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  • Chi Hsu

Why Shanghai? | About the Bund


Why Shanghai?!

I have visited Shanghai many times and have also been to the Bund, Shanghai's must-see attraction, a couple of times. Apart from my first visit to the Bund, the others were to accompany my friends on their first visits to the city. I am fond of those exotic building clusters along the western bank of the Huangpu River. I did wonder about 'why (these spectacular buildings were in) Shanghai?' when I stood in the crowd on the Bund. I never tried hard enough to figure out until Jaden, 18-yr-old young American, asked me at his first China (Asian) trip in June, we met up in Huangshan (see selfie photo in right).

I have remembered some random events of Qing's history from school time, which was a harsh era of war after war. My brain was selectively rather getting rid of it after passed my 'history's exam.. Yet, as an Asian friend (an age of auntie) of Jaden, I am very delighted to have a conversazione with him, i.e. a bit story-tell, a bit fact-research as well as culture-explore.

Walk my talk, here you go, some of my story written below for Jaden (he is now in Utah.) :

Gown of Qing Dynasty

Few years ago, my first time to visit Richard's parents house in Gosport, southern coastal town of England, his mother went to upstairs, into her work studio, opened one of drawers of cabinet, brought this delicate sewing-craft Qing dynasty's gown off to me. I tried on and fitted perfectly. The gown was packed back from Shanghai by Richard's great uncle John for his grandma's souvenir. Great uncle John was a royal navy, based in Shanghai at that time, approx. in 1930s, Richard said.

This was a destiny moment ever, strangely, I felt very very touched to Qing dynasty in person. I suddenly was into time machine that I tried to recall some Qing's impression from textbook and meanwhile, felt surprised Richard's ancestors had ever been to China.

Book of "Building Shanghai"

This book, one of my favorites, I would highly recommend to Jaden to read, probably when he is older (now is too young to study 'history'.) I am OLD enough and have been places where I am interested in Shanghai. "Ah, that's THE BOOK!" I was so amazed and said loudly when I hold the book of Building Shanghai. For Jaden, I share 3 snaps of the book:

First, the book cover and its authors, Edward Denison and Guang Yu Ten. I met Dr. Denison last November in London. I invited Edward to have a lecture of London history at UCL BREI for 20 Chinese executives whom are specialized in retail industry. As a matter of retail property development, I deeply believe all-range of property & retail people required to appreciate its catchment area's history and culture for long term good. Edward is an architecture historian whom was enthusiastic to bring all delegates into London's history and its old commercial development. I searched the list of his books, which are very worth reading in terms of a city and its architecture history, including Building SHANGHAI.

Second snap, p.33 of the book, is indicated 'The Treaty of Nanking" ( after one of the wars I mentioned earlier in Qing Empire. Qing lost. Britain won.) It was designating Guangzhou, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai open for trade with Britain in 1845. That's an idea to get into the answer of "Why Shanghai?!" British settlement became the first foreigners in Shanghai. According to the articles, "enjoy full security and protection for their persons and property within the dominions of the other territory." By the 1845 Land Regulations, the British settlement was established from time to time, after British merchants were getting wealthier. Curiously, where was the area for settle down? Let's see the third snap.

Third snap, the initial area of British concession pointed was greatly located in the north of Shanghai's walled city (the area of orange circle) and also near the intersection of Huangpu River and Suzhou Creek, where is the Bund starting point. Nowadays, along the western bank of Huangpu River, there are clustered most well-maintained exotic buildings. (see google map below)

(Source: Google map)

Right, so shared the gown and the book snaps, we almost could tell British merchants did something big in terms of trade and property development on its concession. Following Britain, France, US and the rest of European countries were coming to occupy a certain area of Qing-China's territory. In 1863, Britain and US enclaves in Shanghai were merging to become "Shanghai International Settlement".

Since mid-19 century, the Qing dynasty's history was getting mad so Jaden when you read until here in Utah, you probably know why auntie Chi couldn't answer you straightaway in Huangshan!

About the Bund, although I have been, although I have read, it is still better to listen a good lecturer to tell again (in Chinese, my native language). Glad some history and literature workshops are getting popular in Taipei.

Workshop of Shanghai's Concession

Recently, in Taipei, people are highly interested to attend history and literature workshops. I am one of those (big smile). After June, a day in July, my social media pop up a message of "China's concession" caught my eyes. Mr. Ma Chi Kang presented this topic. Ma is a well-known tour guider and also specialized on 'world heritage' lecture. His lecture always brings systematic story line and he is a very good story teller.

Unsurprisingly, I heard some of points being very helpful. Firstly, I finally got the point of why Richard's great uncle John as a British royal navy, assigned to Shanghai in 1930s. By the beginning of the 1930s, Japan was swiftly becoming the most powerful national group in Shanghai. Japanese occupiers and Chinese revolutionaries, with conflict were often spilling into the Settlement's borders. To protect British settlement, according to Article I of Treaty of Nanking, British royal navy based in Shanghai.

Most importantly, why those spectacular exotic buildings clustered on the Bund?

About the Bund's buildings

Look my photograph taken from the middle of Huangpu river, in September, 2016.

(Photo credit | Chi Hsu, 2016.09.09)

Compare the other photograph taken in Liverpool waterfront, 3 Graces, in August, 2015.

(Photo credit | Chi Hsu, 2015.08.16) (built between 1903 - 1916)

As mentioned earlier, while International Settlement's merchants were getting wealthier, they established the concession territory from time to time and made it looked like their motherland's architecture. The high similarity of 3 Graces between Liverpool and Shanghai, wasn't it told these western businessmen built their own buildings and also constructed Shanghai into modern city development.

Shanghai's exotic buildings were alike a blender of international spirits since late 19 century onwards.

Along the Bund

Shanghai's concession ended in 1941. Over almost a hundred of international settlement in Shanghai, the city was becoming far beyond the Qing-China's first trade port city, Guangzhou, not only trading, but also cross-culture developed spreading into music, fashion and literature.

"MoDu" - Shanghai, that's the new nickname of Shanghai, is popular to be called by Jaden's generation. "Mo" could mean 'demon', or 'magical' (fascinating) and "Du" means 'city' or 'capital'. When we see the present Shanghai, we surprised its growth and amazed its first sight. If looked backwards its history, Shanghai was hidden behind the glory a while because of under the recovery of prosperous after wars. Continuously, the modern Shanghai is outstanding again, this time, not just along the western bank, but also the eastern bank of Huangpu River. Since 19th century, Shanghai is withholding its destiny, being the international hub of China, on and on.

Late June, I was along the Bund again, with my British darling, Richard and my Tianjin niece, Karen. I enjoyed on the Bund as always.

(Photo Credit | Karen Hsu)

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