Since its 19th-century beginnings as a Yangtze River port for foreign traders, Shanghai has quickly become a commercial and financial hub of mainland China, with vast forests of office and housing towers in the Pudong District (the size of 20 Manhattans) capped by the sky-piercing, 101-story Shanghai World Financial Center. It’s now China’s largest city, with a population of more than 20 million. Yet Shanghai’s charms are at the street level, particularly along the waterfront promenade The Bund and in oasis-like historic European neighborhoods such as the French Concession, a leafy enclave of 1930s Art Deco mansions and boutiques, where restaurants serve the city’s signature dish, xiao long bao (soup-filled dumplings).
Shanghai is the "dragon head." A municipality with provincial status, it is China's largest city in population (about 15 million), and the nation's leader in finance, industry, and trade.
The name Shanghai means "on the sea," and the city aptly lies on the East China Sea coast, just south of the Yangtze River estuary.
After the mid-19th century Opium War, Britain forced open the port of Shanghai to Western trade. Foreign imperialism subsequently transformed Shanghai into one of the world's most glamorous and cosmopolitan cities by the 1920-30's.
Under Communism, Shanghai added manufacturing, scientific research, education, and petroleum production to its economic base. Today Shanghai is a prime mover in Chinese modernization, especially evident in its Pudong New Area -- a free trade zone opened in 1993, featuring a high tech development park and modern housing blocks.
Shanghai counts more businessfolk than tourists among its visitors. Yet, one of the world's great cities isn't lacking an array of sightseeing attractions. If you do visit and want to practice Chinese language on the locals, however, bring more than your Mandarin and Cantonese, as Shanghai has its own distinct dialect.