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The Bund

Updated:2008-06-04 16:29 | Source:

  The Bund (which means the Embankment) refers to Shanghai's famous waterfront running along the west shore of the Huangpu River, forming the eastern boundary of old downtown Shanghai. Once a muddy towpath for boats along the river, the Bund was where the foreign powers that entered Shanghai after the Opium War of 1842 erected their distinct Western-style banks and trading houses. From here Shanghai grew into a cosmopolitan and thriving commercial and financial center, Asia's leading city in the 1920s and 1930s. Many of the awesome colonial structures you see today date from that prosperous time and have become an indelible part of Shanghai's cityscape.

  Today, a wide avenue fronts the old buildings while a raised promenade on the east side of the road affords visitors pleasant strolls along the river and marvelous views of both the Bund and Pudong across the river. Pudong's new skyscrapers and modern towers -- constituting Shanghai's "21st Century Bund" -- may dominate today's skyline, but the city's core identity and history are strictly rooted in this unique strip on the western shore. For years, the Bund was the first sight of Shanghai for those arriving by boat; it should be your first stop as well.

  Essentials

  Stretching for 1.6km (1 mile) along the western edge of the Huangpu River, the Bund runs from Suzhou Creek in the north to Jinling Lu in the south. On the west side of the main avenue (Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu) that runs along the Bund are the colonial edifices of yore, while the eastern side is taken by the Bund Promenade, a raised embankment that acts as a dike against the Huangpu River, because downtown itself, situated on a soggy delta, is slowly sinking below the river level. The Bund is pleasant to stroll at any hour but is often crowded with tourists and vendors selling snacks and souvenirs. Early mornings see tai-chi practitioners and ballroom dancers out in force. Early to mid-morning on weekdays is best for avoiding the crowds and for photography. If possible, try to return here at night when the Bund buildings are all aglow.

  Exploring the Bund

  The highlights of the Bund are undoubtedly the colonial-era buildings lining the west side of Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, standouts of which include the former British Consulate, Customs House, former Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, and Peace Hotel.

  Besides its landmark colonial architecture, however, the Bund has a few other small attractions. On its north end, Suzhou Creek enters the Huangpu River beneath the 18m-wide (60-ft.) iron Waibaidu Bridge, built in 1906 to replace the original wooden toll bridge constructed in 1856 by an English businessman. On the river shore now stands a granite obelisk, Monument to the People's Heroes, dedicated to Chinese patriots (as defined by the Communist Party), beginning in the 1840s. It was erected in 1993 and contains a small historical gallery at its base, the Bund History Museum (daily 9am-4:15pm; free admission), which contains a few artifacts and some interesting photographs of the Bund. Just south of the monument, at street level, is the park Huangpu Gongyuan (daily 6am-6pm in winter, until 10pm in summer; free admission), originally the British Public Gardens built in 1868. In the early days, only Chinese servants accompanying their foreign masters were allowed to enter the park. Dogs were also prohibited, leading in later years to the apocryphal NO CHINESE OR DOGS ALLOWED sign being attributed to the park. The park was eventually opened to Chinese in 1926. South of here, across from the Peace Hotel, is the entrance to the pedestrian Bund Sightseeing Tunnel (Waitan Guanguang Suidao; daily 8am-10:30pm, to 10pm Nov-Apr; admission ¥40/$5 round-trip, ¥30/$4 one-way) located under the Huangpu. Complete with tram cars and light show, the tunnel connects downtown Shanghai to the Pudong New Area and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. Also here is a statue of Chen Yi, Shanghai's first mayor after 1949 and a dead ringer for Mao Zedong, at least in bronze.

  Farther south down the Bund Promenade are scores of vendors, a few restaurants, and excellent overlooks facing the river. Near the southern end of the promenade are the docks for the Huangpu River cruises. You'll also notice picturesque Signal Tower, a slender round brick tower that served as a control tower for river traffic during colonial days. First built in 1884, the tower was rebuilt in 1907, and also relayed weather reports. In 1993 during the widening of Zhongshan Lu, it was moved 20m (65 ft.) to its current site. Today, a handful of photographs inside show the early days of the Bund, but you can no longer climb to the lookout.

  Route: 20, 22, 37, 42, 55, 65, 71, 123, 503, 126, 127, 135, 145, 934, 251, 940, 576, 831, 868, 910, 921, 926, 928

Editor : Zhu Xinrui

Opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics