Originally, and for many centuries, a small fishing village, Shanghai grew in importance after it became one of several ports allowed open to foreign trade after the British victory in the Opium Wars in the 1840s. Situated as it is on the mouth of the Yangtze river, and bounded to the east by the East China Sea, Shanghai was in a most favourable position. Shanghai is now the largest and most cosmopolitan of China’s cities.
Shanghai is a mixture of old and new, so both lovers of history and modernity can appreciate the city. Qibao, meaning ‘Seven Treasures’, is a charming water township in the Minhang district dating back to the 10th century AD, and specialising in hong shau rou (Red braised pork). Within the walled old city, popular historical sites include the City God Temple – which in 1994 was restored to its former use as a temple with resident Taoist priests after being closed down for religious purposes under the Maoist regime – and the Yuyuan Garden, which proudly houses the Exquisite Jade Rock as its centrepiece, as well as the exquisite Cherry Blossom Garden which holds the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. The Bund, a waterfront area, showcases Shanghai’s first burgeoning developments since being opened for international trade in the mid-19th century with various historical buildings which were once banks and trading houses from the UK, US, Russia, Japan and other European countries. Such buildings exhibit eclectic architectural styles, but with predominantly European influences, such as Romanesque Revival or Gothic Revival, Neo-Classical or Art Deco.
Directly facing the Bund is one of Shanghai’s newer and glitzier districts, representing its role as an economic powerhouse in the world. Home to the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Lujiazui financial district, the Pudong area exhibits much more modern architecture, most notably the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Jin Mao Building, and the Shanghai World Financial Centre.
The different architectural sides to Shanghai blend together to reflect its cosmopolitan nature, as does the plurality of its religious heritage – as well as Taoism still going strong, particularly in the City God Temple, there is a Confucian temple (the Wenmiao) as well as a strong Buddhist and Christian presence. During the Second World War, many Jews fled the Nazi Holocaust to live in the Shanghai Ghetto.
Shanghai is a city where different tastes, cultures and styles all fuse together into a glitzy, dazzling array of experiences and sights to lap up. Cruises offer a multitude of excursions to make the best of your visit to Shanghai.