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People’s Square
People’s Square

A Trendy Attraction


Everyone walking out of the Shanghai Race Club Apartment is eye-catching for the fashion style even if he or she carries a vegetable basket. The Shanghai Racecourse, which used to be well known far and near, has faded away with the traces of horseshoes covered by the roads as the square is now returned to the people only with the trails of history blowing in the wind.


Growth of the Square

Square and round, the beauty of symmetry is also a trend.

The People’s Square took shape with the opening of Shanghai as a commercial port but the square at that time bore little resemblance to its present version. Only the Shanghai Race Club Apartment located on East Yan’an Road near Wusheng Road drops us a hint of the turbulent society in history a century ago. The 8-storey building in the shape of horseshoe was designed and built in the 1930s specially for the royal family members and noblemen to watch the horse races.

On the extremely costly section of central Shanghai, the place of the People’s Square used to be the “No. 1 Racecourse in the Far East”. During the period of the Opium War, W. Hogg, a British man, rode a horse to run a circle starting from the place of the entrance of Shanghai No. 1 Department Store westward and then southward, and fixed the area of the race course according to the horseshoe prints. What about the inhabitants there? They inevitably suffered the forced demolition and relocation. Only few “nail households” resisted and refused to move away completely, resulting in a stone “Paifang (dolmen)” of Xu’s Family standing in the race course until the Liberation of Shanghai.

The passed down valuable photos show the unparallel prosperity of the race course with the galloping race horses in the course and the shouting spectators on the stands with horse racing lottery tickets in their hands and the greedy desire on their faces. Almost all the old Shanghai natives know an old saying “The Champagne tickets are everywhere, sucking the blood of the Chinese people and filling the purse of the boss of the race course.” From 1920 to 1939, the 400-plus-mu race course shockingly collected total revenue of RMB150 million.

The chaotic and degenerate era of adventure featuring the life of luxury and dissipation eventually came to an end. After the Liberation of Shanghai, the military control commission ordered the withdrawal of the ownership of the race course. At the ceremony for expanding and rebuilding on September 7, 1951, the plot witnessing the twists and turns of the history was officially named “People’s Square”. Pan Hannian, then Vice Mayor of Shanghai, declared, “Now it has been returned to the people. Relying on our own hard work, we will turn this plot into a useful place benefiting the people. We will build the square into a venue for Shanghai people’s activities and entertainment and the paradise for Shanghai People.”

Covering the southern part of the original race course and an area of 93,000 square meters, the newly opened People's Square was nearly in the shape of a semicircle with Middle Tibet Road on the east, North Huangpi Road on the west, Wusheng Road on the south and the People’s Park on the north. With the 2-storey 8-column round pavilion, spacious area, green lawns, swimming fish in the pond full of lotuses and splashing artificial waterfalls, the People’s Park on the north changed the race course filled with foul atmosphere into a picturesque public attraction as well as a major attraction in Shanghai at that time. The people's Avenue was beginning to take shape then but the cinder road was much less spectacular than now.

On October 1, 1952, the first National Day after the completion of the new People's Square, a 1-million-people parade was held with the square as the center. All the facilities, including the reviewing stand and the visitors’ stand in the center, flat and broad People’s Avenue, the original Shanghai Library and Shanghai Sports Palace in the northwest and the bustling Nanjing Road and Tibet Road to the northeast, spread their arms to embrace the crowds as if they had woken up from deep sleep. From the 1950s to the 1970s, as a major venue for the political and social activities in Shanghai, the People’s Square witnessed the ups and downs in the history.


Fresh Aspirations before our Eyes

If we compare the People's Square to a beauty, experiencing turbulence, she lived an unhappy in her youth. After that, she finally ushered in the days of peace and joy. Since the comprehensive reconstruction project of the People’s Square started in September, 1992, the square has embarked on the way to modern styles. It took only 2 years and 9 months to complete both the comprehensive reconstruction project and the landscaping project, but people had grown accustomed to the amazing “Shanghai speed” by the time 20 years ago when the People’s Square was unveiled to show its dazzling beauty before people’s eyes. In the fine days, people came to the square from all directions with children toddling, lovers hand in hand, and the 3,000 peace doves spreading the wings to take off or feeding on the food in visitors’ hands.
After the completion of the overall reconstruction, People’s Square, along with People's Park, has served as two green lungs in the center of Shanghai. The square features 57% of the main architecture built underground like a romantic palace, where, when you walk through the long underground passage connecting the Subway Line 1, the bustling Hong Kong Mall Street appears before your eyes with the fresh and lively aspirations.

The great changes once made the new square unfamiliar to people as even the children living in the surrounding alleys would doubt whether they were natives born here in Shanghai when visiting the square. The bird’s-eye view shows a straight axis starting from Wusheng Road on the south, going through the center of Shanghai Museum, Pujiang Light Central Square, People's Avenue and People’s Building and reaching People's Park and Nanjing Road to form a perfect circle, which demonstrates the beauty of symmetry that Chinese people have appreciated traditionally with the attractions distributed symmetrically along the axis. What a luxury to have such beauty in peace and a tranquil place in downtown area with the green plants in our eyes, and the granite trails and the chairs waiting for the visitors!

