|Shanghai has 23 million people and is 6340 sq km ( the urban area is 750 sq. km). Located at the gateway to the Yangtzi River, it didn’t really become important until 1842 when it was one of several treaty ports opened to international trade as part of the Nanking Treaty.. Britain, France and the US carved out concessions outside the walled city of Shanghai and built the Bund, the city’s Wall Street, on the western side of the Huangpo River The Chinese Communist Party formed here in 1921 and liberated the city in 1949. In 1990 the government opened up the economy in Pudong, on the eastern side of the river, facing the Bund. It is now a dazzling city of skyscrapers.
This was our second to last day, and we were weary of touring. But we plowed ahead with our tour guide who took us first to Old Town and the Yu Garden and Yuyuan Bazaar. We spied a Taoist Temple at the entrance to the market and asked to see it, even though it wasn’t on our itinerary. It was the Temple of the City God of Shanghai, Qin Yo Bu, who was the Administrator of the city in the Yuan Dynasty until 1373 AD. After his death, the emperor made him the City God of Shanghai to safeguard the welfare of the town. The Temple resembles Buddhist Temples but instead of statutes of Buddha, there are statutes of the City God in the hall. Many people had bought incense sticks and were praying and waving the sticks around.
The Old Town is much like other Old Towns we have seen, renovated old style buildings with lots of shops (including Starbucks) and customers,.
The Yu Garden was also like the several gardens we saw in the past two days, constructed during the Ming Dynasty by the rich Pan family in 1577, trashed during the Opium War of 1842 and restored. It has pavilions, pools, rockeries and a beautiful dragon head on top of a wall, whose body undulates along the whole top of the wall.
Our next stop was an hour or so at the Shanghai Museum, whose present building opened in 1996. It is in the shape of an ancient bronze cooking vessel called a ding. It has a square bottom representing earth and a round top representing the sky.
Inside are 5 floors with great collections of Chinese art, bronzes, coins, calligraphy, ceramics, furniture, jade, etc. It is very well curated. We could have spent all day there.
Our guide took us to Xiao Yang Shen Jin restaurant for what she said was a typical Shanghai lunch of soup (wonton soup) and dumplings. Indeed the street had several such restaurants and the lines were out the door.
Our itinerary called for visiting another renovated area of alleyways, full of store, bars and upscale stores called Xintiandi. Bob was not interested in shopping or wandering in such a place, so we quickly walked through it, stopping only at one poster store for me to buy postcards of the famous Shanghai Girl advertising posters from the 1930's, made known to me in Lisa See’s novel, Shanghai Girls. Our guide had never heard of them.
We then headed for a walk along the Bund by the river and visited the Bund History Museum in the basement of the Monument to the Peoples Heroes. The Bund is lined with neo-classical and art deco style buildings built in the late 19th and early 20th C. by the foreigners as homes to their banks, hotels and social clubs. Today, they are again being used as banks and hotels. One famous one, #20 is the former Sassoon House built by the financier Victor Sassoon. It is now the Peace Hotel, run by the Fairmont Hotels and still has its famous Old Jazz Bar.
At Bob’s request, we added one more item to the itinerary. We visited the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, located at the Ohel Moishe Synagogue, built by the Russian Ashkenazi Jewish community in 1927 in the Hangkou district of Shanghai, across the Suzhou Creek and north of the Bund. 20,000 White Russian Jews arrived in Shanghai in the 1920's and 1930's and some 30,000 Jewish refugees from the rest of Europe arrived in the 1930's. The Chinese Consul General, Dr. Ho, in Vienna, Austria issued 1000's of visas to Jews for entry to Shanghai from 1938-1940. The synagogue was the heart of the Jewish ghetto established by the Japanese during WWII. The exhibit was quite good.
We ended up back at the Italian restaurant in the Westin Hotel for dinner and then strolled along the Bund and through the opulent Waldorf Astoria Hotel, the former British Social Club at #2 the Bund.