Cruise services to open on Suzhou Creek by year-end
Cruising experiences on the Seine, Thames or Danube rivers usually become key memories of tourists from their visits to the world's great cities.
And Shanghai will soon add a name to the top of the list with Suzhou Creek, known as the "mother river" of the city.
Cruise ships will sail along the downtown section of the creek by the end of 2022, enabling both citizens and tourists to enjoy riverside scenery while learning about the city's culture and history, according to Shanghai's housing and construction management commission.
The creek has been a backdrop to some dramatic events in the city's history since Shanghai was opened as a treaty port in 1843. It was the scene of much wartime suffering and also the birthplace of China's earliest national industries.
The downtown section is a misnomer for a 125-kilometer waterway that originates in Taihu Lake in Jiangsu Province and winds through the cities of Suzhou, Kunshan and Shanghai before finally emptying into Huangpu River.
The city's early foreign settlers named the 54-kilometer section in Shanghai after Suzhou, the upstream terminus for boat travel.
Waterfront areas of the creek have been fully opened, including a continuous riverside walkway and preserved industrial heritage sites, since the end of 2020.
The riverside development spanning 42 kilometers has involved the districts of Huangpu, Hongkou, Jing'an, Putuo, Changning and Jiading. Each is presenting unique waterfront attractions.
According to the blueprint for the cruise service, some "water bus" or cruise ship routes will connect culture and tourism resources on the creek banks. Characteristic micro tourism trips on both the waterway and land will be developed for tourists to deeply explore the city.
The Suzhou Creek cruise service initially started in 2010 but was later suspended.
Construction will start soon on new docks for both the sightseeing cruise and ferry services. The sites for the first batch of docks include Caojiadu in Putuo District as well as Fengling Greenbelt, Zhujiabang and Zongjinggang in Changning, the commission said.
"The waterfront area of the creek will become the 'backyard garden' of local citizens," said Zhu Jianhao, deputy director of the commission.
Key historic attractions along the future cruise service route include:
Shanghai Rowing Club, Huangpu District
As a key project in the eastern section, the history of the Shanghai Rowing Club is highlighted. The club was established in about 1859 for British settlers who came to the city after Shanghai opened its port to the world in 1843.
Although the original boathouse was demolished in 1989, the main building and an archway of the west wing have been preserved. The remaining building was built in 1905 in a style reflecting both Victorian and Edwardian styles.
The rowing club, along with the nearby former British Consulate and Union Church, has become a historical marker of early British settlement.
Architects restored the original structures of the club houses, with steel shelving for climbing plants. The remains of a former swimming pool have been converted into a riverside café.
Embankment Building, Hongkou District
The 85-year-old Embankment Building, dubbed the "No. 1 Apartment Building in the Far East," is Shanghai's earliest and largest riverview residence along the creek. Financed by real estate tycoon Victor Sassoon, the horizontal "S" design is consistent with the creek's curves and also represents the "S" in his name.
Sassoon demolished the alley community on Beisuzhou Road that was financed by his company in 1887, and replaced it with an eight-story apartment building – The Embankment – the largest in the city at the time.
One of the few fancy buildings with a view of the creek, it was equipped with eight entrances, seven staircases, elevators, a heating system, a swimming pool and more than 700 rooms, most rented to foreigners.
The building's architectural and historical value qualified it for the second batch of city-level protected buildings. It has become a key attraction in the downtown section of the creek.
Fufeng Flour Factory, Putuo District
To highlight the history of the site, four buildings of the former Fufeng Flour Factory have been preserved and incorporated in a new commercial complex, Tian An 1000 Trees, dubbed as the city's Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
The Fufeng Flour Factory, which became Shanghai Flour Factory in the 1960s, was owned by the Rong brothers, Zongjing and Desheng – tycoons known as China's "kings of flour and textiles."
Rong Desheng's son Rong Yiren was vice president of China from 1993 to 1998. He set up the China International Trust and Investment Corp, or CITIC, in 1978.
A former bell tower of the factory has been converted into a sightseeing elevator. The tower is wrapped in rusty boards to highlight its history. Other historical buildings will house an art gallery and restaurants.
St John's University, Changning District
Walls and fences are being demolished between the East China University of Political Science and Law in Changning and the 900-meter-long riverside area to allow visitors to closely see some of the more than century-old East-meets-West buildings in the legendary St John's University area.
The creekside section is expected to become the "Pearl of Suzhou Creek" due to its beautiful landscape and unique historical ambiance.
The St John's University was founded in 1879 and became China's first school with full English lessons in 1881. It was also the country's first modern church college. Five schools and an affiliated middle school had been set up by 1949.
Famous alumni of the university include diplomat Wellington Koo, influential writers Lin Yutang and Eileen Chang, then Chinese Vice President Rong Yiren and journalist and publisher Zou Taofen.
With a motto of "Light & Truth," the university was once the best in China and dubbed the "Oriental Harvard."
The university license was revoked in 1949, with different departments being allocated to other local universities, including Fudan, Tongji and Jiao Tong as well as East China Normal University. The campus and multiple historical buildings belong to East China University of Political Science and Law.