Visitors to Shanghai will find that unlike the other great cities of China, Shanghai does not have much to boast of in terms of remnants of Chinese antiquity. Although China has a very ancient past that stretches five thousand years, Shanghai’s part in it barely reaches a couple of centuries, a mere iota in the history of China. But what the city lacks in age, it definitely makes up for modernity. It is always said that everything new in China finds its birthing place in Shanghai.
It is not really surprising that all new things should come first to Shanghai before it spreads to the rest of China. Shanghai, after all, straddles Huangpu River and faces the East China Sea. Once a fishing village before the British occupied it and turned into a bustling city, Shanghai has a very strategic location that allowed it to become, over time, one of the largest cities of China and its most important port.
West of Huangpu
Shanghai is divided almost in half by the Huangpu River. The western side of the river is called Puxi while the eastern side is called Pudong. Shanghai does not have a lot of the ancient buildings, temples, gardens and other establishments that are the main tourism points of other Chinese cities such as Beijing. Instead imperial Chinese palaces, what a visitor would see in Shanghai are samplings of Western architectural styles – Gothic, Romanesque, Neo-Classical, Baroque and others. Shanghai has one of the largest collections of buildings done in the Art Deco style in the whole world.
Many of these Western-style buildings are found along The Bund, the embankment on the Puxi side of the Huangpu River. The Bund is one of the major attractions of Shanghai. Along the Bund, the visitor will find elegant buildings that serve as offices for banks and luxury hotels. Many of these buildings are historic in themselves. Many visitors to Shanghai go on walking tours of The Bund and visit the lobbies of these beautiful buildings. Two of the most visited buildings on The Bund are the HSBC Building and the Peace Hotel. There is also a promenade on The Bund along the bank of Huangpu River that looks out to the Pudong side of the city.
East of Huangpu
It is always said that the Puxi side of the Huangpu River represents the past of Shanghai while the Pudong side to the east provides a glimpse of Shanghai’s future. This is not surprising, given that the Pudong side is the financial and commercial heart of Shanghai, the catalyst of the city’s growth.
Three landmark buildings stand as testament to the development of Shanghai as a global megacity: the Jin Mao Tower, the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center.
The Jin Mao Tower, whose name aptly translates to “Golden Prosperity,” is a prominent feature of the Shanghai skyline, being one of the tallest manmade structures in the whole of China. Standing 420.5 meters into the sky, the Jin Mao Tower has 88 stories that are accessible to the public, while the 89th to the 93rd floors make up the spire. Most of this skyscraper is occupied by the Shanghai Grand Hyatt Hotel.
The Orient Pearl Tower is another jewel in the Shanghai skyline. Though very much modern in style, the Orient Pearl Tower has a design that was inspired by a poem written during the Tang Dynasty, which is called Pipa Dream. This poem likened the sound of the pipa to pearls falling on jade. The Orient Pearl Tower is the third tallest TV tower in the world.
Though still uncompleted, the Shanghai World Financial Center has already stolen the title of Jin Mao Tower as the tallest manmade structure in China. This skyscraper will have 101 floors when finished, and most of these floors will house the Park Hyatt Shanghai when completed.
Shanghai is the modern face of China. It is the birthplace and the center of all things new in the country.
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