Shanghai unique history is a fascinating. To know about the people, lifestyle, art and culture, I decide to visit the Shanghai Municipal History Museum (Chinese: 上海市历史博物馆; pinyin: Shànghǎi Shì Lìshǐ Bówùguǎn). It’s located at the base of Oriental Pearl Tower, Pudong, since 2001.


The Museum is previously named Shanghai History and Construction Museum in 1950, then named Shanghai History and Cultural Relics Showroom in 1983. In 1991 it’s established as Shanghai History Museum located at Hongqiao Road before moved to its current location.

The primary showrooms showcase the history of Shanghai from 1843 to 1949, covering the establishment of foreign settlement to the lifestyle, society, city development, urban architecture and culture for 100 years.

Right at the entrance, there’s this wicked looking Wedding Sedan Chair, as a part of the museum collection.


Wedding Sedan Chair with one hundred children (pearls)

The Wedding Sedan Chair was made by a shop in Old Shanghai “Wu Hua Hao” in 1927 for his son’s wedding, Zhou Zongyu. 10 Carpenters carved numereous figures from operas and stories. Sedan chair was used in the 19th century, but not as eloborated as the wedding sedan chair.


Details of the carving.

The exhibition open with the History of Traffic.


Transportation in Shanghai is a mix of old and new. Carriages, for example, was introduced by the European countries in 1850’s. Richshaws were introduced by the Japanese in 1873 and were called “dong yang che” and pedicabs on the Shanghai street in 1923. Cars started appearing since the early 21st century.


Buick Sedan 1940’s


Public Transportation, trackless busses in the 1930’s

Features of the Old City

The highlight of the museum is the wax figures depicting the life of the Shanghainese. A brief history ,China is famous for its discovery in compass, gun powder, paper making and typography but not so much in commerce. Shanghai area was once upon a time agriculture and trade community. Shanghai was formally a county at 1291 during the Yuan dynasty. After the Qing Dynasty, Shanghai become a town.


The Feng (Phoenix) Pavilion diorama. The Pavilion was built in Yuan Dynasty and rebuilt in Ming Dynasty under the protection of the Goddess Mazu. It was facing the Huangpu River to the east. Sadly, it was dismantled in 1912.


Wheelbarrows, another passenger and cargo transportation.

Since the economy is rising, the merchants initiated their first guild in Qing Dynasty. There are wax figures to show case the merchants and skilled trade such as metal workers/blacksmith, sea products merchant, food seller, bamboo shop, soy sauce, wine and pickle shop, textile and restaurants.


Textile and tailor shop





Chinese Medicine / Herb shop


Replica of the olden days wall/house

Foreign Concessions

Problems brewing from the foreigners in 1840’s. They estavlishe concessios and western areas for their business. It’s like a diplomatic area where the embassy have their own area with their own regulation and custom. Other foreign countries also force Shanghai to open its door to international trade. Urban development increase with semi-colonial settlement for foreigners and turn Shanghai into a modern society.


Take for example the battle of Wusong as depicated in the diorama above, the British invade China in 1842 and started the Opium War.


The present day Yan’an Road East was once a creek, the painting showing a line between British settlement and French Concession. It was turned into a road in 1915 and was named Avenue Edward VII, after the British monarch.


Looks like an advertisement on the telephone pole at Avenue Joffre (now Huaihai Road), named after the French Commander. Heh.


The divide between the rich and the poor.


Opium Den

It’s disheathening seeing the gap between the Chinese people, the poor and the rich become wider. Working with the foreigners were not easy either. Money issues, gambling and opium smoking houses invested Shanghai are some of the problems at that time.

The Metropolis with Foreign adventure

Shanghai was introduced with Western culture and education. The growth of consumerism and trade expand in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Shanghai become the modern China’s commercial, financial and cultural center of the East.


A model of the Huangpu River


A model of Wangping Street or the Newspaper street with at least 10 news publications. The street become the news window of the East by the 1920’s.


Miniature bedroom in Chinese home



Tobacco Packaging


“Small Garden” area for women’s shoes at the present Guangxi Road and Zhejiang Road.


Perfume bottle packaging design in Chinese style


A Shanghainese Woman wearing cheongsam


Western style Stock and Goods Exchange. The miniature showing the Wheat Flour exchange in 1921.


Old telephone operator


Tushanwan Potrait Art and Handicraft Bureau at Xujiahui was the earliest teaching of Western fine arts by foreign teachers in paintings and scupture.


Nanjing Road after 1917

Foreign firms in Foreign city. After becoming a trade port in 1843, there were at least 120 foeign companies in Shanghai by the late 19th century.


The Bund in 1940’s, a gallery of building architecture in Shanghai.

Last click:


Oriental Pearl Tower at night with all the colourful lights.

Source: Shanghai Municipal History Museum