I love this picture! Photo taken out of hotel bathroom looking down at the Bund.
The best way to explore the sharp contrast between old versus new in China is to visit Beijing and Shanghai in the first week. While Beijing is old, historical and brimming with culture, Shanghai is ultra modern, cosmopolitan and chic.
One of the country’s most vibrant and modern cities, Shanghai, meaning “by the sea” is going places that China as a whole dreams of heading. Given Shanghai’s strategic location as a gateway to the Yangzi River, it was first established as a small port town and eventually grew to a population of 50,000 in the late 17th century. The real future and fate of Shanghai occurred after the opening of the British concession in 1842 which lead to a period of dramatic growth, splendor and decadence.
Shortly after the British arrived, the Americans and French followed and Shanghai became an economic powerhouse financed by opium, silk and tea trade. As the city blossomed and grew, large finance houses set up shop leading Shanghai into a period of robust growth and economic supremacy. There was a long period of vice and decadence as the city became filled with whorehouses, opium dens and gambling parlours which eventually were cleaned up only to lead the city into a long period of malaise and decay.
Shanghai was revitalized in the early 1990s when the decision was made to develop a swampy, vacant farmland on the eastern side of the Huangpy River. This area, today known as Pudong, is one of the most ultra-modern, brilliantly colorful skylines in all of China save for Hong Kong. Being in Pudong, it is unbelievable to see this modern, dazzling supersized city that was all built within the last 20 years mirroring the sensational growth of China herself.
To me, Shanghai is a fascinating, complex city beaming with lights, color, vibrancy and of course good old contradictions. While The Bund represents the prestigious, old-world charm of the past, Pudong represents the dramatic future of China, the number two economic country in the world. Shanghai perfectly brought the old and the new all together in one big, luminous city full of paradoxes for the perceptive traveler. I fell in love with its complexity, beauty, modernity and historic charm. It is a place that summoned up so much of my feelings about China, and a fabulous way to end the trip.
Stay tuned..My next post series will be all about Shanghai and all this phenomenal city has to offer. I will cover the Bund, Pudong, The French Concession, Old Town, Shanghai Shopping, Chinese Street Smarts and more….plus I will probably throw in some Tucson posts since I’ve never blogged about lovely Tucson, Arizona before and it is a cool place. Thanks for reading!