Shanghai guide: Where eastern and western cultures collide
Located on the Yangtze River Estuary, Shanghai – or Hu, as it is often called for short – is eastern China’s most influential cultural, economic and financial; science, technology and international trade centre.
A perfect intertwining of traditional and modern, eastern and western culture endows this pulsating city with a unique blend of atmosphere and glamour destined to make holidays in China unforgettable.
Viewing the city’s skyline, you will find hyper modern skyscrapers and buildings like the World Financial Centre side-by-side with Shikumen (combining Chinese and Western architectural elements, typically built during the late 19th/early 20th Century) and ancient temples, like the magnificent Jade Buddha Temple, for instance.
While the incredible multicultural mix of Shanghai makes it difficult to decide where to go first, China holidays are rarely complete without a visit to the famous classical Yuyuan Garden in Anren Jie.
Featuring six major areas, this beautiful garden includes a 14 m (50 ft) high rockery; halls, pavilions, corridors and cloisters, as well as courtyards, streams, ponds and many other attractive natural features. Just across from Yuhua Hall – one of the main areas – is the garden’s main treasure, the aptly named Exquisite Jade Rock. Approximately 3.3 m (10.8 ft) in height, the rock features 72 holes that endow it with some intriguing, quite spectacular properties.
Another must-see is The Bund, or Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu – the city’s long-standing, famous waterfront symbol. Stretching for 1.5 km (0.93 m) between Waibaidu and Nanpu Bridges, The Bund features 26 buildings ranging in style from Baroque, Classism and Gothic to Renaissance and Romanesque, as well as the 1.7 km (just over one mile) long ‘lover’s wall’ – a flood-control wall regarded as Shanghai’s most romantic ‘corner’ during the last century – and some magnificent river views.
You should also not miss out on a visit to China’s premier – and Shanghai’s oldest – shopping street. Stretching for just less than 5.5 km (3.4 m) from The Bund to Yan’an West Street/ Jing’an Temple, Nanjing Road provides a choice of more than 600 businesses catering for every possible taste.
Traditional stores/specialty shops that offer choice embroidery, clocks, jade, fine silk goods, wool and more sit side-by-side with modern fashion boutiques and upscale outlets like Dunhill, Montblanc and Tiffany. Traditional eateries compete with Pizza Hut, McDonalds, KFC and similar Western food chains, and so on.
At night, Nanjing Road is transformed into a nocturnal wonderland by abstract sculptures, street musicians, open air bars and flashing neon signs. If the walk seems a little too long, a trackless train offers the opportunity to enjoy the sights without the effort.
Those interested in ancient Chinese art should also consider making a visit to the Shanghai Museum, which is located in People’s Square (south of Nanjing Road). Divided into three exhibition halls and a total of 11 galleries, the museum covers the majority of Chinese art categories, including:
- Qing Furniture
- Minority Nationalities
- Ming Furniture
- Ancient Sculpture
- Ancient Jade
- Ancient Ceramics
- Ancient Bronze
The exterior design of the museum – a combination of a square base and round dome – symbolises the ancient belief of square land and round heaven, while the interior design surrounds visitors with artefacts that demonstrate ancient philosophy and wisdom.