Shanghai, with a population of 23 million people, is China’s largest city. A century ago, it enjoyed unrivalled status as the cultural and economic center of East Asia. It had contrasting reputations both for its grandeur and its decadence. Its cityscape is dramatically bisected by the Huangpu River.
Old Shanghai evoked an exotic mix of glamour, mystery and modernity. As a result of the so-called Foreign Concessions – parts of the city administered by the British, the Americans, the French and the Japanese – Shanghai had a unique blend of cultures, values and architecture. The name Shanghai has long conjured up images of the distinctive four to six-storey buildings erected in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They make up an enduring landmark called The Bund, a stretch of embanked riverfront extending for a mile along the west bank of the Huangpu River.
Today, The Bund continues to be a bustling commercial centre and the heart of Shanghai’s dynamic nightlife. While some modernization of the district was inevitable, the soul of The Bund is still defined by the architectural treasures which have been attracting visitors for more than a century. The Bund’s skyline today looks much as it did a hundred years ago.
In sharp contrast to The Bund is the Pudong district of Shanghai with its spectacular skyscrapers. The most prominent are the Jin Mao Tower and the World Financial Centre, the 3rd tallest building in the world.