Shanghai: city of memory and progress

Shanghai, China's largest city, never stops growing. But behind the symbols of globalization lie treasures of heritage that are thousands of years old.

Huge and bubbling. It is this impression that overwhelms the traveler who first arrived in Shanghai.

With 24 million inhabitants, frenetic traffic, a veritable forest of buildings under construction and rampant consumerism, Shanghai is the undisputed showcase of a nation that has become the epicenter of globalization. This becomes apparent during an evening walk along the Bund, a vast waterfront on the banks of the Huangpu, opposite Pudong and its commanding skyscrapers.

Embankment in Shanghai
Image: Shanghai waterfront

Across the river, filled with ferries, economic capital is pacing: the Oriental Pearl Tower and its luminous balls; 492 meters of the World Financial Center; Shanghai Tower, 127-storey building with a height of 632 meters.

In the evenings, the city's vitality also seethes in Xintiandi, an entertainment district beloved by expats and Chinese nouveaux riches, a cluster of lounge bars and crowded terraces.

Shanghai in lights and light
Image: Shanghai in lights and lights

But even in Shanghai, the past collides with the future. On the Bund, again, where opposite the new buildings, the “European” Shanghai of the 1930s still stands. His wealth of luxury real estate includes the Bank of China, the Mir Hotel, and customs.

If Nanjing Road, with its colorful signs and billboards, is the new temple of commerce, then Yu Yuan Garden is a reminder of the power of long-gone tangerines.

Yuyuan Garden Private Classical Garden of China
Image: Yuyuan Garden Private Classical Garden of China

There is no doubt that Shanghai did an excellent job of lighting up modern China during the World Expo, but the city's old temples of the Jade Buddha, Confucian Temple, and Jing'an Temple exude an aura of wisdom that is thousands of years old.

Statues in a temple in Shanghai
Image: Statues in a temple in Shanghai

A metropolis like no other, Shanghai has retained some of its famous lilongs: working-class "gated neighborhoods", noisy, busy labyrinths of alleyways, far from the glitter of commercial malls.

On the streets of Shanghai
Image: On the streets of Shanghai

This is Shanghai: a city of opposites, in perfect harmony with the contrasts and peculiarities of China.

Игорь Коловский

Author on the TRAVEL GUIDE website. By primary education, he is a teacher, a bit of a writer, a builder and, of course, a traveler. He is interested in fishing and “mountain climbing,” as he calls it. Responsible, loves order and precision, but not a pedant and forgives everyone :) Despite his stern appearance, he loves flowers and animals, and his pet Maine Coon really doesn’t like it when his owner goes on trips and misses him...

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