Walking the length of the Bund is a joy regardless of time of day. The one mile stroll affords many spectacular views. The Bund, with more than 50 individual architectural styles, is reminiscent of the time when Shanghai was the center of Chinese economy and culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Consulates, banks and businesses from yesteryear make an eclectic and artistic architectural statement. Shanghai, though definitely Chinese, has had an international past and though it is often an unspoken truth, the Bund reveals its secrets.
Before the 1840s, the Bund was a muddy narrow lane with tall reeds. It initially became a British settlement. After Shanghai was established as the trading port in 1846, a street was paved there and the riversides were reinforced. Then, rows of commercial buildings were constructed. As the UK Concession, a building boom at the end of 19th century and beginning of 20th century led to the Bund becoming a major financial hub of East Asia. It was the centre of the city’s politics, economy and culture more than a hundred years ago, consulates of most countries and many banks, businesses and newspaper offices were settled there, and that’s why we have these art-like buildings.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the thawing of economic policy in the People’s Republic of China, buildings on the Bund were gradually returned to their former uses. Government institutions were moved out in favor of financial institutions, while hotels resumed trading as such.
In the 1990s the Shanghai government attempted to promote an extended concept of the Bund to boost tourism and land values in nearby areas, as well as to reconcile the promotion of ‘colonial relics’ with Socialist ideology. From 2008, a major reconfiguration of traffic flow along the Bund was carried out. After a 33-month upgrade, the Bund was reopened to visitors on March 28, 2010. The veil on the new Bund was finally lifted.
The Bund is a beautiful sight and one of my favorite places in Shanghai. It is worth braving the crowds to visit at night, when the lights of Shanghai sparkle till 10pm and reveal a truly majestic city.