The significance of waters powering Shanghai's growth

Cen Tianxu
Shanghai's genesis and evolution are inextricably linked to water, with its core entangled with its watery environment.
Cen Tianxu
The significance of waters powering Shanghai's growth
Wang Jiabin

The 2022 Head of Shanghai River Regatta is held on Suzhou Creek.

Born from water, thriving through water, evolving by water, and being beautified by water, the city of Shanghai has an inseparable connection with water in its formation and development, with its essence intertwined with its aquatic surroundings.

As the mighty waves sweep eastward, the interaction between the river and the sea carries vast amounts of silt. Over the years, this accumulation and shaping process on this ancient eastern land has transformed Shanghai into fertile fields. Water has shaped and continues to influence and transform Shanghai, both in the present and the future.

Around the globe, there are many cities that derive their unique charms from the rivers that flow through them. For Shanghai, Suzhou Creek plays a vital role. Throughout history, it has threaded through the city’s development, influencing various aspects of everyday life for its residents.

By the end of 2020, the 42-kilometer Suzhou Creek riverside in urban districts had been almost fully connected, which, as a result, not only brought changes to the daily lives of local residents but also injected new vitality into the development of various districts along the creek.

In the Huangpu section, by integrating old area renovations and urban renewal, a 2.9-kilometer stretch along Nansuzhou Road has been transformed into a vibrant and culturally rich area with a strong haipai (Shanghai-style) vibe.

The Hongkou section, with an aim to build the city’s “most beautiful riverfront parlor,” has been committed to crafting a high-quality waterfront public space with historical and cultural allure.

Suhewan, a brand-new landmark in Shanghai, highlights the Jing’an section, which aims to combine “water, culture, greenery and community” and develop into a hub for both leisure and business.

In the Putuo section, enhancing residential community quality and transforming land use along the creek have remained a priority for the district government, which also spares no effort promoting the “Half Marathon Suzhou Creek” brand.

And the Changning section features 11.3 kilometers of fitness trails that link historical and waterfront scenic spots, showcasing the area’s historical heritage and natural beauty.

The Office of Shanghai Chronicles recently released “Shanghai Illustrated: Suzhou Creek,” which meticulously curates and presents the vast visual and textual resources accumulated over the years about this famous river in Shanghai. Featuring close to 300 images and 100,000 words, this book vividly captures the extraordinary evolution of this historic river, offering a captivating journey for all who cherish the essence of Shanghai.

Inspired by this book, an exhibition titled “Suzhou Creek: Renewal, from the East to the West” will be hosted at Palais Brongniart in Paris, France, on April 18–19, a major activity held to launch the “Our Water Season 1 in Paris” series event that is designed to foster intercultural dialogues and exchange and enhance connection among global cities.

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