|In the 19th century, the centre of power in China shifted. The original centre of power was in the west in Xian, at the end of the Silk Road to the Mediterranean. Then it moved to Beijing, to the northern frontier, to ward off the invaders from the north. But in the 19th century, power moved to the East, to the seaboard, where the seaborne traders set up their trading stations, Shanghai and Hong Kong.|
Shanghai lies at the mouth of the Yangtze River or rather it lies 17 miles up the Huangpu River, which is a tributary of the Yangtze. The modern city can be divided into two parts, the old and the new. The old part is the West side, known as the Bund or Embankment, which is where in the 19th century the foreign settlements were established, – the British, the French, and the American, but then the British and American merged to form the International settlement.
The waterfront is today embellished by a number of fine early 20th century buildings vaguely in the art nouveau style, reminiscent of the Three Graces in Liverpool. The finest are the original headquarters of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (left) and the Custom House beyond it.
Adjacent is the French Concession, rather grey, but still a fashionable area known for its literary and artistic bent. We went there and enjoyed an ice cream.
To the north is the old Chinese town, part of which has been rebuilt in traditional style and has become a very fashionable shopping centre,
At the centre is the house. Here is the study, based around his desk where as a scholar he could write poetry and practice his calligraphy.
The other half of Shanghai is on the east side of the Huangpu River, in Pudong. Up to the late 20th century, Pudong was a run-down area but in 1993 it was made into a Special Economic Zone, since when it has exploded and is now the site of the greatest display of skyscrapers in the world.
This led to an explosion of high-rise buildings. The first was the Pearl of the Orient, a fantastic television aerial with circular balls at intervals which make a spectacular view at night
At the centre the skyline is currently dominated by three huge towers, each in turn the tallest building in the eastern world.
The earliest was the JinMao tower, which looks vaguely like a pagoda with projecting eaves at intervals.
We went up to the observational platform on the 88th floor from which there is a spectacular view.
Its title of tallest building was then taken by a building adjacent to it, the World Financial Centre, easily recognisable by the rectangular opening at the top.
It was originally intended to be circular, but it was pointed out that this was too much like the Japanese symbol, so it was changed to a rectangular opening. But the actual structure as can be seen by this photograph is an amazing twist through 90°.
The latest and tallest tower is simply called the Shanghai tower, which is just being completed. We saw it from our observational platform at the Jinmao Tower, and it was amazing to see this skyscraper shooting up higher and higher in the sky when we were already ourselves 88 stories up in the sky!
Shanghai also boasts the fastest railway in the world, the Maglev railway which runs by magnetic levitation from the centre of the city to the airport, running for 19 miles at up to 400 km an hour. It has become something of a tourist attraction and we shot out there – and then came back.
The highlight of our trip was a river tour by night, when all the skyscrapers are lit up and make a fine display.
At the end of the boat trip, I fell in with a party of schoolgirls who wanted to practice their English on me. I tried to teach them to say hello.