In fact, an interesting story occurred in the course. Some experts suggested building a White House-like square. The reality of Shanghai with a large visitors flow 100 times of that in New York would inevitably result in the restrictions for the visitors on the lawns, which is obviously not people oriented. Some people proposed more of the decorated trails and flower verandas, which would seem to be messy. In the end, various advantages were taken into account to result in the 80,000-square-meter green People’s Square.

Fortunately it is not a White House-like square, otherwise, the beautiful lawns would be forbidden to the visitors. Now the People’s Square see the music fountains, flying white doves, clean and spacious People’s Avenue and the fashionable young people. Of course, it is also peaceful inside in the prosperity of the outside world.


A Tale of Two Towers

Trend: Loving Art, Theatre and the City

The People’s Square is the very center of Shanghai while the Grand Theatre and the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall are the two towers in the center with the former interpreting the modern times and the latter commemorating the history.

The art of theatre has long been well developed in Shanghai with anything popular staged to pursue the trend as the area of the People’s Square used to cluster the cinemas and theatres to serve as the “Broadway in China”. However, the urban art should be improved to a new level. It was in the Grand Theatre that the audiences learned when to applaud. The new theatre has also brought in more excellent shows and it is like a container cultivating people’s aesthetics.

As the most advanced theater currently in China, the Grand Theatre, located at 300, the People’s Avenue, is an open palace as well as a continuation of the landscape. The whole building is in the shape of the Chinese character “Yi (art)” as we all believe that music and art are definitely able to heal the wounds of history. At night the Shanghai Grand Theater is as bright as a crystal palace. Anyone entering the theatre for the first time would be amazed by its grandeur although so far many residents have never visited or seen any show at the theatre. It is hard to see all the scenery of the 3-storey building at a time. At the 2,000-square-meter leisure section in the lobby, the visitors would be impressed by the precious Greek crystal white marble in the shape of keys sounding like music when stepped on. The Grand Theatre has an irreplaceable position in the eyes of the Shanghai people.

The Grand Theatre has its own system as all the insiders know that the director, no matter how distinguished, can not take the audience’s seats when directing the shows, let alone smoking in the theatre. Any trendy thing may have some strict rules as its source of thriving which will secure its foundation and long-term development.

On August 28, 1998, Shanghai Grand Theatre saw its opening show, the “Swan Lake” by the National Ballet of China. At 17:15 pm, the theatre welcomed the audience with flowing light and colors, spacious steps, spouting fountains, palace-like crystallization and clearness. Some fortunate visitors said it was like the Great Hall of the People and some said it was like a royal theatre, but the most impressive comment was, “The Grand Theatre is simple in fact.” At the time when the material life is affluent, what the people eagerly need is the spiritual life.

In the 10-year-plus history of the Grand Theatre, many artists have had their unforgettable experiences. Huang Doudou was so nervous to direct his first play at the theatre that he had a fever when he directed the rehearsal on a drip. After that although he performed dozens of shows at the theatre, the orchestra pit and the passages were so complicated that he lost his way almost each time. Therefore, he had to draw the road map in advance and calculate the accurate time of every step to avoid any failure in the performances; Jin Xing used to have arguments with the security guards; Tan Dun has arranged all the China premieres of his new works at the theatre as he finds the theatre has maintained the high level over the years; Meng Jinghui has been delighted that his new works have always been well received by the Shanghai People, who have strong interests in experiencing novelties. Once he shouted to the actor on the stage, “Isn’t it a great experience to perform in this theatre!” during the rehearsal.

For over a decade, almost all of the world-class artists have performed on the stage of Shanghai Grand Theatre such as Carreras and Pavarotti. Seen from above, the theatre is like a treasure bowl as well as a chess board with transparent walls, rhythm-like vertical lines and music-feeling curved roofs, which seem to play a romantic song inquiring about your Shanghai dreams.

Trend: Wealth of History, Story of Today, Prospects of Future

A city should spare a place to protect its memory.

So many old buildings have been demolished and so many stories and so much history have been bulldozed. A city without the old buildings to store memories can only leave the impression of superficiality like an upstart. The culture-conscious people are calling for reviving the ruined historical traces in other forms to show our reverence. The Urban Planning Exhibition Hall is such a place for Shanghai.
Located on the left of the municipal government building on People’s Square, the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall is coordinated with the Shanghai Grand Theatre on the other side with the crystal and white color and the same nimble and about-to-fly building style. The history of the changes of the city from opening up as a commercial port to today is preserved in the hall. In the first spring of the new century, Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall themed “City, People, Environment, Development” was officially opened to the residents.

