Welcome to the gigantic Chinese metropolis

Before visiting Shanghai, most people imagine they will encounter a unique mixture of east and west. And that is true, for China’s most important industrial city and one of the largest cities in the world with its 15 million residents combines Asian culture with the appearance of a glittering mega metropolis. Regardless of whether finances, business, culture or culinary specialities are their interest – visitors can find everything that they are seeking – and also stumble across the next superlative at every street corner.

Shanghai is located next to the Huangpu River and consists of two different parts, Puxi and Pudong. These expressions mean east and west of the Pu River. The two Chinese characters in the name of Shanghai (上, shàng; and 海, hǎi) literally mean ‘on, above, upwards, up, ascending’ and ‘sea’ – i.e. the city above the sea.

From a village to a global city

The first traces of any settlement in the region go back to about 4000 BC. Shanghai was known as the ‘village of Hua Ting’ until the Sui dynasty (581-618). It was later given the name ‘Prefecture of Huating’, before the Song dynasty (960-1234) made use of the current name. Shanghai became a centre of intense economic trade at an early stage because of its strategic location at the mouth of the Yangtze River in central China and its proximity to cities with famous manual production operations such as Suzhou and Hangzhou. Shanghai had an important trading port in the 13th century and it was used to transport the cotton harvest in the region to Beijing further inland and to Japan. By 1900, Shanghai had developed into an important port and industrial centre thanks to its favourable location near the main trading route for the major silk and tea producing regions. Following the Sino-Japanese war in 1894-95, the Treaty of Shimonoseki allowed the Japanese to occupy the town. They built the first factories in Shanghai. This period of occupation has left its long-term mark on the city’s cultural identity and it also contributed to the boom in the arts, cinema and theatre during the 1920s and 1930s. The city had one million inhabitants in 1920, including more than 26,000 foreigners from a wide variety of nations.

China’s financial and business jewel

Shanghai is now home to numerous international financial institutions. Shanghai was classified as an ‘alpha+’ city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network in 2020 and occupies position 3 among the most competitive and largest financial centres in the world after New York City and London, according to the Global Financial Centres Index. There are good reasons for this: the city is home to the Shanghai Stock Exchange, one of the largest in the world, and the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, which was the first free trade zone on the Chinese mainland.

Shanghai has also been one of the leading centres for China’s textile industry for a long time. Other important manufacturing sectors there include the production of chemical and pharmaceutical goods. After all, Shanghai is also an important centre for oil refineries. One of China’s largest and most modern steelworks is located in Baoshan, right next to the sea. The city also has made a name for itself as a centre for the development of bioengineering, information technology and microelectronics engineering.

Culture in ‘Paris of the East’

Shanghai is one of the most popular cities for tourism in China; countless tourists from all over the world and other Chinese regions visit it every year. It is now the most modern and most western city in the People’s Republic. Its historical centre has largely given way to new buildings as part of its development into a global financial centre. Glittering skyscrapers dominate the skyline in Lujiazui and showcase Shanghai as a forward-looking, modern city. Known as ‘Paris of the East’, Shanghai acquired a reputation as a city of film noir and intrigues during the 1920s and 1930s. The city has, for example, the most art deco buildings in the world because of the building boom at that time. The so-called ‘shikumen’, stone storage doors, are another characteristic cultural element. The front gardens of the typical two- or three-storey, grey brick houses are protected by a heavy door with a stylistic stone arch. The Shanghai Museum with its extensive collections of Chinese art also provides an all-round impression of the local culture.

The Bund

The Bund is Shanghai’s most popular boulevard. It is called ‘waitan’ by the Chinese, which roughly means ‘river bank of the foreigners’. This is because the Bund is lined with magnificent buildings in European style and banks as well as colonial societies. This makes it a living museum of colonial history going back to about 1800. It is located at the former international concession of Shanghai on the west bank of the Huangpu River opposite the new financial district of Lujiazui. The city’s main shopping streets run from the Bund westwards through the centre.

