Shanghai is one of the four direct-controlled municipalities of China, with a population of more than 24 million as of 2014. Located in the Yangtze River Delta in East China, Shanghai sits on the south edge of the mouth of the Yangtze in the middle portion of the Chinese coast.
The History of Shanghai can date back to the Spring and Autumn period. However, as a major administrative, shipping, and trading town, Shanghai didn’t grew in importance until in the 19th century due to trade and recognition of its favourable port location and economic potential. The city was one of five treaty ports forced open to foreign trade following the British victory over China in the First Opium War. The subsequent 1842 Treaty of Nanking and 1844 Treaty of Whampoa allowed the establishment of the Shanghai International Settlement and the French Concession. The city then flourished as a center of commerce between China and other parts of the world (predominantly Western countries), and became the primary financial hub of the Asia-Pacific region in the 1930s. However, with the Communist Party takeover of the mainland in 1949, trade was limited to socialist countries, and the city's global influence declined. In the 1990s, the economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping resulted in an intense re-development of the city, aiding the return of finance and foreign investment to the city.
Shanghai has been described as the "showpiece" of the booming economy of mainland China; renowned for its Lujiazui skyline, museums and historic buildings, such as those along The Bund, the City God Temple and the Yu Garden.
Shanghai has a humid subtropical climate and experiences four distinct seasons. Winters are chilly and damp, with northwesterly winds from Siberia can cause nighttime temperatures to drop below freezing, although most years there are only one or two days of snowfall. Summers are hot and humid, with an average of 8.7 days exceeding 35 °C (95 °F) annually; occasional downpours or freak thunderstorms can be expected. The city is also susceptible to typhoons in summer and the beginning of autumn, none of which in recent years has caused considerable damage. The most pleasant seasons are spring, although changeable and often rainy, and autumn, which is generally sunny and dry. The city averages 4.2 °C (39.6 °F) in January and 27.9 °C (82.2 °F) in July, for an annual mean of 16.1 °C (61.0 °F). With monthly percent possible sunshine ranging from 34% in March to 54% in August, the city receives 1,895 hours of bright sunshine annually. Extremes since 1951 have ranged from −10.1 °C (14 °F) on 31 January 1977 (unofficial record of −12.1 °C (10 °F) was set on 19 January 1893) to 39.9 °C (104 °F) on 6 and 8 August 2013. A highest record of 40.8 °C (105 °F) was registered in another station on 7 August 2013.
Shanghai has a rich collection of buildings and structures of various architectural styles. The Bund, located by the bank of the Huangpu River, contains a rich collection of early 20th-century architecture, ranging in style from neoclassical HSBC Building to the art deco Sassoon House. A number of areas in the former foreign concessions are also well-preserved, the most notable ones being the French Concession. Shanghai has one of the world's largest number of Art Deco buildings as a result of the construction boom during the 1920s and 1930s. One of the most famous architects working in Shanghai was László Hudec, a Hungarian-Slovak architect who lived in the city between 1918 and 1947. Some of his most notable Art Deco buildings include the Park Hotel and the Grand Theater. Other prominent architects who contributed to the Art Deco style are Parker & Palmer, who designed the Peace Hotel, Metropole Hotel, and the Broadway Mansions, and Austrian architect GH Gonda who designed the Capital Theatre. The Bund's first revitalization started in 1986 with a new promenade by the Dutch Architect Paulus Snoeren, the completion was in the mid-1990s.
In recent years, a large number of architecturally distinctive and even eccentric buildings have sprung up throughout Shanghai. Notable examples of contemporary architecture include the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Grand Theatre in the People's Square precinct and Shanghai Oriental Art Center. Despite rampant redevelopment, the old city still retains some buildings of a traditional style, such as the Yuyuan Garden, an elaborate traditional garden in the Jiangnan style.
Shanghai is sometimes considered a center of innovation and progress in China. It was in Shanghai, for example, that the first motor car was driven and (technically) the first train tracks and modern sewers were laid. It was also the intellectual battleground between socialist writers who concentrated on critical realism, which was pioneered by Lu Xun, Mao Dun, Nien Cheng and the famous French novel by André Malraux, Man's Fate, and the more "bourgeois", more romantic and aesthetically inclined writers, such as Shi Zhecun, Shao Xunmei, Ye Lingfeng, and Eileen Chang.
In the past years Shanghai has been widely recognized as a new influence and inspiration for cyberpunk culture. Futuristic buildings such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the neon-illuminated Yan'an Elevated Road are a few examples that have helped to boost Shanghai's cyberpunk image.
Shanghai has several museums of regional and national importance. The Shanghai Museum has one of the best collections of Chinese historical artifacts in the world, including a large collection of ancient Chinese bronzes. The China Art Museum, located in the former China Pavilion of Expo 2010, is the largest art museum in Asia. Power Station of Art is built in a converted power station, similar to London's Tate Modern. The Shanghai Natural History Museum and the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum are major natural history and science museums. In addition, there is a variety of smaller, specialist museums housed in important archaeological and historical sites such as the Songze Museum, the Museum of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the site of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, the former Ohel Moshe Synagogue (Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum), and the General Post Office Building (Shanghai Postal Museum). The Rockbund Art Museum is also in Shanghai. There are also many art galleries, concentrated in the M50 Art District and Tianzifang.
The "Shanghai School" was an important Chinese school of traditional arts during the Qing Dynasty and the twentieth century. Under the masters from this school, traditional Chinese art developed into the modern style of "Chinese painting".The Shanghai School challenged and broke the elitist tradition of Chinese art, while also paying technical homage to the ancient masters and improving on existing traditional techniques. Members of this school were themselves educated literati who had come to question their very status and the purpose of art and had anticipated the impending modernization of Chinese society. In an era of rapid social change, works from the Shanghai School were widely innovative and diverse and often contained thoughtful yet subtle social commentary. The best known figures from this school include Qi Baishi, Ren Xiong, Ren Bonian, Zhao Zhiqian, Wu Changshuo, Sha Menghai, Pan Tianshou, Fu Baoshi, Xie Zhiliu, He Tianjian, and Wang Zhen. In literature, the term was used in the 1930s by some May Fourth Movement intellectuals – notably Zhou Zuoren and Shen Congwen – as a derogatory label for the literature produced in Shanghai at the time.
Other Shanghainese cultural artifacts include the cheongsam a modernization of the traditional Manchurian qipao. This contrasts sharply with the traditional qipao, which was designed to conceal the figure and be worn regardless of age. The cheongsam went along well with the western overcoat and the scarf, and portrayed a unique East Asian modernity, epitomizing the Shanghainese population in general. As Western fashions changed, the basic cheongsam design changed, too, introducing high-neck sleeveless dresses, bell-like sleeves, and the black lace frothing at the hem of a ball gown. By the 1940s, cheongsams came in transparent black, beaded bodices, matching capes and even velvet. Later, checked fabrics became also quite common. The 1949 Communist Revolution ended the cheongsam and other fashions in Shanghai. However, the Shanghainese styles have seen a recent revival as stylish party dresses. The fashion industry has been rapidly revitalizing in the past decade. Like Shanghai's architecture, local fashion designers strive to create a fusion of western and traditional designs, often with innovative if controversial results.