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Shanghai History and Anecdotes

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Shanghai History Anecdotes

Shanghai, vast and comprehensive, has a magnificence which is unusual even for a metropolis. Shanghai is not only the biggest city in China, the eighth biggest city in the world, and one of the four municipalities of China which is under the direct control of the Central Government. She is also the best andmost impressive city, or, in other words, she is the city in China that is most worthy of the title of municipality.

In days of yore, Shanghai was no more than a small town engaged in fishing and cotton textile handicraft. In the 19th century, owing to her advantageous geographic position in serving as a port, Shanghai developed at high speed. After the signing of the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842, Shanghai became one of the few trading ports in China for doing business with foreign countries,

Shanghai History

and she grew by leaps and bounds into a thriving center of commerce and cultural interchange. In the 30s of the 20th century Shanghai rose so much in importance as to become the pivot in China employed by transnational corporations in their effort to evolve foreign trade and develop local business. However, after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, almost all foreigners left Shanghai, with the result that the city lost her former luster very soon. This situation changed radically in 1990 with the implementation of China's policy of reform and opening to the outside world. Shanghai regained her former prosperity, though with alterations in many basic characteristics.

Shanghai History


For Beijing the city walls and gates are the symbol of the capital city, while for Shanghai what serves as the symbol of the metropolis is the Bund, or the Riverside, as many foreign visitors call it. Just as one cannot be considered to have been to Beijing if he/she has never been to Tian An Men, so one cannot be considered to have been to Shanghai if he/she has not been to the Bund.

From a historical point of view, here, at the Bund, is located the first international hotel of China, called the Peace Hotel now, built originally by a Jew, who was a British subject. This hotel stands on the corner, or the nose, of the Nanjing Road, which was nicknamed in Old China the Big Road, or more exactly the Big Horse Road, meaning in a hidden sense the First Road of Shanghai. Counting from the First Road southward, there were consecutively the popularly called Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth (Horse) Roads. On the corner of the Fifth Horse Road, i.e. Guangdong Road, and

Shanghai History

the perpendicular to it Sichuan Road stood the red building of the famous Standard-Vacuum Oil Company, which was well-known to many people even by its address, 94 Canton Road, Shanghai, because in those days business organizations, including banks, such as the National City Bank of New York (now named Citibank), communicated with each other and with their customers chiefly by post. The closest neighbor of the Standard-Vacuum Oil Company, adjacent to its garage on the Sichuan Road, was the imposing building of the British Imperial Chemical Company.

These two giants, as they were seen in the eyes of the large number of city inhabitants who thronged the low-roofed shops and the shabby but thriving booths selling principally pork chop noodles on the opposite side of the Sichuan Road, formed the southwestern corner of a square area which was commonly understood to be The Bund area. If anyone worked in an organization located in that area, he/she might boast to other people: "I work at the Bund." The Bund in the strict sense, the road along the river, flaunted two giant bronze lions crouching in front of the ponderous iron gate of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. People from the countryside usually stared at these formidable statues in amazement. This place, however, changed hands and came to be used as the site of the Shanghai Municipal People"s Government during the Cultural Revolution, whereas the office building of the Standard-Vacuum Oil Company, together with its spacious garage, became a benevolent institution---the Central Hospital of the Huangpu District.

Shanghai


By the way, Shanghai inhabitants who are over 80 in age may still remember the extensive private garden, in the western populous residential part of Shanghai, owned by another British Jew, who had been a policeman and married a Chinese washerwoman before making his fortune. It is noteworthy that this garden was transformed into a modern construction in the early 50"s of the last century as a token of Sino-Soviet friendship and later named the Shanghai Industrial Museum. When U. S. President Nixon visited China in February, 1972, he first saw the industrial exhibition held there, accompanied by Premier Zhou, and convened with the Premier on the same day later in the then best hotel in the center of the city, the Jin Jiang Hotel, where the world-shaking Shanghai

Shanghai

Communique was signed. On the next day Chairman Mao received President Nixon in Beijing, thus consummating the epochal work done at shanghai.

Shanghai is above all a place held in high esteem by people all over the country. Almost every Chinese knows that China cannot do without Shanghai, in the same way that the United States cannot dispense with New York.

 

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