A city usually has the wealth of history, the stories of today and the prospects of the future. As the largest professional exhibition hall for urban construction in the world, the building is where people commemorate the vicissitudes of the city. The model of the “Historical Monument”, the sculpture of “Morning of Shanghai” and the “Relocation of A Million Residents” in the lobby record the contributions made by every unknown person. All the skyscrapers and famous buildings gathered on the rotating round base, including Oriental Pearl Tower, Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai Museum, are so bright in the rising sun with flying seagulls.

A planning exhibition hall should leave the visitors with aftertastes of interest and implications. The valuable historical photos on the walls demonstrate the sharp contrasts between the days 50 years ago and at present in Shanghai. Today, the vicissitudes and the wrinkles of old Shanghai have been ironed out, the history has unveiled a new chapter, and the old urban appearance of the time of the race course has been replaced by a radiant new Shanghai. 

The designers’ ambition is apparently to concentrate the whole Shanghai city here with the background of the silver color. Looking down at the city where we live, we feel familiar as well as strange. Instead of being sustained only by the world-class huge buildings, Shanghai’s future should depend on beautiful and livable environment, fresh and pleasant air, clean and spacious streets, tidy and attractive buildings and the parks with green lawns and Huangpu River with clean green water, and more importantly, the residents qualified for the “ideal modern city inhabitants”. What should every one of us do to promote the modernization of Shanghai in the future?


Cluster of Trends

Recommendation of Trendy Stores at People’s Square

If you are young, fashionable, cool, trendy, stylish, insightful, and courageous, then the most IN stores at People’s Square are the must on your shopping plans.


HappyTee (People’s Square Store)
As a Shanghai-native original designer brand, HappyTee is highly distinctive on the street, incorporating the lively and artistic patterns in the designs of T-shirts and sweaters, one of which you will finally find suitable whether you are pursuing art, nothing unusual or uniqueness, or else lovers.


Master Mo (Hong Kong Mall Street Store)
Although expensive and without any discounts the whole year, the jeans in the store may make you join the trendy in no time with the coolest embroidery of tigers, leopards or dragons. With the excellent styles, the brand has long been a target for fashion pursuers.


NOVO Concept (Raffles City Store)
NOVO means “new concept” in Latin. Although NOVO Concept only occupies a corner in Raffles City because of the costly rental, many people come for the Japanese trendy brands such as Sagawa Fujii’s wood-frame glasses, Ans’s accessories and the wears of West Mill and Evisu.


MGS (Hong Kong Mall Street Store)
Inexpensive while excellent in quality, the store is actually selling designs besides the products. In the artistic internal decorations and the Thai music, you may have unexpected findings when selecting rings or aglets.


Nokia Customer Service Experience Center (Fuzhou Road Store)
Isn’t it trendier to have a Nokia which sticks to its own style when almost every one has an iPhone? With only a small area, the experience center on the Fuzhou Road provides original fittings and excellent after-sale services. It is shameful here to provide services only after payment.


CAFéDU METRO (Huasheng Street Store)
Living an unconventional life and having a sense of romance and independence, the French people can always find ways to lead the fashion. I’m afraid that there is nothing trendier in Shanghai than sitting in the crowded subway station to have a lunch. How cool to sit inside to have coffee, taste red wine or even enjoy the tuna pancake with throngs of passengers out of the windows!


Pikapika Photo Sticker (Raffles City Store)
It is usual to make photo stickers but it is trendy to make photo stickers in this store. What is special here? The store boasts the first photo sticker machine in Shanghai introduced from Japan and the authentic DIY process. With the dream-like lovely settings of the princess’s bedroom, the adequate lighting and the drawings on the ready photos, the girls may not be tired of staying in the store even for a day. If you want to preserve the photos, they may be uploaded to your mobile phones via Wi-Fi.


What For (Raffles City Store)
The designs of the brand follow the line of fashion but its attractiveness lies in the irregular cooperation with the active artists of different fields. The store used to invite Chiharu Kikuchi, a famous Japanese artist, to exhibit her installation “A Magical World” in girls’ heart. Therefore, the real core of the trend is usually the added value of the brand.


Model Shop (People’s Square Store)
Almost every one wants to be talented in models, restoring the dismantled things. Located at the exit of Subway Line 1 to Raffles City, the store is not spacious but boasts things trendy enough such as Gundam, military models, auto models and electric plane models as well as jigsaw, garage kit and hand-made models with the most eye-catching model of aircraft carrier in the glass case. Many accessories and limited-edition models ban hardly be found in other stores. A boy shockingly said he bought three models for his three girlfriends as Valentines gifts.


John Long Tattoo Studio (Dimei Plaza Store)
We may have been impressed by the tattoo on the body of Lisbeth, the leading role, in the hit movie “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. The store is the right place to realize your dream for tattoos. Although John Long seems a common name, the tattooists in the studio are all masters in making the most fashionable hundreds of thousands of tattoo patterns at present.