Historian - Professor - Digital Scholar

“The Shanghai Bund in myth and history: An Essay through Textual and Visual Sources”

The Bund ranks first in any introduction to Shanghai in contemporary guides as a “must see” place where one can go to discover the wonders of Shanghai and its now sanitized and non-controversial past. Current accounts usually point to the bizarre architectural heritage that the municipal government has lately chosen to turn into a tourist attraction for domestic and foreign consumption alike. The present paper intends to unveil a much more complex and multi-layered history. It relies on a large body of materials, especially visual sources, to document the transformation of an undistinguished space – a riverfront – into a central place of political, social and architectural juxtaposition. This exploration will start from the earliest visual records of the city, made by Chinese or Western residents and travelers and move into the late 1940s. This paper weaves different threads to highlight the various layers of discourse that “made the Bund” while at the same time blending textual and visual sources to illustrate its changing nature over time, from a commercial entrepot to a cityscape devoted to finance and leisure.

Journal of Modern Chinese History, vol. 4, no. 1, 2010, pp. 1-27