Another 51 things you may not know about Shanghai -- but should

Another 51 things you may not know about Shanghai -- but should

After last week’s "51 things..." you’re an official Shanghai smart-ass, but so is everyone else. Here's another 51 obscure Shanghai facts to impress the ignorant masses with

Shanghai facts: History

1. Hongkou District’s Buddhist Xiahai (Under the Sea) Temple was where Chinese sailors used to pray for good luck before setting sail. It was burnt to the ground by the Japanese in the 1930s, but its 1941 reincarnation is one of Shanghai’s nicest and most seldom visited Buddhist temples. Find Xiahai Miao (下海庙) at Kunming Lu, near Haimen Lu (昆明路 近海门路). 

Jinjiang HotelThe hall at Jinjiang Hotel is where the Shanghai Communique was signed to re-establish diplomatic relations between the PRC and the United States.2. In 1553 the city of Shanghai was surrounded by a 5km-long wall to keep out Japanese pirates. All but a small section of the wall was destroyed in 1912 and converted into what are now Renmin Lu and Zhonghua Lu. Note: The surviving wall section can be located at the corner of Renmin and Lu and Dajing Lu (人民路, 近大境路).

3. The Park Hotel (170 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Huangpi Bei Lu 南靖西路170号, 近黄陂北路), designed by Shanghai architectural darling Laszlo Hudec, was the city’s tallest building (it's a mere 84 meters tall) until 1988. During the 1930s and 1940s, the hotel was a favorite hangout of the Axis Powers and a number of spies.

4. In wartime, a hierarchy existed among the city's prostitutes. The lowest of the low were said to be "Walking the Garden Bridge," because they would solicit for business on the Waibaidu Bridge (see last week's "51 facts" for more on this bridge) over Suzhou Creek, which separated the International Settlement from Japanese-occupied Hongkou.

5. Allegedly, in the heyday of the Paramount Ballroom, the upper dance floor would occasionally pulse with an electric current, to give dancers the "shock of modernity."

6. The current Okura Garden Hotel and the Jinjiang Hotel, opposite on Maoming Lu, were Chairman Mao’s preferred headquarters when visiting Shanghai. As such the two are linked by an underground bomb shelter. Although the bomb shelter is generally closed, the western entrance can be found near the fountain in front of the Okura Garden Hotel on Maoming Nan Lu, near Huaihai Zhong Lu (茂名南路58号, 近长乐路).

Jing'an temple ShanghaiAbbot Khi Vehdu spiced things up Jing'an Temple.7. Visitors consider shikumen an iconic example of local architecture, but Shanghainese feel like they are an example of East meets West. Why? Well, here's the twist: most original Shikumen were actually built by foreign companies for Shanghainese occupants. 

8. The Town Hall, at 650 Qingyuan Huan Lu, was completed in 1933 and was built to hold up to 100,000 people, as this was the anticipated crowd at the building's inauguration.

9. A number of Chinese and Western suspected spies, businessmen and journalists were savagely tortured at Bridge House (478 North Sichuan Lu, near Tiantong Lu 四川北路478号, 近天潼路), the former headquarters of the Kempeitai (Japanese Military Police). Now an apartment complex, local legend claims that the building is haunted by murdered inmates and some locals now go so far as to cross the street when passing by.

10. The Bund is well known for its grand exteriors, but a number of buildings have remarkably well-preserved interiors. If you can talk your way past the security guards at the former home of the Russo-Asiatic Bank (No. 15 外滩15号), you will be treated to its breathtaking lobby with an intact stained-glass ceiling.

11. If it wasn't for the Japanese invasion, we might all be talking about the latest film out of Shanghai instead of Hong Kong. From the 1920s to 1940s, this city was pumping out the best Chinese films of the era. Once (real) guns entered the pictures, the prominent directors and actors of the day fled to Hong Kong, and the rest is cinematic history.

12. J.G. Ballard, the English science fiction novelist who wrote "Crash" and "Empire of the Sun," was born in Shanghai. He spent two years in an internment camp as a child during WWII and attributed the dark, apocalyptic tone of his fiction to that experience. Read on for more literary Shanghai locales.

