This article gives a broad overview of the tourist attractions of the city, highlighting a few features--but then makes the claim at the end that no feature is as notorious or memorable as its night life. Keep in mind this was in 1926, before the nightlife of the city was transformed and galvanized by the Chinese interest in ballroom dancing and taxi-dance halls. The clubs alluded to in this article probably include the Del Monte, which was known as a late-night haunt where people could enjoy the wee hours and finish off the long night with a breakfast of ham and eggs. I will post more tourist/visitor accounts of the city's nightlife anon.
Shanghai—“The Paris of Asia” is a Haven of Pleasure for Thousands of Tourists
By Geo. J. McCarthy
China Weekly Review, Dec. 4 1926
Why does Shanghai rank with the world tourists as the most popular place in the entire Orient? What is the lure of Shanghai above every other city, not only in China, but in the entire OrienT? Is it because of any one outstanding scenic feature? No, Shanghai has none. Is it due to any other single feature or many different features which are not offered by other cities all over the world or more particularly, by other cities of the Orient? No, Shanghai cannot claim any special attraction for tourists, the like of which might be used by other cities as advertising features for drawing visitors. The attraction of Shanghai to the visitor must be that indefinable and undefined thing which we old-timers designate as "The Lure of the East."
The purpose of this article is to show the volume and value of the so-called “tourist trade,” which passes through Shanghai every day of the year. Many and varied are the channels through which this vast traffic comes to our doors. To describe its sources would require a map of the world and the simple statement that our visitors come from practically every country on the map. From the East, from the North, South and West, and all points in between the human stream is ever flowing and ebbing, with every change of the tide on the old Whangpoo, nor can we overlook the arrivals and departures at the railway terminals.
Visitors Come In Various Crafts
They come to us in all manner of craft, ranging from the great steamers from America or Europe, down through the varying sizes of China coasters, to the well known and easily navigated sampan, and not a few have arrived via the air route. The very variety of craft makes it impossible to strike a fair average of the number of arrivals per day. And, besides, there is somewhat of a difference between the regular and casual visitors, and that genus homo known as "The tourist."
This is a story of "The tourist" and therefore We are not dealing with the commercial man from all over the world, who comes here to sell his wares, nor the business man of Tientsin arriving to fix up a little deal, nor the Chinese politician from Peking or Canton who seeks relaxation from the cares of office. Neither shall we consider the “foreign missie” arriving from any of the nearby cities, possibly to have a look at a new French frock, and to take back home with her a head of fresh lettuce and a few other necessities.
These are all the regular traffic, borne hither from points close at hand, making a mighty total in the course of a year, not only as regards volume, but more especially as concerns the vast amount of money disbursed by them in Shanghai.
Now let us consider that resident of America, or of England; of France, Australia or any other place in the world, who starts out on what is nowadays the easiest thing in the world to do,--viz., take a trip around the world. That places him or her in the real, true, hard-boiled "tourist" class, and that is the man and the woman, the youth and the maid, the boy and the girl, or, indeed, the whole family, that we shall now take up and analyze. Shanghai may well devote a little time and study to this class of visitors. No one can say with certainty, just how many of these world travellers cross the Customs Jetty in the course of a month or a year.
The Round-the-World Tourist
Did you ever notice in the shipping section of your daily newspaper, under the headings of "List of Arrivals,"and "List of Departures," the large number of steamers coming and going every day. Do you know that there is seldom an arrival that does not bring tourists, nor a departure that does not carry them on to the next port? Do you know that some of these steamers bring fifty tourists? Or seventy-five, or a hundred? These are not exaggerated figures. The great steamship lines could not operate if these averages were not fairly well maintained throughout the year. How about the “world cruise” ships, five or six of which anchor at the mouth of the Whangpoo every winter? How many of the strictly dyed-in-the-wool “tourists” do they bring up to Shanghai? They cannot afford to leae their docks in America unless there are at least four hundred first-cabin passengers aboard, all booked to sail around the world. Last season there were five of these great cruise steamers at Woosung, which means that in December and January at least 2500 tourists “came, saw, and were conquered” in Shanghai.