Shanghai Tower

Shanghai Tower is not just any old skyscraper. It is 632 metres tall, has 128 storeys and is therefore Asia’s highest building and the second-tallest structure in the world. Together with the 420-metre-high Jin Mao Tower and the 492-metre-high Shanghai World Financial Center, it forms a group of three gigantic skyscrapers in the Shanghai financial district of Pudong.

Shanghai Disney Resort

The Shanghai Disney Resort is a leisure complex belonging to the Walt Disney company. It is located in the new city of Chuansha in the Pudong district in Shanghai. The complex covers an area measuring 1,425 hectares and includes the Disneyland Park, an artificial lake and the two hotels, Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and Toy Story Hotel, as well as a ‘village’ with restaurants and shops.

Yuyuan Garden

Yuyuan Garden is a garden measuring two hectares and dating back to the 16th century in the heart of the old city. It is viewed as one of the most magnificent Chinese gardens in the region – thanks to its exquisite layout, the beautiful landscape and the artistic style of the garden architecture. It was probably created more than 400 years ago during the Ming dynasty.

Culinary hotspot for Chinese delicacies

Shanghai has one of the best and most distinctive types of cuisine in China. There are a large number of dishes in the region that are unique to Shanghai, but are also influenced by the neighbouring provinces due to its location south of the Yangtze River and at the mouth of the Huangpu River. What is quite surprising is that the city has the largest number of coffee shops in the world. Despite this, tea is also an integral part of the culture, which people should celebrate at a traditional tea house. Visitors should definitely not miss the following delicacies either:

  • Xiaolongbao: Xiaolongbao is a kind of steamed dumpling made of wheat dough with a filling consisting of meat and vegetables. The broth that it contains is obtained by mixing meat gelee with the filling and it turns liquid when it is heated. The dumpling is traditionally prepared in a xiaolong, a small bamboo steam basket. The dish literally means ‘small’ (xiǎo), ‘enwrapped’ (bāo) and prepared in a ‘long’ (lóng) wooden element for steam cooking.
  • Steamed crab: The juicy and meaty Chinese mitten crab can be easily be recognised by the dark hair on its claws. As its meat is much sweeter than normal crab meat, it is always steamed whole and without any herbs. The crab is normally dipped in a combination of rice vinegar and soy sauce and then decorated with sliced ginger for eating. Chinese mitten crabs are in season from September until the middle of November; that is the time to find steamed crabs everywhere at markets and in restaurants.
  • Sheng Jian Bao: These are rolls with a filling of pork and spring onions. Literally translated, the name means ‘raw, fried rolls’. The description appears to be contradictory at first, but it reflects the preparation process: the rolls are fried in a pan without steaming them in advance; as a result, the dough rises and the base becomes crispy at the same time. 

China’s logistics centre is located in Shanghai

Shanghai is not only the Chinese economic miracle, but also the country’s major centre for logistics. This is, firstly, because of its geographical location on the Yangtze Delta next to the Huangpu River. The Port of Shanghai is the busiest container port in the world, handling 36 million TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units) every year. The transport infrastructure also makes the city an important hub for logistics and trade. Apart from this, the two major airports at Shanghai, Pudong and Hongqiao, connect Shanghai with the world. Logistics specialist Rhenus also uses the city as a logistics hub. The Asia holding company in Shanghai manages the general processes and the ongoing development of Rhenus Automotive in China. Thanks to its extensive global network, Rhenus offers the complete range of logistics services, including air, sea and overland freight solutions for break bulk cargo and special freight.

And what can we do for you?

Rhenus China

Rhenus Logistics China Ltd. offers professional warehouse and logistics solutions in Shanghai, China, too. Using the expertise of one of the largest logistics specialists in Europe and Asia, we find cost-effective and innovative solutions to meet your logistics requirements.

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