51 things you may not know about Shanghai... but should

51 things you may not know about Shanghai... but should

No one likes a smart-ass... unless you're it. This handy list of obscure Shanghai facts provides everything you need to become king of the conversation killer

Shanghai facts: History

1. Shanghai used to be a fishing village called “Hudu”, derived from the name of a wooden fish trap once used by local inhabitants. This is also the source of the character “hu” 沪 on Shanghai’s license plates.  Longhua templeA scene from Longhua Temple.

2. The statue of Pushkin at the corner Dongping Lu and Fenyang Lu (东平路, 近汾阳) in the French Concession was erected by Shanghai’s White Russian (and you thought White Russians were only drinks) community to celebrate the poet’s 100th birthday. It is the only surviving statue of a foreigner in China that predates the People’s Republic.

3. From 1863 to 1865, the Yu Garden (218 Anren Lu 安仁路218) was headquarters to the Small Swords Society, a rebel (possibly Triad) group that ruled over the Chinese districts of Shanghai. Yuyuan (豫园) and the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party site and museum (374 Huangpi Nan Lu, near Madang Lu 黄陂南路374号,近马当路) both have Small Swords memorabilia on display.

4. The park north of Longhua Temple was formerly the site of a secret Kuomintang prison, where hundreds of leftist writers and political activists were tortured and murdered. The site was discovered in the 1950s, along with several still-shackled bodies.
Longhua Martyrs Memorial Park (龙华烈士陵园), 2887 Longhua Xi Lu near Kaixuan Nan Lu 龙华西路2887号, 近凯旋南路

5. The name Xujiahui (literally “Xu Family’s Convergence”) comes from Xu Guangqi (baptized Paul), an early Chinese Catholic convert and a disciple of Mateo Ricci. After the Treaty of Nanjing, his ancestral home became the center of Shanghai’s Catholic community.

 Astor House HotelThe historic Astor House Hotel.6. Between 1937 and 1939 an estimated 20,000 Jews travelled to Shanghai to flee the Nazis.

7. In the 1920s, a jealous lover got revenge on his errant Russian mistress by filling her hotel room at the Astor House Hotel with live animals including a kangaroo. Visitor information: 15 Huangpu Lu near Dongdaming Lu (黄浦路15号近东大名路)

8. The oldest mosque in Shanghai is Fuyou Lu Mosque, which was built in 1868.

9. The Peace Hotel, built in 1927 by Sir Victor Sassoon, was where Noel Coward stayed while writing "Private Lives."

10. Back in the 1930s, when the Foreign YMCA on Nanjing Lu was a popular leisure destination, men and women swam on alternate days, because the men insisted on swimming naked.

11. During the Five-Anti purges of the early 1950s, so many people jumped to their deaths from tall buildings in Shanghai, that residents took to walking in the street for fear of being hit. 

12. A pair of dancing shoes worn by scandal-dogged actress and business tycoon Liu Xiaoqing shoes are on display at the Paramount Theatre. Price on request, but we warn you they’re very expensive. 

 Du YueshengDu Yuesheng, aka Big Eared Du. See where he gets the name from?13. Although Shanghai’s legendary gangster Big Eared Du, or Du Yuesheng, was rumored to have ran his empire from what is now the Donghu Hotel, that location was only his secondary residence at best. His real house was further east near Yan'an Lu and was demolished in the 1990s which is why people still support the Donghu Hotel myth.

14. You may know Sasha’s for its happy hours, but the building that houses it was once the home of the famous T.V. Soong, the Soong sisters brother. Sasha was supposedly his mistress.

15. The newly re-opened Waibaidu Bridge's name means "foreigner crossing," named for the fact that the original bridge built there (the 1856-built Wales Bridge) charged Chinese a toll to cross, but let foreigners cross for free.

