When you think of the bustling metropolises of the Far East, what comes to mind? Perhaps you've dreamed of visiting the Paris of the East? Is a trip to the Pearl of the Orient on your bucket list? Where in the world are we talking about? Shanghai, of course!
Modern Shanghai is a sight to behold. Home to over 24 million people, Shanghai is the most populous city in China. Located in the central portion of the Chinese coast, Shanghai sits along the edge of the East China Sea on the south edge of the mouth of the mighty Yangtze River.
The two Chinese characters that comprise the city's name mean “upon the sea," and that's a perfect description of Shanghai. Its prime location has made Shanghai a global financial center, as well as a major transportation hub with the world's busiest container port.
Like many large cities, Shanghai's origins were quite humble. As early as the fourth century, a small fishing village developed along the Song River, which is now known as Suzhou Creek. As the fishing industry in the area began to thrive, the area became known as Hu, which was a Chinese character that represented the fishing traps that populated the river.
Today, the character Hu is still often used to refer to Shanghai, along with its popular English nicknames, the Pearl of the Orient and the Paris of the East. In fact, Hu can be found on all license plates issued in Shanghai.
Shanghai remained a major center of local commerce for centuries. In the 19th century, Shanghai grew into a prominent port for international trade after Great Britain and France recognized its economic potential and encouraged increased trade between east and west.
Modern Shanghai remains an interesting fusion of East and West, as it celebrates modern Chinese culture while paying tribute to its colonial past. For example, the popular Bund area features architecture that dates back to the 19th–century influence of English and French colonists.
Shanghai has become a central hub of Chinese culture and one of the most popular tourist destinations in China. Visitors will enjoy both historical landmarks, such as City God Temple and Yu Garden, and major museums, including the Shanghai Museum and the China Art Museum.
Getting around Shanghai can be fun, too. The city boasts the world's largest bus system. Those who want to move more quickly, however, will want to take a ride on the Shanghai Maglev Train, which can reach speeds of up to 268 miles per hour!
And when the Sun goes down, the fun is just beginning in Shanghai. Tourists marvel at the spectacular Lujiazui skyline, which lights up with a wide variety of colorful lights. Visitors to Shanghai find a unique mixture of history and modern culture that rivals cities such as New York and Paris.