Shanghai, BUND China

BUND
Brief Story



Pictures by: Father Tomas Del Valle-Reyes

The word "bund" means an embankment or an embanked quay. The word comes from the Hindi-Urdu word band, which has Persian origins and meant an embankment, levee or dam (a cognate of English terms "bind", "bond" and "band", and the German word "Bund", etc.). Shanghai, BUND ChinaIn Chinese port cities, the English term came to mean, especially, the embanked quay along the shore. In English, "Bund" is pronounced to rhyme with "fund"

There are numerous sites in India, China, and Japan which are called "bunds" (e.g. the Yokohama Bund). However, "The Bund", without qualification as to where, can perhaps be taken to refer to this stretch of embanked riverfront in Shanghai.

The Shanghai Bund has dozens of historical buildings, lining the Huangpu River, that once housed numerous banks and trading houses from the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Italy, Russia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as the consulates of Russia and Britain, a newspaper, the Shanghai Club and the Masonic Club. The Bund lies north of the old, walled city of Shanghai. This was initially a British settlement; later the British and American settlements were combined in the International Settlement. 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. The former French Bund, east of the walled city was formerly more a working harbor side.

Shanghai, BUND China

By the 1940s the Bund housed the headquarters of many, if not most, of the major financial institutions operating in China, including the "big four" national banks in the Republic of China era. However, with the Communist victory in the Chinese civil war, many of the financial institutions were moved out gradually in the 1950s, and the hotels and clubs closed or converted to other uses. The statues of colonial figures and foreign worthies which had dotted the riverside were also removed.

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 favour of financial institutions, while hotels resumed trading as such. Also during this period, Shanghai, BUND China a series of floods caused by typhoons motivated the municipal government to construct a tall levee along the riverfront, with the result that the embankment now stands some 10 metres higher than street level. This has dramatically changed the streetscape of the Bund. In the 1990s, Zhongshan Road (named after Sun Yat-sen), the road on which the Bund is centred, was widened to ten lanes. As a result, most of the parkland which had existed along the road disappeared. Also in this period, the ferry wharves connecting the Bund and Pudong, which had served the area's original purpose, were removed. A number of pleasure cruises still operate from some nearby wharves.

In the 1990s the Shanghai government attempted to promote an extended concept of the Bund to boost tourism, and land value in nearby areas, as well as to reconcile the promotion of "colonial relics" with the Socialist ideology. In its expanded form, the term "Bund" (as "New Bund" or "Northern Bund") was used to refer to areas south of the Yan'an Road, and a stretch of riverfront north of the Suzhou River (Zhabei). Such use of the term, however, remains rare outside of the tourism literature.

Shanghai, BUND China

From 2008, a major reconfiguration of traffic flow along the Bund was carried out. The first stage of the plan involved the southern end of the Bund, and saw the demolition of a section of the Yan'an Road elevated expressway, which will remove the large elevated expressway exit structure which formerly dominated the confluence of Yan'an Road and the Bund. The second stage, begun on 1 March 2008, involves the complete restoration of the century-old Waibaidu Bridge at the northern end of the Bund. The restoration is expected to be completed by early 2009. The next stage of the plan involves a reconstruction of the Bund roadway. The current 8-lane roadway will be rebuilt as in two levels, with four lanes on each level. This will allow part of the Bund road space to be restored to its former use as parkland and marginal lawns. The new concrete bridge that was built in 1991 to relieve traffic on Waibaidu Bridge will also be rendered obsolete by the new double-levelled roadway, and will be demolished.

The Bund was re-opened to the public on Sunday 28 March 2010 after restoration.