The sight of the Buddhist Longhua Temple (Lónghúa Sì, 龙华寺) pagoda rising into the sky against the backdrop of Shanghai's 21st century high-rise skyline can be both jarring and sublime. As the city's largest remaining pagoda, the 40 m (130 ft) tower stands as a monument to China's traditional culture, which so often seems lost in the thicket of Shanghai's metastasizing glass-and-steel high-rise developments and freeway flyovers. At the same time, the pagoda and the busy temple grounds surrounding it illustrate a deep and vibrant continuity..
Though no longer China's tallest building (having been eclipsed by the neighboring World Financial Center), the Jin Mao Tower (Jīn Mào Dàshà, 金茂大厦) remains Shanghai's most elegant and distinctive skyscraper. It also still proudly houses the world's highest hotel, post office and bar. Situated in the heart of the Lujiazui financial district, the Jin Mao's design is based on the lucky number eight: 88 floors soar upward, divided into 16 segments, each 1/8 smaller than the preceding one. Architecturally a..
People's Square (Rénmín Guǎngchǎng, 人民广场), like much of today's Shanghai, is a showcase. Fortunately, it's also home to beautifully maintained gardens and parkscapes, culminating in People's Park (Rénmín Gōngyuán, 人民公园), which occupies the northeastern quadrant of this massive tract of land in the middle of Puxi (the west bank of the Huangpu River). Nowhere is the "showcase" aspect more apparent than at the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, where optimistic projections of..
The Yu Gardens (Yù Yuán, 豫园) are a classical oasis—albeit a generally crowded one—in Shanghai's relentlessly modernizing cityscape. The gardens, completed in 1577 by the aristocratic Ming Dynasty Pan family, retain their original grace and elegance even in the face of throngs of tourists and the commercial hubbub of Yuyuan Market just on the other side of the garden walls. Situated in the midst of the Old City near the Temple of the City God, the gardens make an excellent and restful stop in a walking tour of..
Formerly known as the Sino-Soviet Friendship Building (Zhōngsū Yǒuhǎo Dàshà, 中苏友好大厦), today's Shanghai Exhibition Center (Shànghǎi Zhǎnlǎn Zhōngxīn, 上海展览中心) is far more likely to host a Millionaires Fair or iteration of the biannual ShContemporary Art Fair than a plenary session of a revived Communist International. Regardless, it's a splendid building worth exploring no matter the event taking place within its spacious halls. Completed in 1955 before Soviet-style architecture took a turn for the bland and..
Many visitors to Shanghai only catch glimpses of this delightfully leafy park on their way into the glitzy clubs and karaoke bars that surround it. Yet a day-time visit is the only way to truly appreciate its quiet, almost Parisian charm. Built over a century ago, the park, like much of the Concession that surrounded it, was originally reserved for French citizens only. Fast forward to today, and the people gathered beneath the gingko trees are a more eclectic bunch: elderly locals practicing tai chi (as always, come first thing in the..
If you live in Shanghai, taking a trip to Chongming Island (Chóngmíng Dǎo, 崇明岛) is a great way to get your all-things-plant-and-fresh-air-related fix. The island itself is over 1,000 sq. km and is China's second biggest island after Hainan. Getting to Chongming Island was streamlined in 2009 with the opening of the Shanghai Yangtze River Tunnel and Bridge, and it is now less than a two hour journey from doorstep to island's edge. Once you've arrived, you have a number of options. Parks, ecological villages and wetland preserves abound, and..
When people mention Shanghai's Nanjing Road (Nánjīng Lù, 南京路), they're probably talking about East Nanjing Road (Nánjīng Dōng Lù, 南京东路), a pedestrian shopping street running for blocks between the northeast corner of People's Square and the Bund. If you spend more than a couple days in Shanghai, you'll likely end up pushing your way through the crowds beneath the neon signs and signature Shanghai mix of brand-new high rises and late colonial-period architecture. The shopping is varied and good, though lacking the upscale brand-name..
Lu Xun Park (Lǔ Xùn Gōngyuán, 鲁迅公园), also known as Hongkou Park (Hóngkǒu Gōngyuán, 虹口公园), is a wonderful place to get a feel for the lives of everyday Shanghainese. If you show up on a pleasant weekend day, you'll find groups of retirees singing old songs, dancing in the open air and watching their grandchildren fly kites, boot footballs and race remote-controlled boats and cars as their parents look on, happy to have a few moments to relax on a park bench after a busy week. Off the beaten..
Once known as the grandest cathedral in the Far East, that the gothic edifice of St Ignatius survives at all is worthy of note: during the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards tore down much of the interior, and it was not until 2009 that the stained glass windows were restored to their former glory. Built (like the Sheshan Basilica and Sheshan Astronomical Observatory) by French Jesuits at the turn of the twentieth century, the building enjoyed brief fame in the early scenes of Spielberg's Empire of the Sun, and now once again functions as an..
Shanghai's largest park, Century Park (Shìjì Gōngyuán, 世纪公园) sprawls across some 1.4 sq km (0.5 sq mi) of landscaped parkland that provides welcome relief from the ranks of high rises that have sprung up in Pudong (the east bank of the Huangpu River) as the city's building boom pushes the city eastward across former farmland toward the East China Sea. Century Park is home to manicured gardens in tradititional Chinese, English and Japanese styels, as well as stretches of open lawn, pleasant wooded..
The Taoist Temple of the City God (Lǎo Chénghuángmiào, 老城隍庙), tucked away within the Old City alongside the Yu Gardens and Yuyuan Market, is the home of the local deities (there are actually three, all derived from actual historical personages) responsible for the well being and wealth of Shanghai residents. Going by Shanghai's booming economy, they've done quite a good job in recent years, and you can see citizens making offerings of incense, candies, fruit and other goodies fit for a City God in order to keep the good times rolling. The..