Shanghai racecourseShanghai wasn't always home to skyscrapers. This is the Shanghai racecourse (now People's Square) in 1912.13. A taxi dancer -- female dancehall employee, rented out by the song to dance with -- was publicly murdered at the Paramount Ballroom (218 Yuyuan Lu, near Wanhangdu Lu 愚园路218号, 近万航渡路) in 1941 when she refused to dance with a Japanese soldier. 

14. In Shanghai’s early years as a treaty port, so many of the city’s foreign sex workers came from San Francisco that the term “American girl” became synonymous with prostitute.

15. Shanghai, like many of its nearby neighbors, was once crisscrossed by a network of man-made canals. Several of the city’s major arteries today, like Yan’an Lu and Zhaojiabang Lu, were once canals.

16. In the 1930s Jing’an Temple used to be looked after by an abbot called Khi Vehdu, who was nearly 2m tall and -- allegedly -- had seven concubines, each of whom he gave a house and a car.

17. People’s Square was once the home of the Shanghai racecourse (the second incarnation of the racecourse. The first Shanghai racecourse was closer to the Bund. Beihai Lu's curved road used to be the original track's southern end), built by the British in 1862. At first, Chinese weren’t allowed to enter what was a foreigner playground, but eventually, money won out and they were accepted. Races were held in the spring and fall until the Japanese invasion put at stop to them in 1941.

Shanghai facts: Pop culture

18. Century Park began life (in April 2000) as Central Park (中央公园), but the Beijing authorities didn't approve it. The name of the Line 2 subway station had to be changed as well.

19. When you get out of the elevator in the Shanghai Municipal Marriage Service Center to get married, the first thing you see is a sign with three arrows that says "Marriage (Turn Right)," "Adoption (Turn Left)," and "Divorce (Straight Ahead)."

XitangHow "Mission Impossible III" tried to pass off sleepy Xitang as bustling Shanghai, we don't know.20. 123,000 RMB 10 millionaires live in Shanghai. 

21. Scenes from "Mission Impossible III" that were supposedly in Shanghai were filmed in the historic water town of Xitang in southwestern Shanghai. 

22. The position of Party Secretary, the highest political station in Shanghai, has not been held by a Shanghainese person since 2006 -- by design, according to some speculations. The last local in the role was Chen Liangyu, who was ousted by Hu Jintao for believing that wealth produced in Shanghai should stay in Shanghai and benefit only Shanghai's citizens.

23. Shanghai’s Huaihai Lu is the epicenter of bridal dress-up boutiques, where brides and their grooms can play dress-up for the day. The average cost ranges from RMB 4,000-13,000.

24. Shanghai’s divorce rate is 38 percent, the second highest in China, just after Beijing. Maybe they're upset over the cost of the dresses.

25. Shanghai’s Fudan University has an official school policy that says there shall be no unmarried sex while attending college.

26. “Gandu” is Shanghainese for idiot, which is also, coincidentally, Hindi for asshole.

Shanghai facts: The city

27. Legend has it that the Moller Villa (Shanxi Nan Lu, near Yan'an Lu 陕西南路, 近延安路) looks like the set of a Disney movie because the Swedish shipping magnate owner built it (finished in 1939) to please his daughter who had pictured it in a dream she had. What's the real story? We can't be sure about his daughter's dreams, but what we do know is that Moller, who moved to Shanghai in 1919, had the staircases in the house built like those in ships as well as scenes of the sea carved into the walls, to remind him of where his fortune came from.

28. Low-speed electric boats can be rented on the lake of Pudong’s Century Park (世纪公园, 1001 Jinxiu Lu, near Minsheng Lu 锦绣路1001号, 近民生路). Adventurous sailors can indulge a rousing game of bumper boats -- at their own legal and physical risk, of course.

29. Shanghai’s stone-age Natural History Museum (260 Yan'an Dong Lu, near Jiangxi Zhong Lu 延安东路260号, 近江西中路) has an exhibit on the “three major races”: Caucasoid, Negroid and Mongoloid; and, no joke, several human fetuses in pickle jars. Moller VillaDid a little girl in the 1920s dream up the perfect Disney castle?

30. At 492 meters tall, the Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC) is the third-tallest building in the world, topped only by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, at 828 meters tall and Taipei 101 at 509 meters.

31. In 2003, all Shanghai street signs were replaced with English pinyin, such as "Nanjing Road East" instead of "Nanjing Dong Lu." Easier to read, much less helpful in taxis.