The great passenger liners of the Admiral Line, Canadian Pacific, Dollar Line and Nippon Yu Kaisha are all arriving at regular fortnightly, or more frequent intervals, each carrying its quota of tourists. The Dollar Line steamers, which particularly cater to the tourist traffic originating in America and destined around-the-world, arrive every week, and a crowd of tourists flock from them to the marts and places and bright lights of Shanghai.
Tourist a Heavy Spender
Coming from the other direction, that is, originating beyond Suez and traveling eastward, the steamers of the P. & O., the French Mail, the German Mail and the Italian lines, each bring their quota of tourists.
The Shanghai resident, unless he may be visited by a tourist friend, is hardly aware of these visitors. But ask the hotel proprietor, or inquire of the merchant, as to the volume of the traffic, and the value of its trade. How much money do they leave behind them? Sometimes the purse strings are tightly drawn because the bulk of the bank roll went into the steamship ticket, but, taken as a class, your tourist is a heavy spender. He must be, otherwise he couldn’t afford to be a tourist. The money spent in Shanghai comes from all over the world, and, conversely, the souvenirs bought in Shanghai find their way to all countries, and the stories of experiences in Shanghai are told wherever there is an ear to hear.
Attractions of Shanghai
Frequently the claim is heard that certain cities are “the crossroads of the world.” What city, other than Shanghai, has a better right to the designation? Certainly no other city in the world has a more cosmopolitan population within its corporate limits. That means there is an attraction here for the nations of the world. What better proof is required, as showing the variety of nations and peoples resident in Shanghai than to say that the government of the city is shared or participated in by more than a dozen different nationals? This fact, in itself, is a magnet to the man who would study and witness at firsthand, a most unique form of city government. The tourist listens with open-mouthed wonderment at the story of Shanghai's government, and is intensely interested when told that he is passing from one concession into another. He wants to know the whys and wherefores of the English concession, of the Chinese city, or “Frenchtown.”
It is frequently the case that the ordinary everyday citizen may sometime fail, because of long association and contact, to fully appreciate the highlights in what may be regarded as the stellar attractions of one's "home town.' Possibly this is true to a very large extent as regards the attitude of Shanghai’s residents to the various places and things which find high favor with the casual tourist who drops into Shanghai with a fund of information gleaned from a careful perusal of guidebooks, and is intent "doing" them all, or, as the American tourist naively puts its, “let's see the whole works.”
Native City a Big Attraction
The Shanghai resident, the “old China hand,” probably has not paid a visit to “The Chinese City,” or, to again quote the tourist, "The Native City," for, lo, these many moons. It may be said, judged from a considerable experience in handling tourists, that the greatest single attraction which Shanghai seems to hold for the new arrival, is “The Native City.” The various guide-books, encyclopedaie and fellow travellers have painted pictures of the wonderful sights which may be seen in the Chinese section of Shanghai, and the tourist arrives with a mental picture of "Life in Chinatown," which would furnish material , for the most thrilling of ten- twenty and thirty cent melodramas, in which Chinese pirates, tong wars, gambling and opium dens, smugglers' caves and desperate kidnappers are to play a large part. The reaction to the disappointment of finding none of these things is often amusing, but is invariably short-lived, because Shanghai offers so many counter attractions, all infinitely more desirable.
Notwithstanding that none of the “thrillers” are to be found in Nantao, it is a fact that the majority of tourists seem to get the greatest “kick” out of that section. The close hand observance of the Chinese artists and craftsmen busily engaged in their occupations, the ivory carvers, the makers of mah-jongg tiles, the water pipe sellers, the glittering display of “near diamonds” in the jewelry shops, the bird market, the two-stringed “fiddle” makers, the musical spinning top demonstrations, the open-air sidewalk “chow shop,” and last, but not least, the famous old Willow Ware tea house, are, individually and collectively, sufficient to make up for what has failed to materialize in the way of first anticipations.
