Shanghai has long been seen as one of China's most powerful economic engines, a forward-looking cosmopolitan city at the very forefront of China's opening-up policy. At the same time, though, another Shanghai co-exists, a Shanghai laden with time-honored historical and cultural significance.
Walking through the booming commercial streets in and around the Bund, surrounded by Western-style buildings, a curious tourist may ask: "Where did it all begin? What was the origin of Shanghai?"
A mission to discover the real Shanghai should never be limited to the familiar sights of the Bund, the Nanjing Road and the Oriental Pearl Tower. It should look beyond these well-known settings and into the city's astonishing back catalogue.
If you want to understand how the city has developed over the past decade, then go to the Pudong new area on the eastern side of the Huangpu River. This is a real showcase China's reform and opening-up policies.
On the other hand, if you want an insight into the city's history, immediately prior to the past decade, then visit the Puxi area on the western side of the Huangpu, a place referred to by many as the "Oriental Paris".
If you really want to understand the beginnings of this city, going back some 1,000 years or more, then you really have to tour Songjiang, part of its western suburbs.
The ancient name of Songjiang is Huating and it became a county during the Tang Dynasty (618 BC-907). Even going as far back as this does not mark the very beginnings of Shanghai. Recent archaeological surveys have shown that Songjiang was home to humanity some 4,000 years ago.
Songjiang became a prefecture during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). With seven counties and one district in its jurisdiction, Songjiang was the political, cultural and economic center of the classical Shanghai region.
Songjiang enjoyed its most prosperous period during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when it benefited from a number of booming industries, including commerce, textiles and handicrafts.
This long history has bestowed a truly fascinating cultural legacy to the region, making Songjiang one of the most popular tourism destinations in Shanghai. Today, tourism has become a vital part of the local government's development plans for the region.
According to Li Wenzhong, director of the Commerce and Tourism Commission of Songjiang District, the local government has recently released a development plan for the tourism industry, aiming to build Songjiang into the leading holiday resort in Shanghai.
Li said that tourism will account for 7.6 percent of Songjiang's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010. He anticipates more than 7 million tourists visiting Songjiang next year, bringing with them tourism revenues in excess of 5 billion yuan.
In 2020, Songjiang is expected to attract more than 10 million tourists and generate tourism revenues of over 10 billion yuan, accounting for some nine percent of the district's GDP.
Li also said it is currently an ideal time to tour Songjiang and experience the ongoing Shanghai Tourism Festival. Running from September to October, this is the first time that the annual festival held in Songjiang.
Highlights of this year's Songjiang festival include the opening of the Happy Valley Amusement Park, car races, fishing competitions and countryside tours.
Source: China Daily