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Shanghai Sights and Sounds
Shanghai museum

Shanghai Museum

For an overview of Chinese history, the Shanghai Museum is the place to go. Located in People’s Park in the center of the downtown area, the museum holds 120,000 artifacts, as well as the biggest and most varied collection of Chinese art anywhere in the country. The shape of the building mimics the ancient bronze cooking pot known as a “ding”.

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Learn about the history of the metropolis at this uniquely designed museum.

For an overview of Chinese history, the Shanghai Museum is the place to go. Located in People’s Park in the center of the downtown area, the museum holds 120,000 artifacts, as well as the biggest and most varied collection of Chinese art anywhere in the country. The building has eleven galleries spread over five floors, covering every period of Chinese history from prehistory to modern times. Noteworthy collections include jade, calligraphy, seals, furniture, bronze, and sculpture.

The building itself is a relic in itself. It was designed in 1993 by a local architect who fashioned it in the form of an ancient bronze cooking pot called a “ding”. The museum has a domed roof and a square base, reflecting the ancient principle of “round sky, square earth”. The building was completed in 1999, and the museum’s collections were moved from their former home on nearby West Nanjing Road, in what used to be the clubhouse of the Shanghai Racecourse.

With so much to see, a trip to the Shanghai Museum can seem daunting, but even if you see only a small part of its displays, you will have learned plenty about the history of this incredible city.

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Urban planning museum

Urban Planning Museum

Walk around a scale model of Shanghai, and learn about how the city has developed into the megalopolis it is today. This interesting exhibition hall in People’s Square contains archive photographs of the city as it grew, as well as interactive displays.

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Walk around a scale model of Shanghai, and learn about how the city has developed into the megalopolis it is today.
One of People’s Square’s most striking buildings is the white structure that houses the Urban Planning Museum. Designed by an architect from the East China Architecture Design & Research Institute, it contains some of the most dynamic and interesting exhibits of any museum in Shanghai. Particularly popular is the scale model of the city that includes every building in the main urban area. Either walk around the edge of the model, or climb up to the gallery for a bird’s eye view.

Also worth a look are the archive photographs of Shanghai through the ages, from its days as a small port city through the turbulent 20th Century and beyond. You can also sail a ship into the harbor on a simulator, and see a district-by-district guide to the city. After a trip to the Urban Plannign Museum, you’ll have a wider knowledge and understanding of Shanghai, and the developments that created the modern city.

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Yu garden

Yu Gardens

Visit Shanghai’s most famous historic attraction - a traditional Ming Dynasty garden built by a governor for his parents. With pavilions, ponds, and a unique zig-zag bridge that was designed to keep evil spirits away, wandering through the Yu Garden is like taking a step back in time to the age of eastern China’s great gardens.

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Experience a traditional Ming Dynasty garden built by a governor for his parents.

Although Shanghai has fewer historic sites than Beijing, there are several that are worth a look. The most popular is the Yu Garden – a lovely Ming Dynasty garden dotted with bridges, pavilions, pools, and rock formations.

Yu Yuan, as it is called in Mandarin, means garden of happiness, and was constructed in 1577 by a Ming Dynasty governor as a gift to his parents. It fell into disrepair after their deaths, and lay in ruins until two wealthy merchants bought it in 1760 and restored it. It suffered damage during the Opium Wars of the 19th century, but was renovated and opened to the public in 1961. Thanks to its popularity and cultural importance, it was granted National Monument status in 1982.

Yu Garden lies at the center of a massive bazaar selling traditional Chinese handicrafts such as silk, seals, fans, chopsticks, and jade. The bazaar is home to dumpling shops as well as the obligatory branches of Starbucks and Haagen-Dazs.

The five-acre garden follows Ming Dynasty (131368-1644) design traditions from the Suzhou school, and includes stone walkways, lakes and pools full of carp and goldfish, rock formations, halls, and tea houses. Look out for the beautiful zig-zag bridge over the lotus pool, which was specially designed to stop evil spirits entering the garden.

Yu Garden is split into several distinctive parts: Ten Thousand-Flower Tower, the Lotus Pool, the Jade Magnificence Hall, the Inner Garden, the Heralding Spring Hall, and the Grand Rockery containing the Three Corn Ears Hall and a giant slab of rock.

From the highest point of the garden, you’ll catch a glimpse of Pudong’s modern skyscrapers across the river, which forms a contrast that perfectly sums up Shanghai.

