Shanghai (上海 Shànghǎi) is the largest and most developed city in China, the country's main center for finance and fashion, and one of the world's most populous and important cities.
Administratively, it one of four Chinese cities so large and important that they are officially treated as municipalities, at the same level as provinces in the administrative system. This article covers only the downtown core; see Shanghai Municipality for other areas.
Shanghai has existed for centuries but grew enormously after it became a major center of the China trade in the 1840s. By the early 20th century, Shanghai was the largest and most prosperous city in the Far East, and one of the wildest. With the opening up of China in the past few decades, Shanghai has regained much of its former glory and has surpassed it in many ways; the pace of development in recent years has been absolutely furious. Today, Shanghai is back to being one of the largest and most prosperous cities in Asia, though not nearly as wild as it once was. It is now a very attractive city for travellers from all over the world, and a major destination for both tourism and business. A Forbes article ranks Shanghai as the world's 14th most visited city, with 6.5 million visitors in 2012.
Shanghai is definitely a cosmopolitan city by Chinese standards, although it is less diverse than many western cities. The population was 23 million as of the 2010 census; 9 million (almost 40%) of those were migrants, people from elsewhere in China who have come to find work or to attend one of Shanghai's many educational institutions. There is also a substantial international contingent: 208,300 foreigners lived in Shanghai as of 2010, slightly over a third of the national total of 594,000. There are services that cater to these markets — restaurants with food from anywhere in China for the migrants (in particular, lots of good cheap Sichuan food and West-of-China noodles) and a good range of grocery stores, restaurants and bars that cater to the foreigners.
Shanghai is split in two by the Huangpu River (黄浦江 Huángpǔ Jiāng), into Puxi (浦西 Pǔxī) west of the river and Pudong (浦东 Pǔdōng) east of the river. Both terms can be used in a general sense for everything on their side of the river, including various suburbs. However, they are more often used in a much narrower sense where Puxi is the older (since the 19th century) city center and Pudong the mass of new (since 1990) high-rise development right across the river from there. This article covers only the downtown core on both sides of the river, Puxi plus Pudong with both terms used in their narrowest senses.
"Downtown Shanghai" (上海市区) or "the city centre" (市中心), usually refers to the historic core of Shanghai, also called Puxi. This includes both the old Chinese city, which goes back for hundreds of years, and the area of the International Settlement which began in the 1840s and lasted until the 1930s. Here we also include the highly developed Liujiazui district across the river, a booming area full of skyscrapers
The districts covered here are:
- Huangpu (黄浦区; Huángpǔqū) The traditional center of Shanghai, with People's Square, the Bund, the East Nanjing Road pedestrian mall and many other attractions.
- Huangpu district includes the Old City, the area that was the walled city of Shanghai before the modern city came into being. This is a popular and distinct destination for tourism and has its own character. Huangpu therefore has an article for the old town and another for everything else.
- Jing'an (静安区; Jìngānqū) Named for the historic Jing'an Temple, this area has been continuously inhabited since the 3rd century AD. The commercial district of West Nanjing Road extends from the center of Jing'an to People's Square.
- The French Concession is an older area with its own distinct character. Chinese, however, are more likely to speak in terms of the official administrative districts, Xuhui and Luwan, and you may need them for taxi drivers:
- Xuhui (徐汇区; Xúhuìqū) is the central district of the French Concession, with a fine cathedral and other religious buildings, now a major shopping area with many up-market highrise buildings, both residential and office.
- Luwan was once part of the French Concession and we cover it in that article; the Chinese treated it as a separate district for many years but now administer it as part of Huangpu. The green area on the map shows what our Huangpu article covers, excluding both the Old City and Luwan.
- The administrative district of Pudong is enormous and varies significantly from area to area; we include the central area Liujiazui here.
Suzhou Creek is more a small river than a creek, a tributary which flows into the Huangpu at the north end of the Bund. Parts of it form the boundary between Huangpu and Jing'an districts to the south and Hongkou and Zhabei to the north.
For other parts of Shanghai, see North Central Shanghai which covers various districts just outside the core (mostly across Suzhou Creek from downtown) and Shanghai Municipality which covers the whole urban area.
Today downtown Puxi is still the core of the city. Many metro lines — 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 — run through it and lines 12 and 13 will when completed. Line 22 is mainly suburban but has one terminus downtown, and line 5 will when extensions are completed. Most of the tourist attractions and many hotels are here as well.
Liujiazui also has many metro lines. Lines 2, 4, and 9 connect it to downtown Puxi while line 6 goes to suburban areas of Pudong to both north and south.
This area has quite a few parks scattered about — see #Parks below and the individual district articles for details — but other than that it is all heavily built up and densely populated. Even the surviving 19th century buildings are nearly all at least two floors and fairly densely packed, and new buildings of twenty floors or more are widespread.