32. The Jin Mao tower is arranged with a lucky 88 floors. The pagoda-like shape starts with a lowest segment of 16 floors -- each subsequent section is 1/8 smaller than the previous one.

33. Shanghai is divided into 16 districts and three counties. In it there are also 205 towns and nine townships.

34. The Shanghai World Financial Center originally was going to have a round circle through the top, instead of the can-opener shape at its peak. Locals protested, though, insisting it would look too much like the rising sun on the Japanese flag and so the opening was reshaped into the trapezoidal hole. Rumor has it a Ferris wheel was also considers for the top.

35. Internet rumors once raged that Shanghai’s public toilets brought in more than €10 million a year. Now, thanks to the 2010 Expo, those toilets are free.

36. The total area of Shanghai was 636 square kilometers in 1949. It is now 6,340 square kilomenters.

37. When the Bund's most iconic buildings were first constructed, they were set a foot higher than their intended resting point. Temporary steps up to them were built and then removed one-by-one as the buildings settled in the soft mud. The 50,000-ton Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank (completed in 1923) sank between 4 and 6.5 inches in its first year alone.

38. Shanghai's population accounts for 1.1 percent of the total Chinese population.

Shanghai facts: Metro

39. Shanghai's circular Metro Line 4 was originally not a circle. During construction in 2003, the section under the Huangpu river collapsed, though no-one was injured. It took until 2007 to open the final section from Damuqiao Lu to Lancun Lu.

Shanghai metroHow do you keep the metro cool when it's 38 degrees outside? By putting buckets filled with ice in it.40. Several of Shanghai's Metro lines have been given unofficial nicknames. Line 10 is the "Golden Line" as it links many of the city's tourist attractions like Yuyuan and Xintiandi. Line 6 has been dubbed the "Hello Kitty Line" due to its lurid pink livery.

41. The longest possible journey on the Shanghai Metro is between Pudong International Airport on Line 2 and Anting on Line 11. The journey takes around two and a quarter hours and costs RMB 10. In the time it takes to get to Anting, you could fly to Japan!

42. Shanghai now has the longest metro system in the world, with 420km of track (260 miles), overtaking the London Underground's 408km. It took London 140 years to reach this length, Shanghai did it in 15 years.

43. The Shanghai Metro has a mascot, a small blue robot called Chang Chang. Its name means "smooth traffic" in Chinese.

44. Due to overcrowding on Shanghai Metro Line 8, staff have been employed to push extra people into carriages at peak times.

45. On some Metro lines, a snippet of music from "Going Home" by saxophonist Kenny G is played at the terminal station. This piece of music is also played in some Chinese schools to mark the end of the day.

46. A number of oddly dressed people have been spotted by Chinese netizens on the Shanghai Metro. In recent years 'Leopard Print Man,' a robot, Superman, and an Egyptian mummy have all been spotted riding the subway.

Shanghai facts: Eat and drink

47. hof, the Shanghai chocolate lovers' paradise, goes through 100 kg per of chocolate per month. That might not sound like a lot compared to some large hotels but considering it only seats 40, clearly Shanghai has a chocolate- craving sweet tooth hof Brian TanHard to believe but one of hof's best customers is a Chinese model. Need to see this to believe it? Stop by yourself and check, chances are she's there.

48. Shanghai locals’ favorite way of ensuring a hairy crab is a real one -- that is, from the Yangcheng Lake -- is to turn it upside down. If it can flip itself over quickly, it is a sign that it’s strong and fit from living in the lake itself.

49. In March, M on the Bund sold 694 of their famous -- and delicious -- Pavlovas, for which 1,250 egg whites were used. Once you try it you’ll see why the queen of Holland, the queen of Thailand, the crown prince of Holland, Prince Edward of the UK, and Daniel Radcliffe (to name a few) have all stopped at M on the Bund.

50. To date, 69 people have tried and failed the Boxing Cat Brewery “12 Round Challenge." Fifty of them didn't even make it to seven pints.

51. Cantina Agave sells about 6,000 margaritas a month between their lime, strawberry and passion fruit options. The group that stayed from noon to 11pm last Cinco de Mayo probably accounted for a large part of that month’s total.

All “Shanghai facts: Metro” were written by Matt Mayer who runs Explore Shanghai, an interactive map of the Shanghai Metro online and for iPhone.