16. Astor House (in the North Bund area) must be the hippest historical hotel in Shanghai. Consider its impressive list of VIPs: Kalakaua (the last king of Hawaii), Albert Einstein (physicist), Herbert Hoover (future president), Zhou En Lai (the first premier) and Yoshio Kodama (Yakuza overlord). 

Shanghai facts: Local culture

17. The world's tallest statue of polish composer Frederic Chopin is located in Zhongshan Park.

18. Hundreds of Shanghainese parents assemble in People’s Park every weekend for the Shanghai marriage market with the resumes of their unwed children to negotiate potential hook-ups.  Shanghai marriage marketResumes of unwed Shanghai residents line the People's Square marriage market.

19. You aren't the only one who doesn't understand your taxi driver: Shanghainese is a dialect of Wu, an ancient branch of Chinese that is a distinct language from Mandarin. In fact, Shanghainese is only about 50 percent intelligible to Mandarin speakers.

20. In Yueju, or Shanghai opera, women dominate the stage, playing male and female roles. Historically, the opposite was true for Peking Opera, which had men in all roles.

21. Travel to People's Square past Yan'an Lu and Chengdu Bei Lu and you'll pass a wide, metal pillar covered with circling dragons supporting the elevated highways. This is Nine Dragon's Pillar. As the local lore goes, workers found the ground impossible to dig no matter how hard they tried and finally they called in a Buddhist priest, who told them they were trying to dig right into the middle of a dragon's lair and it wouldn't move until they honored it. The city government hastily ordered the pillar to be built in its honor.

22. According to locals, Lianhua Lu station on the far southern end of Metro Line 1 is cursed because of its proxmity to the town's biggest morgue. Reported ghostly shenanigans range from people being pushed in front of oncoming trains to visions of evil-eyed spirits.

Shanghai facts: Pop culture

23. A record 70 million visitors are expected to visit the 2010 Expo this year, which also has the largest exhibiting area, 5.28 square km, in World Expo history. 

24. Shanghai has a professional baseball team, the Shanghai Golden Eagles (上海金鹰). Their home field is near the site of the 2010 Expo, but they didn't have any home games last season. Other Shanghai teams: The Shanghai Sharks (basketball) and the Shanghai Shenhua (soccer).  2010 Expo visitorsAn estimated 200,000 people attempted to get into the Shanghai Expo's first day of soft opening.

25. Shanghai’s first KFC was launched in 1989, a full five years before the first McDonald’s.

26. Shanghai might be known for having a huge migrant work force (registered migrants comprised one third of the population in 2007), but only one percent of the population is not Han Chinese (that's including the expat population).

27. There are 2.5 female toilets for every male toilet on the Expo site. Eighty percent of the toilets are "squatters."

28. There's a reason why you (mainly) can get away with just speaking English in Shanghai: the language is taught as a mandatory course from first grade in the public education system.

29. For many years, Shanghai No. 1 Department Store (800 Nanjing Dong Lu 南京东路800号), known as “The Sun,” was the country’s largest store. It was also the site of China’s first escalators.

30. Shanghai is the most expensive city in China to get hitched with the average cost of a wedding RMB 170,000, going up to as much as RMB 1.4 million -- not including the often required apartment and car. Some attribute the rising cost to the Shanghainese obsession with “face” and impressing guests.

Shanghai facts: Transit

31. Since 2005, Shanghai has built eight new Metro lines and dramatically extended the existing lines. As of April 2010, the city’s lines are more than four times longer than what they were in 2005. Shanghai South Railway StationThe beauty of the Shanghai South Railway Station.

32. The new D trains from Shanghai to Suzhou take only 41 minutes.

33. Shanghai's growing metro system’s all-time volume record was 5.6 million passengers in one day.

34. The Maglev train runs from Longyang Lu station in Pudong to Pudong International Airport, and at full speed, the journey takes seven minutes and 20 seconds to complete the distance of 30 km.

35. An airport shuttle bus from downtown to Pudong International Airport is RMB 22, but a taxi the same distance is approximately RMB 180.

