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All Joined in One A Story of Shanghai

'Juncta In Uno Omnia', a motto in Latin on the municipal seal of the Shanghai International Settlement established in 1843, means 'All Joined in One'.

Today, whether you are one of visitors, expats or locals who have been in Shanghai, you may wonder this city is a modern Chinese city or a traditional Western city.


» 1. Empire Era
» 2. Trade and War
» 3. Settlements
» 4. City Lights
» 5. Japanese
» 6. Revolution
» 7. Reopening

1. Empire Era

Before the 18th century

The Chinese meaning of Shanghai is “go to the sea”. More than 200 years ago, before Western settlers arrived it used to be a small and quiet town in China. Shanghai is located at the eastern end of the Yangtze River Delta. Huangpu River flows along the foot of the Shanghai ' s city wall and meets Yangtze River -- the world's longest river originated in Tibet -- then joins into the Pacific.

Yangtze River flows from west to east through the entire empire. The river erodes sand in the soil along the way, which creates a new land before entering into the sea. Shanghai just sits on this land named Yangtze River Delta, that is a fresh new land God gave this nation.

There was a busy trade route from Shanghai, people travel along Suzhou Creek, to the largest city of the empire in the delta. Suzhou, where the most beautiful private gardens and factories producing the world's best silk are featured.

Left: Yangtz River Delta
Right: view of the Suzhou Creek today


2. Trade and War

The 19th century

In the 19th century, the Westerns bought their favorite silk and porcelain from China, while sold opium from India to China. The Emperor had a strong aversion to the drug trade, which led to the war between the Empire and the Anglo finally. In 1840, the fleets of the British expedition arrived on the Yangtze River outside the city in Shanghai. Due to China's defeat, the British gained the right to take land in Shanghai and built their colonies in the Far East. In 1843, a total of 26 British businessmen and missionaries came to Shanghai, who were among the first immigrants of the West in Shanghai.

In more than half a century from then, more settlers from the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Germany and Japan joined into Shanghai. An international settlement with considerable size was established.

And therefore, a Western city was born in Asia.

View of the Bund, 1850s

View of the Bund, 1928

3. Settlements

1843 - 1941

The foreign concessions gradually encircled the local Chinese who had lived for centuries in the ancient walled city. The International Settlement was outside the city walls. On the pier of the Huangpu River, a place known as the Bund, was the initial concession of the British. During 1920s -1930s, after a golden age of the urban development, a group of neo-classical magnificent buildings was set, which was the most glorious financial and trading center in Asia.

On the Shanghai municipal seal, a motto in Latin “Juncta In Uno Omnia (All Joined in One)”and 12 national flags (Great Britain, America, France, Germany, Russia, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Norway and Sweden, Austria, Spain, Holland) are represented.

Only the unique French did not join the urban construction project of the world's largest international settlement. In 1862, the French withdrew from the Shanghai Municipal Council, and set up a separate area of the French Concession at the west side of the old walled city. In this small Eastern Paris, the French Catholics set up Shanghai ' s earliest churches, schools, libraries and the observatory. Nevertheless, the French business in China was not prosperous. Only a few of the French firms in the French Concession exported raw silk to Lyon.

In the golden age of 1920s and 1930s, all the streets were lined in trees in the French Concession. Swarming with wealthy people bought the real estates, the concession became an elegant residential area featuring great alleys. There were graceful gardens and houses, as well as popular art-deco apartments.

It is also worth mentioning that this city had a deeper significance for the Jews from Europe during the World War II. Entering Shanghai did not need a visa, this turned Shanghai into a natural shelter for 30,000 Jewish refugees.


4. City Lights

1920s - 1930s

All the night with the music Jazz bands playing in the dance halls, from the Paramount Ballroom next to Jing'an Temple to the Peace Hotel (Cathay Hotel) in the Bund, the city was in the life of luxury sphere. Later Frankie Laine was singing the “Rose Rose I Love You” which was a popular song with the original Chinese lyrics in Shanghai in the 1940s.

The motion picture was one of the most popular entertainment preferences. And Shanghai was the Hollywood of the East. The studios were producing the Chinese movies, stars and dreams all days and all nights. In the spring of 1936, Charles Chaplin with Paulette Goddard visited Shanghai, and met his old friend Mei Lanfang who was the most famous Chinese drama master.

The miracles of the architectures are emerging constantly in Shanghai. In 1934, the highest building in the Far East, 24-story Park Hotel was completed near the race course in the downtown. Such a high level of the building could encourage any one of the Chinese people who saw it, including I. M. Pei who was a Chinese banker's son and later designed the Louvre's glass pyramid. In his youth, he saw that building and desired to become an architect.

At this time of the prosperity and city lights, there was no the slightest fear the war drawing near.


5. Japanese

1937 - 1945

Japan and Shanghai are separated by the East China Sea. However, the connection between the two places has existed for more than one thousand years. Japanese shares the similar way of pronouncing some Chinese characters with Shanghainese, which was known as Go-on by the Japanese.

The Japanese were latecomers in the International Settlement of Shanghai. In 1923, the regular sea routes between the Nagasaki and Shanghai were established. The Japanese began to build up large-scale textile factories on the bank of the lower reaches of the Huangpu River, and occupied the large Hongkou and Yangpu areas in the northeast of the city step by step.

In 1941, the covetous Japanese attacked on Pearl Harbor, on the next day and occupied the entire International Settlement in Shanghai. Instantly the war ended the privileges of Britain and the United States in Shanghai. At this moment, the ‘Empire of the Sun’ was swollen with arrogance. In the Bund, Japanese removed the statue of Harry Smith Parkes who was the first British Consul General in Shanghai and a self-proclaimed founder of the Shanghai.

After the war, along with the failure of the Japanese, Westerns did not get the privileges again. Shanghai fully came back to her time-honored homeland.


6. Revolution

1949 - 1978

In 1949, the civil war changed this country completely and “The People” became the new name of the old empire with glory and dream. All of a sudden, the Westerns had to completely leave the city, even if here was their second home or place of birth.

Newcomers did not seem to have much interest in the luxury buildings that were left behind by the Westerns, and the new government rather desired for a more rapid industrialization. Encouraged by the revolutionary enthusiasm, the construction of a super city was still to be continued. All of a sudden again, Shanghai became the whole country's industrial center. Chimneys became the symbol of the people ' s better future lives. In the factories of the urban areas and the outskirts the development continued, China's first TV sets, cars, computers and even rockets and jet aircrafts like Boeing 707 were produced in 1970s.

In the same years, the Cultural Revolution made the people more enthusiastically worship their idol. In the Bund, the Westminster tune that was played by the clock bell of the Shanghai Customs House built by the British originally was changed into "The East Is Red", a Maoism featured song.


7. Reopening

After 1979

In the end, the re-open stopped the continuous revolutions. The people who had to leave in the past started their nostalgia for the hometown, however now they have been the elderly.

During the first years in the 21st century, the wonders like that occurred in the first few years of last century took place again at the same location. Today Shanghai features more than twice the number of skyscrapers than in New York as well as the world's fastest train, the Maglev.

And the thing always kept in mind is that the city belongs to an old country still in the developing.

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