In a country with roughly five millennia of continuous history under its belt, Shanghai is a relative newcomer. During the first few centuries of its existence it was a mere fishing village. For centuries Shanghai existed as a small village supported by fishing and textiles. But Shanghai’s destiny was to become one of the greatest cities in the world, “the Paris of the East”. Shanghai’s location made it the gateway to the Chang Jiang, the Yanzi River, China's main waterway, which completes its 5,500-km (3,400-mi) journey to the Pacific at Shanghai.
Shanghai in the 11-19 Century
Shanghai，which name means “by the sea” began as a quite fishing village in the 11 century. It wasn't until the year 1074 under the Song Dynasty that it was promoted to "market town" status.
In the 13Th century Shanghai and the surrounding area grew into one of the richest areas in China because of cotton. Cotton flowed across the Shanghai region creating a white river of wealth that continued for centuries. During the period of Southern Song Dynasty, Shanghai became very important as a port. In 1292, it became an administrative county, and in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), it became the center of China's textile and handicraft industry. It was here that the first factory was built in history.
By 1853 Shanghai had become the largest port in China. By 1900 the sleeping fishing village had swelled from fifty thousand to one million. By the early 1900’s Shanghai was the busiest port in all of Asia. Because of Shanghai’s long and historical past, it is a mixture of incredible cultural landmarks. Shanghai mixes a living museum of centuries-old cultural landmarks, with historic architecture of China, Britain and European influence. The result is a modern city with mystical roots, pockets of narrow back streets, and an old world feel that no other city in Asia quite matches.
Shanghai In 1930s
And it took almost another millenium before the newly-established Republican government would finally own up and call it a "city" in 1927. Before then, it had a lowly designation as "county seat" for the Songjiang Prefecture.Semantics aside, though, Shanghai didn't really rise to the fore until the 19th century, when the Treaty of Nanjing forcibly opened its ports up to international trade and foreign settlements. It was no doubt a humiliating stain on the dignity of one of the world's great civilizations. Nevertheless, with trade came an unprecedented prosperity which reached its apex in the 1920s and 30s.
Shanghai In 1980s
When the Communists defeated the Kuomintang in1949, they realigned China's trade relations with other communist nations. Shanghai faded from the global scene. It wasn't until the 1980s with Deng Xiaoping's ascent to power and his resultant reforms that Shanghai would again become a player on the world stage.
Today, it is the show pony of China's booming economy. It's the country's financial and commercial center, its largest and busiest container port and its most populous city with the most comprehensive and advanced infrastructure. It is China's gateway to the rest of the world.
Shanghai is historically a city of early adopters, a place full of people eager to welcome new ideas, try new things. This evident in the preponderance of international companies -- everything from cars manufacturers to coffee shops. You see it in the restaurants they eat in and the clothes that they wear. Or even in the radically eclectic skyline designed largely by international architecture firms. Suffice it to say, the world is once again coming to Shanghai, except this time it's on Shanghai's terms.