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Old town

Old Town, Bazaar & City God Temple

Explore the narrow streets of Shanghai’s Old Town, pay your respects to the City God, and buy souvenirs at the bazaar. The ancient city provides a sharp contrast with the bright lights and glittering skyscrapers of modern Shanghai. From old temples to bustling stalls selling local crafts, it’s a vibrant glimpse of the past.

The bund

Bund

Visit Shanghai’s iconic waterfront with its austere colonial buildings, and enjoy the view of the modern skyline across the river. Fifty-two Western-style buildings line the Huangpu riverside – the customs houses, banks and business headquarters that fuelled Shanghai’s golden age.

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Visit Shanghai’s iconic waterfront with its austere colonial buildings, and enjoy the view of the modern skyline across the river.

Shanghai’s historic waterfront stretches for a mile between the Waibaidu Bridge and Yan’an Road, and is home to 52 beautiful colonial-era buildings in Neo-Classical, Gothic, Baroque and Art Deco styles. A stark contrast to the futuristic skyline across the river and the local Chinese neighborhoods behind it, the Bund is a symbol of Shanghai’s boom years as an international sea port.

The Bund as we know it today started life in 1846 when a British trading company opened an office there. Before long, the whole stretch of the Huangpu’s western bank (Puxi) was lined with beautiful grey-stone buildings housing banking headquarters, customs houses and trading offices. The word “bund” comes from Anglo-Indian and means “embankment”.

During the early years of the People’s Republic (post-1949), the Bund’s buildings were taken over by the People’s Liberation Army and used for state business. Starting from the 1980s, they returned to commercial use, and now house some of Shanghai’s best bars, clubs, restaurants and boutiques.

Recent developments have extended the Bund to the south, and erected a 771-meter-long retaining wall and promenade that is busy from dusk until dawn. To visit the Bund is to witness all facets of Shanghai’s past, present, and future, and a must-stop on any itinerary.

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Nanjing road

Nanjing Road

Wander the length of Shanghai’s busiest shopping street, stretching from the Bund to Jing’an Temple. Known as Park Lane in colonial times, Nanjing Road is the world's longest shopping street. Its six kilometers of shops, boutiques, malls and department stores attract over one million people every day, symbolic of Shanghai’s rapid ascent as a capitalist enclave in a communist land.

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Wander the length of Shanghai’s busiest shopping street, stretching from the Bund to Jing’an Temple.

Known as Park Lane in colonial times, Nanjing Road is the world's longest shopping street. Its six kilometers of shops, boutiques, malls and department stores attract over one million people every day, symbolic of Shanghai’s rapid ascent as a capitalist enclave in a communist land.

Nanjing Road began to develop as a shoppers’ paradise in the early 1900s with the opening of eight department stores. This was followed by a series of franchise stores, and the rest is history. Nowadays, you can get everything from cheap souvenirs to Louis Vuitton handbags, and break for coffee or drinks at one of the many cafés and bars that are intermingled with the shops.

Nanjing Road is divided into two parts. East Nanjing Road runs from the Bund to People’s Square, and has mainly Chinese brand shops. West Nanjing Road (called Bubbling Well Road in the colonial era) starts at People’s Square and stretches to the western suburbs past Jing’an Temple. It is this part of the road that houses most of the international shopping malls and boutiques.

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Huangpu river

Huangpu River

Get acquainted with Shanghai’s main artery - the gateway to the mighty Yangtze River. The Huangpu River runs for 97 kilometers between the South China Sea and the Yangtze, passing through Shanghai on its way. The river splits the city into two areas – Pudong (east of the Huangpu) and Puxi (west of the Huangpu) – and is flanked by the famous Bund waterfront and Lujiazui Financial District.

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Get acquainted with Shanghai’s main artery, and the gateway to the Yangtze.

The Huangpu River runs for 97 kilometers between the South China Sea and the Yangtze River, passing through Shanghai on its way. The river splits the city into two areas – Pudong (east of the Huangpu) and Puxi (west of the Huangpu) – and is flanked by the famous Bund waterfront and Lujiazui Financial District. On average it is 400 meters wide and nine meters deep.

Huangpu means “yellow bank” in Mandarin, probably due to the swamps that used to exist along its length. It is spanned by five bridges in Shanghai: the Lupu, Yangpu, Nanpu, Xupu and Songpu.

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