Huangpu River passes thru Shanghai. There is a high and broad embankment on both sides of the River and this is called the Bund. The Bund has been the symbol of Shanghai for more than hundred years. Bund is an Indian word which means an embankment along a muddy waterfront and it is used in India very commonly. No one, however, can tell authoritatively as to how this word got transplanted in Shanghai!!
About one hundred and fifty years ago, there was nothing but mudflats on the sides of Huangpu River, which is tributary to the Yangtze River. It is said that the Burlaks hauled barges and vessels down the muddy and shallow waterways. And the tow path became the first road along Huangpu River. When a British company established an office in Shanghai in 1846, then started the history of the Bund. A 771 meters long wall was built as a safe guard against floods in the river. On the West side of the River, a group of 52 buildings came up, in Gothic, Roman, Baroque and mixed Oriental and Western styles. These buildings which extended along the Bund for 1500 meters housed foreign banks, the Customs House and hotels. Back then, these were called “World Architecture Panorama” for their variety of styles, and they made the Bund “the Wall Street in the East”.
Nowadays, Pudong, on the East side of the Bund has taken the title of the Financial Center of Shanghai. Many buildings in modern or futuristic styles have been built here and more are under planning. The more famous ones are Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Jin Mao Tower, and the 101-storey Shanghai World Financial Center to be finished by early summer of 2008. Classic buildings on the West and modern skyscrapers on the east side of the River compose the present picture of Metropolitan Shanghai. Within one century, Shanghai has turned from a small village on the sea in to the largest City in the Far East. It was also called Paris of the East one time!!
The Bund/Embankment is raised on both banks of the River and has spacious concrete walkways. There are places for people to sit and relax, look at the River and the buildings astride it. All kinds of seasonal flowers also grow in flower beds and pots. When the weather is good, it is an ideal place to have a stroll and get a good view of the Huangpu River, which is said to present three streams of colors in the sun; green from the sea, yellow from the Yangtze River, and greenish grey from the Huangpu River itself. The Bund is a famous land mark of Shanghai and many people come here to relax, eat and have fun and relaxation.
In the early morning, many people greet the rising sun, jogging, doing exercises, or playing Taiji (Shadow Boxing) on the Bund. Many groups can be seen doing different forms of Chinese physical exercises. A few have taped music playing too. A few people even fly multi color kites or just gaze at the river and river craft passing by. People seem to be in relaxing mood, taking it easy. The Bund provides clean air and serenity as compared to the near by busy and congested streets and is therefore a popular land mark.
The traffic in the river makes interesting viewing. There are many barges plying, some boats and even small ships as well. The river is quite deep it seems. There are a number of bridges over the River for road traffic where as the subway passes under it.
One can see many eating places including in boats anchored by the side of the Bund,though closed in the morning. As evening arrives, these come to life and every thing is lighted up with multi colored lights, Chinese lanterns. Hundreds of people come to walk and relax on the Bund. Local families, lovers, tourists all come here. The shimmering reflections of lights in the water, make the river fascinating to watch. Eating in one of the floating restaurants on the boats is so romantic and pleasant experience indeed. At places soft music can also be heard, which enhances the mood. A visit to the Bund and time spent there is important facet of visit to Shanghai and well worth it.