The Bund's old metereological tower (foreground) with Pudong Financial District (background) across the river.

The Bund’s old meteorological tower (foreground) with Pudong Financial District (background) across the river.

The Bund is strung along Shanghai’s riverfront like a mirage transported there from a different place and time.  The design of its buildings is  eclectic, but indisputably European and clearly not of this century.

 

Sitting side-by-side  in this life-sized architectural museum are examples of  Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque Revival styles.  Later structures were built in the Beaux-Arts and Art Deco styles.

 

Formerly (right to left): China Merchants' Bank Bldg. (1897), Nishin Navigation Co. (1925), Union Insurance Bldg. (1922).

Formerly (right to left): China Merchants’ Bank Bldg. (1897), Nishin Navigation Co. (1925), Union Insurance Bldg. (1922).

 

Dozens of these historic buildings once  housed the consulates, banks, trading houses, and elite clubs of the European colonial powers, and of Japan,  the U.S., and Russia.

 

Today, the PRC’s red flag waves over every one.

 

 

The lion was a prominent symbol in both the British and Chinese cultures.

The lion was a prominent symbol for both the British and Chinese.

 

The Bund is a reminder of unprecedented interventions by Western colonial powers into China’s internal affairs that date back nearly 200 years.

 

By the early 1800’s, European and American demand for Chinese silk, porcelain, and tea had grown into a lop-sided balance of payments that was draining the silver reserves of Western trading nations.

 

Former 1923 HSBC Bank (left); 1927 Shanghai Customs House (right)

Former HSBC Bank (left, 1923); Shanghai Customs House (right, 1927)

 

 

 

When the English first began selling opium in China in an effort to restore the trade balance, China’s attempt to ban its sale led to the 1839 Opium War.

 

 

 

 

 

A century of history separates the cellphone talker and revolving door.

A century of history separates the cellphone talker and revolving door.

 

 

The victorious British imposed upon China the first of many “Unequal Treaties” which opened Shanghai and other Chinese “Treaty Ports” to trade with the British and later with other industrial nations.

 

Within the walls of the Treaty Port trading concessions, Western nations controlled tariffs and exercised sovereign legal jurisdiction.  The Ports were also home to Christian missionaries.

 

Beyond their walls, chronic food shortages triggered a string of Chinese rebellions,  and each further weakened the authority of  the central government.

 

 

 

Formerly (left to right): Yokohama Species Bank (1924), Yangzi Bldg. (1916), Jardine Matheson Bldg.(1920), Glen Line Building (1922)

Formerly (left to right): Yokohama Species Bank (1924), Yangzi Bldg. (1916), Jardine Matheson Bldg.(1920), Glen Line Building (1922)

 

The Taiping Rebellion of 1850-64 nearly succeeded before it was crushed by Western and Chinese Imperial troops, and old Shanghai was the scene of heavy fighting.  By the late 1800s, much of China had been carved up by foreign powers competing for spheres of influence.

 

Window into history, Shanghai Bund.

Window into history, Shanghai Bund.

In 1895, China suffered the added loss of its influence in Korea to Japanese invasion.

 

Resentment of foreign intervention in China was high, and helped to power the Boxer Rebellion of 1898-1900.

 

China 249 Shanghai Bund 2015-04-01

Pudong reflected in the windows of a Bund doorway.

 

The British ended the opium trade in 1907 only after China’s domestic production undercut their market.  By then, a popular revolt against the Manchu emperor was already brewing, and it succeeded in 1911.

Former China Merchants Bank Buildings (1897, left) (1907, right)

Former China Merchants Bank Buildings (1897, left) (1907, right)

 

Chinese warlords stepped into the political vacuum to control different regions of the country and compete for domination of the central government.

 

Gated entrance to the Waldorf Hotel (formerly the Shanghai Club, 1910)

Gated entrance to the Waldorf Hotel (formerly the Shanghai Club, 1910)

 

By 1937, when the Japanese invaded mainland China, the country had been locked in civil war for nearly a decade.

 

For the next five years, the International Settlement and the separate French Concession were surrounded by Japanese occupiers and Chinese revolutionaries.

 

Despite the political turmoil, Shanghai remained the only place in the world to offer an unconditional haven for Jews escaping from the Nazis, and the refugees lived in what became Shanghai’s Jewish ghetto.

 

Former Bank of Communications Bldg. (1948)

Former Bank of Communications Bldg. (1948)

A museum and synagogue still stands on the site.  It’s one of the few regrets of my Chinese trip that timing prevented me from visiting them.

 

Foreign influence in Shanghai ended when the Japanese Army entered and occupied the remainder of the city following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

Sculptured lamps, Shanghai Bund.

Sculptured lamps, Shanghai Bund.

 

Shanghai’s Europeans were required by the Japanese to wear identifying armbands.

 

They were evicted from their homes and many subjected to imprisonment, torture and death.

 

In 1943, Shanghai’s International Settlement was returned to China by a British Empire now allied with it against the Japanese.

 

 

 

Former Russo-Chinese Bank (1901)

Former Russo-Chinese Bank (1901)

 

 

By the time the Japanese surrendered, China had endured continuing war, rebellion, and civil war for nearly a century.

 

 

An increasing number of Chinese came to believe that only Marxism could free them from imperialism  and deliver economic development that would improve life for all.

 

 

 

The Peace Hotel, formerly Sassoon House.

The Peace Hotel, formerly Sassoon House.

 

 

In the decade following the Communists’ 1949 victory, many foreign commercial tenants were evicted from The Bund and their offices reoccupied by government institutions.

 

In the late 1970s, financial institutions were encouraged to return, and former hotels resumed operations.

 

Full-scale renovation began in 1986, including construction of a riverfront levee which rises 10 meters about the original quay.  The Bund  was reopened to the public in 2010.

 

 

Doors to the Peace Hotel (formerly Sassoon House, 1929)

Doors to the Peace Hotel (formerly Sassoon House, 1929)

 

Two words of advice:

  • One:  Even if you visit The Bund during the day, it’s worth a return to see it lit up at night.
  • Two:  Don’t miss the Jewish Museum

 

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