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The Bund Shanghai: China Faces West

Exploring Shanghai's Capitalist Past

by Peter Hibbard
(Odyssey Books & Guides, 2008)

The Bund Shanghai: China Faces West by Peter Hibbard

Thanks to the influence of Chinese restaurant kitsch and countless Kung Fu flicks, China largely remains in the Western psyche as a timeless land of multi-tiered pagodas and paper lanterns and rice paper partitions. However, in The Bund Shanghai: China Faces West, Chinese tourism expert and long-time Shanghai resident Peter Hibbard (aka "The Ginger Griffin") sheds light on a very different side of life behind the Bamboo Curtain with his informative look at the former "Wall Street of China."

Tracing Shanghai's waterfront Bund neighborhood from its roots as a humble British settlement to its pre-WWII heyday as a booming financial district to its current resurgence as a vibrant center of art, culture and gastronomy, Hibbard's account of the dynamic stretch of seaside land provides a rare glimpse of a cosmopolitan, capitalist China — a China that has mostly been buried in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution and decades of economic isolation. However, after years of dilapidation and neglect, the Bund is once again attracting the attention of tourists — and Chinese businesses — due to its ornate European-inspired architecture and storied past.

In The Bund Shanghai, Hibbard recalls this past in eminently readable detail while also drawing attention to its present day attractions for newcomers to Shanghai — or "griffins," to borrow a phrase from early 20th-century Shanghai expat slang. Part travel guide, part history and part architectural compendium, Hibbard's book provides a decade-by-decade, building-by-building approach to exploring the Bund, setting his sights on both famous landmarks like the Cathay Hotel and lesser-known oddities like the cross-dressing dancers of the Peace Hotel. Thorough without being pedantic, detailed without being dry, The Bund Shanghai: China Faces West makes for both an entertaining read and an excellent travel companion.

Cost: $25. To order, visit www.amazon.com

For more on Shanghai, check out our Shanghai Business Travel Guide

 

Reviewed by Nick Winfrey


 

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