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  Home China Blog Articles ► Shanghai's Famous Bund Alongside The Huangpu River

shanghai bund at night


The majority of first time China tours I book at The China Travel Company take in mainland China’s richest city of Shanghai. Perhaps the most famous “sight” in any tour of Shanghai is going to be the Bund itself.

The Bund refers to the waterfront area on the West bank of the Huangpu River that runs through Shanghai. It refers to the wharves and buildings in this area that were part of the former Shanghai International Settlement.

The Bund’s Foreign Concession and Settlement Roots

It housed the banks and institutions of “foreign” China during the time when Britain and France as well as United States, Italy, Russia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Belgium had financial and political interests within the country. Initially a British settlement, it was later to be joined by the Americans and be combined into the International Settlement. The French kept a separate section known as the Shanghai French Concession which worked as a functioning harbour.

The area considered to be the Bund runs for approximately one mile along the bank of the Huangpu River, beginning at Yan’an Road and continuing up to the bridge crossing Suzhou Creek just next to a personal favourite hotel of mine - The Astor House.

looking to the bund from Pudong

Looking across the Huangpu River to Shanghai's Bund

The Astor House Hotel and changes after the Communist Revolution

The Astor House is the oldest foreign hotel in Shanghai having initially been set up in 1846 by one of Shanghai’s first foreign residents - Peter Felix Richards. It’s a place that seeps of history the moment you walk through the door. The grand ballroom and the large rooms take you to a time when space was not at a premium and colonial power ruled the world.

By the 1940’s almost all financial institutions operating in China had a headquarters on the Bund but with the upcoming Communist victory in the Chinese civil war, things were about to change. The Communists set about removing the foreign institutions and destroying the statues, hotels and clubs that Shanghai’s foreign community had built.

Rebirth in the 1980’s and the Pudong Special economic Zone

In the 80’s foreign and economic policy in China began to radically change and by the mid eighties there was a huge revitalization program underway. Dutch Architect Paulus Snoeren designed a new promenade that radically changed the look of the area and by the 90’s Zhongshan road, the road on which the Bund is set and named after Sun-Yat-Sen, had been widened resulting in nearly all the park area around the Bund now disappearing including the infamous Huangpu Park that allegedly bore the sign “No Dogs or Chinese” during the Japanese occupation, although this is hotly disputed.

Looking from the Bund to Shanghai's Pudong Financial District

Looking from the Bund to Shanghai's Pudong Financial District

These days Shanghai has developed into one of the world’s major cities and opposite the Bund has now been developed. Pudong, which literally means East Bank, originally referred to the marshy farmland that stood opposite the foreign institutions and concessions on the Bund. In the early nineties, the Chinese government decided to set it up as a Special Economic Zone to be known as the Pudong New Area. Over the coming 2 decades this would see rise to skyscraper after skyscraper such as the Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai World Financial Tower and the Jin Mao building. This has led to the now familiar Shanghai skyline and the city as a whole becoming the financial centre of China.

Article posted by Phil Stanley & Headseast: 20th February 2015

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