a former Mayor of Shanghai, began reducing the tax burden on Shanghai and encouraging both foreign and domestic investment in order to promote it as the economic hub of east Asia and to encourage its role as gateway of investment to the Chinese interior. Since then it has experienced continuous economic growth of between 9-15% annually, arguably at the expense of growth in Hong Kong, leading China's overall development.

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