THE sprawling metropolis started out as a small fishing village 800 years ago in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), when China was ruled by Mongolian leader Kublai Khan. Originally a small agricultural village, Shanghai developed during the late Qing Dynasty as oneof China's principal trading ports. Since economic reforms were introduced during the early 1990s, it has burgeoned to become one of Asia's financial centers and the busiest container port in the world.
Shanghai, which is roughly as old as Sydney and Los Angeles, doesn't boast as long and rich a history like Beijing and Xi'an, but it has undoubtedly become the most vibrant and exciting city on the China mainland.
The eastern city lies between China's long coastline and the Yangtze River, the longest river in China. After China lost the Opium Wars in the late 19th century, foreign countries forced the Chinese government to sign a deal which made Shanghai one of the first Chinese cities to open up to foreign traders.
This 1934 photo shows the southern portion of the Bund. The Huangpu River waterways served both for trading and as naval bases of many Western powers. HMS Kent, flag ship of Royal Navy's China Station is seen here on the left.
The foreign powers divided the city into several parts, infusing very different cultures onto every street corner of the city. The prime example to visit is the Bund where British, Grecian and Italian architectures form the city's most famous scenic spot. In 1935, American magazine Fortune described Shanghai as "the fifth city of the earth, the megalopolis of continental Asia, inheritor of ancient Baghdad, of pre-War Constantinople, of 19th Century London, of 20th Century Manhattan." This may not be the case now, but it's still pretty impressive!
According to figures released by the Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission (SPFPC) in May 2012, the actual population in Shanghai increased by 455,000 over the past year based on the sixth national census results published in April 2011 to 23.47 million, accounting for 1.7 percent of the nation's whole population. Based on the population of total administrative area, Shanghai is the second largest of the four direct-controlled municipalities of China, behind Chongqing, but is generally considered the largest city in China because Chongqing's urban population is much smaller.
About 9 million, or more than 39% of Shanghai residents, are long-term migrants. The main origins of the migrants are Anhui (29.0%), Jiangsu (16.8%), Henan (8.7%), and Sichuan (7.0%) provinces, and 79% are from rural areas. They account for the entire population increase as Shanghai's natural growth rate has been negative since 1993 due to its extremely low fertility rate — just 0.6 in 2010, probably the lowest level anywhere in the world.
Some 98.8% of Shanghai's residents are of the Han Chinese ethnicity, while 1.2% belongs to various minority groups. However, the minority population has grown by 165.54% since 2000, much faster than the overall population growth.
Shanghai has a humid subtropical climate and experiences four distinct seasons. Winters are chilly and damp, and cold north-westerly winds from Siberia can cause night-time temperatures to plunge below freezing, although there are only one or two days of snowfall in most years. Summers are hot and humid, with an average of 8.7 days exceeding 35 ℃ (95 °F) annually; occasional downpours or freak thunderstorms can be expected. The city is also susceptible to typhoons in summer and the beginning of autumn, none of which in recent years has caused considerable damage. The most pleasant seasons are Spring, although changeable and often rainy, and Autumn, which is generally sunny and dry.
Thanks to its ideal location, vast and intelligent labor force and efficient government, the city is once again the economic center of China and the fast-rising star on the west coast of the Pacific. Shanghai is the commercial and financial center of mainland China, and ranks fifth in the 2011 edition of the Global Financial Centres Index published by the City of London.
Shanghai has been one of the fastest developing cities in the worldover the last 20 years. In 2011, Shanghai's total GDP grew to 1.92 trillion yuan (US$297 billion) with GDP per capita of 82,560 yuan (US $12,784). The three largest service industries are financial services, retail, and real estate. The manufacturing and agricultural sectors accounted for 39.9 percent and 0.7 percent of the total output respectively. Shanghai is also perpetuating its leading role in China's financial market. It hosts the bigger one of mainland's two stock exchanges, the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The Shanghai Gold Exchange is China's sole bourse for precious metals, including gold and platinum. And the Shanghai Futures Exchange is the biggest among the three futures bourses on the mainland in terms of trading value.
Shanghai literally means the city by the sea. It's actually about a two hours’ drive from the coast and the likelihood is that you won't find yourself going to the beach often, if ever!
The geography of Shanghai is characterised by its location on the Yangtze River Delta on China's east coast and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean via the East China Sea. The city is centred on the Huangpu River, a tributary of the Yangtze River, and extends outwards in all directions, with the suburbs and satellite towns reaching east to the East China Sea, north and west to Jiangsu province, and south to Zhejiang province over Hangzhou Bay.
The city is divided into two parts by the Huangpu River: Puxi (west of the Huangpu River) and Pudong (east of the Huangpu River). Puxi is the older part of the city and hosts the majority of shops, restaurants and museums. Pudong is the modern part, and is recognized for its rather unusual yet extremely impressive high-rises such as Shanghai's tallest building, the Shanghai World Financial Center, and the Oriental Pearl Tower, which looks like it belongs on another planet!
Shanghai lies at 31°14' north latitude and 121°29' east longitude. Neighboring provinces Jiangsu and Zhejiang are two of China's most wealthy provinces, if not the most beautiful.
Neighbouring Cities and Towns
Shanghai is surrounded by many picture-perfect water towns, such as Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shaoxing. Canals, rivers and lakes dominate the scenery and provide a breath of fresh air when you need a break from the metropolis.
Renowned as “Venice of the East” and “Heaven on Earth”, Suzhou is famous for its unique, elegant gardens, its network of rivers and canals, and its silk production. The city is attractive and has lots to offer to visitors, including ancient, beautifully architected gardens, temples, stone bridges, silk factory, and traditional Chinese lifestyle and so on.
A famous Chinese saying goes "above there is heaven, on earth there is Hangzhou". Renowned as a popular tourist destination in China, Hangzhou is a bustling resort with many historical heritage sites as well as impressive natural beauty. The West Lake or more commonly known as Xihu, with its extraordinary scenery and temples of historical, cultural and aesthetic value justifies the city’s legendary status as “Paradise on Earth”. Other sights include Lingyin Temple, Six Harmonies Pagoda and the Peak Flew from afar.
Standing by the Grand Canal, Wuxi is a significant historical city and has been an important trade center in the area for centuries. The completion of the Grand Canal in the Yuan dynasty was a major factor in the rise of the city, but its role gradually declined as the transportation route fell into disuse. Taihu Lake is the largest fresh water lake in China.
Luzhi ancient town is situated in Kunshan city, about 25 kilometers away from Suzhou. The town is around one square kilometer. It has a long history of more than 2,500 years. The town is characterized by small water lanes, stone bridges and the riverside ancient buildings. There are in all about 41 well preserved ancient stone bridges of different styles and size. These highly distinctive bridges include multi-arched big bridges, solo-arched bridges, well-ornamented and twin bridges with the two bridges look almost the same.
Located in the north of Zhejiang province, Wuzhen is embraced by the Beijing Hangzhou Grand Canal with rivers and canals crisscrossing the whole town. For centuries, its residents have been building houses along the rivers and trading near the bridges. The ancient docks, waterside pavilions, and corridors stretch out for miles and erect a romantic atmosphere that is typical to Jiangnan water towns. Wuzhen boasts its prosperous past and simple lifestyle.
In the north of Jiashan County, Zhejiang province, Xitang is an ancient town with serene and beautiful environment. It features flat terrain, crisscrossed rivers, numerous bridges, lanes and sheltered corridors. Ceilinged corridors are a special feature of the Xitang construction. These corridors were originally built to provide convenience for the residents trading on boats by the side of the rivers.