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Shanghai's history Through its names

  When the Chinese want to be literary, or brief, they call Shanghai 'Hu'.The name bespeaks Shanghai's origins as a fishing village, for hu is a bamboo fishing device, used in the third century by the people who lived around the Songiiang River (which was subsequently renamed Wusong River, and which forms the upper Teaches of the Suzhou Creek). Shanghai is also sometimes known as Chunshen----or Shen for short Because in the third century BC, at the time of the Warring States (475--221 BC), the site on which the city now stands was a fief of the Lord Chunshen, prime minister to the King of the State of Chu. Another name with which Shanghai is associated is Huating. This was a county established in 751, over an area which Yangtze Rivercovers part of present-day Shanghai.

  Shanghai took its name from the Shanghai River, a tributary, long since gone, of the Songiiang. A township sprang into being on the west bank of the river, as, recognizing its natural advantages as a port, junks and ships came to berth there. This was Shanghai, which presently became the largest town in Huating County. In 1292, Shanghai and four other towns in Huating were brought together to form the County of Shanghai. It was at about this time that the Songiiang was renamed the Wusong River.

  But today when most Chinese think of Shanghai, they think not so much of the Wusong as of the HuangPu River. Shanghai's qualifications as a deep water port were greatly improved when a canal--forming that part of the Huangpu downstream of Waibaidu Bridge----was dredged and widened in the fourteenth century. Ships Crowded the wharves of Shanghai, and the port itself grew in size and importance, thriving off the trade in cotton and other goods between the coast and the inland provinces on the Yangtze (Yangtze) River.

  These were the foundations upon which the Western powers built when,with the opening of Yangtze RiverShanghai as a Treaty Port, they came and carved out their enclaves there. The first of the foreign settlements, the British Concession, was bounded on the east along the Huangpu River by the Bund (today's Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu), on the west by Yu Ya Ching Road (today's Xizang Zhonglu), and on the south by the Yangiingbang Creek (which,after it was filled, was named Avenue Edward All and which is now called Yan'an Donglu). The creek separated the British from the French Concession, the latter started from a wedge between the British Concession and the old Chinese city, and then ballooned out to a large area to the southwest of the city. To the north of the Suzhou Creek, in the district known then and now as Hongkou, lay the American Concession. This was later merged with the British Concession to form the international Settlement.

  In the British Concession, the streets spread out behind the Bund in a grid.The main thoroughfare, Nanking Road (Nanjing Lu), ran eastwards from the Bund. The streets parallel to it were named after China's other cities (such as Canton, Fuzhou and Ningbo), while those Which ran perpendicular to it (i.e north-south) were named after the provinces (such as Henan, Sichuan and Zhejiang). There was no mistaking the French Concession, because most of the streets there had French names f Rue Lafayette, Avenue Foch, to name but two. The smartest was Avenue Joffre (today's Huaihai Lu), which was to the French Concession what Nanking Road was to the British. Needless to say, these were all renamed when the communists took over.


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What to See in Shanghai (1)

What to See in Shanghai (2)

• Shanghai's History Through Its Names

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Revolutionary Sites

Excursions from Shanghai