Shanghai: Then and Now

Shanghai has undergone shocking changes and overhauls in the last 150 years, with massive growth during the 1990s and onwards. However, taking a walk through Xuhui, Hongkou and Huangpu districts will show how much history remains if you slow down and seek it out. Check out some comparisons of Shanghai- then and now.


The Bund in 1900: 

The Bund in 2010: 

The Bund is synonymous with Shanghai. Originally lined with wharfs and docks, its been the focal point for tourists and photographs. These days you can find high-end bars, restaurants and clubs mixed in with banking institutions and international companies. The top photo is a clear shot of the Bund (from Pudong) in 1900. Note the low skyline, private sailboats and a tree line along the Puxi side. The 2010 photograph is simply amazing. Shanghai has grown vertically more than any other city on earth.


The Bund at night in 1920: 

bund at night

The Bund at night in 2012:

bund at night 2012

One of Shanghai's most sought-after sights is the Bund at night. In 2014, the entire north to south stretch of buildings along Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu (Zhongshan East First Road) is tastefully lit with lights that enhance the details of the Bund's architectural masterpieces, which harken back to Shanghai's early days as an international trading outpost. 


Nanjing East Road in 1930:

nanjing east road

Nanjing East Road in 2009:

nanjing east road 2009

Nanjing Dong Lu (Nanjing East Road) was originally part of a major thoroughfare connecting to Nanjing West Road, but was transitioned into a pedestrian-only street in the year 2000. Stretching from the Bund to People's Square and featuring retailers like Tiffany and Mont Blanc, it is Shanghai's premiere shopping destination. 


People's Square in 1937:

people's square aerial view 1937

People's Square in 2012:

people's square 2010

People's Square was not "People's Square" prior to 1949. Instead, it was the Shanghai Race Club, which was established by the British in 1862 and which became East Asia's leading horse racing track before being town down in 1949. Where this large, western-style racetrack and entertainment complex once say you can now find People's Park and institutions including MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) and the Urban Planning Exhibition Center. 


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Jing'an Temple in 1920:

jing'an temple 1920

Jing'an Temple in 2013:

jing'an temple 2013

Jing'an Temple sums up Shanghai nicely- Originally a small, humble temple dating back to 247 AD, it went through several incarnations (and even a relocation from its original location along Shanghai's Suzhou Creek) until becoming the golden and gaudy temple that today's Shanghai residents recognize it as. An entrance fee is required and shops have been built into the temple's exterior wall, but Jing'An Temple still makes for a spectacular view in downtown Shanghai.


Paramount Ballroom in 1920:

paramount ballroom 1920

Paramount Ballroom in 2012:

paramount ballroom 2012

Situated just across the street from Jing'An Temple, the Paramount Ballroom has not changed much over the years, retaining the majority of it's original structure. It has, however, gone through several owners who have re-purposed it multiple times. The Paramount's fourth floor ballroom has been preserved in its original style, while its third and fourth floors have been converted into a disco.


Huaihai Road Villas in mid-1980s:

huaihai lu villas 1980s

Huaihai Road Villas in 2014:

huaihai lu villas 2014

The trees have grown, a metro stop has been erected (1990s), and more buildings have been developed along Huaihai Road. The remaining villas are currently an assortment of mixed-family apartments, shops, a cafe and some great cocktail bars like Southern Cross. 


Huating Road Villas in 1915:

huating villas 1915

Huating Road Villas in 2014:

huating villas 2014

Located just next to the area shown in the previous set of photographs are the buildings in this shot, which was taken at Huaihai and Huating Roads. The home on the left was removed to make way for an office building, subway exit, and the barometer of urban progress in China, a KFC. Further down Huating Lu, historical buildings remain in their original forms. 


Huaihai Road & Changshu Road Intersection in 1930:

huaihai changshu 1930

Huaihai Road & Changshu Road Intersection in 2014:

huaihai changshu 2014

The art deco building in the left of the photo remains, as does a former French police station (to the right). Whereas tram tracks mark Huaihai road (formerly Joffre Road) in the original photo, the Line One subway now traverses the Former French Concession underground.


Huaihai Road & Maoming Road (Cathay Cinema) in 1931:

cathay cinema 1931

Huaihai Road & Maoming Road (Cathay Cinema) in 2014:

cathay cinema 2014

For a taste of Lao Shanghai (Old Shanghai), look no further than the Cathay Cinema, which underwent renovations in 2013 in an attempt to raise its profile among an influx of new malls and IMAX screens throughout Shanghai. Take a walk from the Cathay down to Julu Road as part of a nice walking tour. 


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Joffre Apartments in 1930:

joffre apartments 1930

Joffre Apartments in 2014:

joffre apartments 2014

Almost completely obscured by thick trees, the Joffre Apartment Building still stands to this day and remains a beautiful apartment compound.


Normandie Apartments in 1924:

normandie apartments 1924

Normandie Apartments in 2013:

normandie apartments 2013

The Normandie apartments (now Wukang Mansion) were designed by famous Shanghai architect Lazlo Hudec. Hudec moved to Shanghai in 1918 after studying architecture in Budapest and remained here from 1918 through 1945. Hudec is responsible for bringing a European influence to Shanghai's architecture and for leaving behind some of the city's best works of Art Deco architecture. Some of his other famous works include the Park Hotel and Grand Theatre.


Xujiahui locality in 1985:

xujiahui 1985

Xujiahui in 2012:

xujiahui 2012

Wow - this is another one of those shots that goes to show the speed of development and construction in Shanghai. The only other before and after shot we could find to top this one is...


Pudong in 1987:

pudong 1987

Pudong, 2014:

pudong 2014

This shot of the Lujiazui skyline in Pudong demonstrating a skyline's complete transformation in less than 30 years!

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Photo Credits:

All old photographs: VirtualShanghai

The Bund: Sarmu via photopin cc

Jing'An Temple: jimbowen0306 via photopin cc

Normandie Apartments: bricoleurbanism via photopin cc

Nanjing Road: via Wikipedia cc

Paramount Ballroom: via Wikipedia cc

Xujiahui: via Wikipedia cc

Joffre, Cathay, Changshu Lu, Huaihai & Huating Villas: SmartIntern

About the Author
Author: Mike

Mike is SmartIntern's co-founder and a 6-year Shanghai resident. With beginnings in the Midwest, USA, he brings a sense of midwestern hospitality to the SmartIntern team. You'll be likely to spot Mike riding a bike through Xuhui district, grabbing a cocktail at Arcade, and dropping into Ippudo for a hearty bowl of Japanese Ramen. 

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