36. Shanghai South Railway Station is the first circular railway station in the world and it features a 50,000 square meter roof.

37. Pudong International Airport was built on reclaimed tideland that was once fish farms. The building, designed by French architect Paul Andreu, was designed to resemble a seagull in flight, which he saw as representative of Shanghai, a soaring metropolis.

Shanghai facts: The city

38. Shanghai is sinking at a rate of 1.5 cm a year. 

 Shanghai MuseumIt might be made to look like a ding, but to us it looks like a dumplimg steamer.39. The most expensive toilet in Shanghai is at Shanghai’s Moon River Art Park, and it cost RMB 5 million to build.

40. The laundry chute of the Grand Hyatt hotel (which runs 88 stories down the Jin Mao Tower all the way to the basement) has built-in buffers to reduce the speed of descending clothes.

40a. The Jin Mao also lays claim to the world's highest post office.

41. The most elevated plot of land in the city is the summit of Dajinshan Island, off the coast of suburban Jinshan. It's 103 meters above sea level, barely a fifth of the height of the Shanghai World Financial Center.

42. The Shanghai Museum’s building shape is modeled after a "ding," or an ancient Chinese cooking pot. Its square base represents Earth, while its rounded roof represents heaven, exemplifying the Chinese ancient saying “Round sky, square earth.” 

Shanghai facts: Drink

43. A showgirl in Shanghai's one and only burlesque troop, "The Chinatown Dolls," receives on average each week: 12 free glasses of champagne, two pieces of (fake) jewelry, two bouquets of flowers, and at least one offer of marriage.

 el CoctelThe shaker wall that greets you at el Coctel.44. A Shanghai cocktail consists of 1/2 tsp grenadine syrup, the juice of 1/4 lemons, 1 oz Jamaican dark rum and 1 tsp anisette, all served over ice.

45. The 'shaker wall' that greets visitors to el Coctel is built from 700 cocktail shakers.

46. Cocktail aficionado Charles Henry Baker, Jr (author of the 1939 "Gentleman's Companion") claimed to have missed several steamships out of Shanghai because of a potent local drink, the "Astor House Special." To make your own, mix 1.5 oz cognac, 1 tsp maraschino liqueur, 2 tsp egg white, 0.75 oz absinthe (or Pernod if you can't find absinthe), 1/2 tsp lemon juice and some club soda. 

47. During the early 20th century, the Shanghai Club’s Long Bar was one of the city’s most famous watering holes, and the longest bar in the world. The L-shaped Bar, which was 110 feet long, attracted Shanghai’s moneymakers; the social status of patrons declined as you wound around the bar. In 2011, the Waldorf Astoria is expected to open in the same Bund location and restore the former pleasure palace. 

Shanghai facts: Eat

 Yang's fried dumplingsXiao Yang's delicious, and world famous, dumplings.48. Yang's Fried Dumplings has become a must-try restaurant for any visitor to Shanghai, but it is also the most well known for resisting offers to franchise. 

49. Shanghai’s favorite delicacy, hairy crabs, are considered cooling which is why they’re served with Shaoxing sherry wine, to restore the body’s yin and yang. 

50. Din Tai Fung, Shanghai’s beloved xiaolongbao haunt, isn’t a homegrown restaurant. Founder Yang Bingyi was born in Shanxi, and moved to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. There, he started a cooking oil retailer called Din Tai Fung. In 1980, he and his wife started making xiaolongbaos on the side to make money, and eventually went full-time. The original restaurant is located in Taipei.

51. There are four types of insect featured on Southern Barbarian's menu: honeybees, water scavenger beetles, bamboo worm (phasmida) and dragonflies.

51a. For Southern Barbarian fans who are a bit more faint of stomach: every year, Southern Barbarian goes through 2,160 kg of goats cheese (the same weight as a Porsche SUV) -- that's about 180 kg a month. Delicious.