THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY - HONG KONG
"The Bund: Jewel of Shanghai"
Thursday, 5 June 2008
3F, British Council, 3 Supreme Court Road (please note that this venue is next to Pacific Place, 5 minutes from Admiralty MTR)
Drinks Reception 6.30 pm; Lecture 7.30 pm
We are delighted to welcome to Hong Kong Peter Hibbard to lecture on the finest streetscape in East Asia, Shanghai's legendary Bund. Long-term Shanghai resident, Mr Hibbard is a historian and guide to Shanghai, and the foremost expert on the Bund. In this lecture, beautifully illustrated with photographs and documents over two centuries, Mr. Hibbard tells both the history and present of this magnificent promenade. Mr. Hibbard starts with its beginnings as a muddy foreshore, to its conversion to a fine esplanade in the latter 19th Century, to the 1920s and 1930s when its monumental edifices were constructed.
Numerous parallels can be drawn between the massive regeneration of Shanghai in the modern age and the heady, speculative years of the 1920s and 1930s when Shanghai came of age. But the story starts much earlier than that - in the 1850s and 1860s Shanghai was one of the most thrilling, dangerous and fastest growing cities on Earth. Beginning in 1852 swarms of Chinese refugees escaping the Taiping Rebellion (1851-64) illegally entered the sanctity of the 'British Settlement'. The British merchants and their consuls, who had initially been against allowing Chinese into their patch of 'little Britain', saw the prospect of rich rewards. With the election of the first municipal council in 1854, the 'Land Regulations', which provided an administrative framework, were altered to allow the Chinese to reside and to rent or buy land in the British Settlement.
While the Bund and its neighbouring streets with their trading houses, banks and social institutions remained a largely British domain, the Settlement area to its west was developed to accommodate the new arrivals. Two British race courses were unceremoniously built over as upwards of half a million Chinese poured in to the British Settlement. Drinking champagne by the crate was the order of the day and the original English street names were translated to those of Chinese provinces and cities to keep everybody happy.
In the early years of the 20th century, and particularly after the end of World War I, booming business confidence found expression in a desire to build big and tall. Money was pouring into the city in the 1920s and property and land values in on the Bund reached their zenith in 1929 when the saying 'Shanghai Mud, Shanghai Gold,' had never rung so true - values had increased around 1,000% between 1923 and 1932. The population of the British Settlement, covering just 8.3 square miles, had doubled to around one million between 1910 and 1930. Between 1920 and 1925, no less than seven new buildings were built on the shores of the Bund and a tidal wave of redevelopment was roaring westwards.
Mr. Hibbard talks in this lecture of the history and present of many of the most famous buildings on the Bund. These include the Asia Building (No. 1), which housed the Shanghai offices of British oil company Shell, the Shanghai Club (No. 3), which was the principal social club for the British in Shanghai, the Russel & Co. Building (No. 9), for the major British trading house and the HSBC Building (No. 12), built in 1923 and perhaps the most magnificent building on the Bund, complete with marble and wrought iron shipped from England. Next was the Customs House (No. 13), which was built in 1927 and is a fine example of British municipal architecture on a grand scale, with a clock and bell built in England in imitation of Big Ben, the Chartered Bank Building (No. 18), housing the Shanghai headquarters of Standard Chartered Bank, then the Cathay Hotel, subsequently the Peace Hotel, which was for seven decades the finest hotel in Shanghai. Further along, the Jardine Matheson Building (No. 27) housed the powerful Jardine Matheson company, leading up to the enormous compound of several buildings housing the His Majesty's Consulate-General of the United Kingdom (No. 33, The Bund).
Shanghai-based Peter Hibbard has a background in urban planning and sociology, but decided to turn his attention to the development of the Chinese tourism industry in 1983. He was a visiting scholar at Hong Kong University's Centre of Asian Studies in 1985/86. He now specialises in researching the historical development of tourism in China and plotting the historical development of Shanghai. He has produced a wide range of publications and is author of the Shanghai section of Odyssey Guide's "Beijing and Shanghai: China's Hottest Cities" and "The Bund Shanghai: China Faces West". Mr Hibbard is currently project historian for the restoration of the north wing of the Peace Hotel and President of the recently resurrected Royal Asiatic Society China in Shanghai.
Members and their guests are most welcome to attend at HK$50 for Members and HK$100 for Members' guests and $150 for others.