And then comes the visit to the old temples in “The City.” Here the tourist imagination runs riot, and it would be an easy matter to sell the idea that Confucius himself was the architect and builder of any one of the old structures. The story of “The Day Jossman and the Night ]ossman” in the old Buddhist temple, or of the sixty images—"one piecee for every year how old you are," is followed and swallowed with relish. A stroll through the quaint old rock gardens, with their setting of dragon roofed houses, splendid subjects of the Chinese architect's skill is the final “knock-out” of the trip to the city. Unless, perchance, the thoughtful guide has arranged for ademonstration in force by the beggar's guild, or, even more thrilling, that a leper (of the non-contagious made-to order variety) shall exhibit his affliction, either of which makes a fitting finish to the day's sightseeing.
Shanghai Shopping Lure
The casual visitors to Shanghai find great enjoyment in roaming about the shopping district, and bargaining at the various shops, of which, the silk stores seem to have the first call, particularly for the gentler sex, although "Father" frequently may gratify his desire for a life-time supply of silk shirts. Mother and the girls, however, soon learn where are to be found the latest creations of lingerie, or, to use the American term, "silk undies," and are not slow in finding their way to the establishments on Bubbling Well and Yates Roads. Often it seems that every woman landing in Shanghai has heard of "The Convents," and is intent on viewing the exhibits of fine linen. Mandarin coats also have been the subject of special study, and many a long-felt want has been filled with a coat of gorgeous silk, particularly featuring floral embroidery and done with the Peking stitch.
Automobile drives about the city or through the outlying districts always are enjoyed by the visitors, who are impressed with the street scenes of the busy and congested downtown sections, and greatly interested in the attractive drives through the countryside, particularly in the spring coloring of the rice paddies, and the countless mounds of graves.
Now that we have hastily reviewed most of the attractions and features of Shanghai, somewhat similarly from the top of a "rubberneck wagon," let's get down to business and try to analyze the one real attraction, the single greatest pleasure which the tourist has received or experienced during his visit here. What is it that will stand out preeminently in their later recollections of Shanghai? After the steamer has sailed and they have had time to wonder what it is all about, what is the headline feature that seems to overshadow all other memories of Shanghai? Is it the impressions of the crowded downtown sections, or the shops filled with silks, satins, laces, linens or curios? Is it the drive through the lovely green countryside? None of these, nor yet it is not even the “Native City.”
Shanghai After Dark
Only one more guess remains: Was it the gay, glittering, glaring, glorious, dancing, singing, playing, rollicking and boisterous NIGHT LIFE? A-t-t-a B-o-y!! That’s it. After the steamer has sailed down the river, the gentle breezes have overheard many a confession somewhat like this:
“Dear old Shanghai! Don’t you love it! Oh, we had the most wonderful time there! We stayed up ‘til three o’clock in the morning and we didn’t want to quit then. We had a grand dinner and danced till one o’clock, and then we got into some automobiles and went to another place and had a few cool drinks and a few dances there, and then into the cars again to another place for some more drinks and dances. And then we had some wonderful ham and eggs, and coffee or beer, and then Father said we must go home and rest, because we had to go out again the next night and the same thing over again.”
Sounds natural, doesn’t it? You know the kind they mean, don’t you? Yes, indeed, you don’t have to entertain your tourists in Shanghai,--just turn ‘em loose and let Nature takes its course. In Shanghai, Nature is a grand old guide. Nature is life, Nature loves life, yea, boy! Nature loves her NIGHT LIFE too. The one-great, impelling cause or reason for a trip around the world, is “to study life.” That’s what they say. And, later, when you hear them telling about it, a sort of a sneaky suspicion comes creeping in that, no matter how hard they studied the common, every-day life in the rest of the world, they certainly “crammed” their study of NIGHT-LIFE in Shanghai.
It may be true that Shanghai pays little heed to, nor gives much time or attention to the tourist. But the tourist always retains a bright warm spot in the heart for Shanghai.