30 Amazing Black and White Photos That Document Everyday Life of Shanghai in the Mid-1980s

Shanghai, is one of the four direct-administered municipalities of the People’s Republic of China. The city is located on the southern estuary of the Yangtze River, with the Huangpu River flowing through it. With a population of 24.87 million as of 2020, it is the most populous urban area in China, the most populous city proper in the world and the only city in East Asia with a GDP greater than its corresponding capital. Shanghai is a global center for finance, business and economics, research, education, science and technology, manufacturing, tourism, culture and transportation, and the Port of Shanghai is the world’s busiest container port.

Originally a fishing village and market town, Shanghai grew in importance in the 19th century due to both domestic and foreign trade and its favorable port location. The city was one of five treaty ports forced to open to European trade after the First Opium War. The Shanghai International Settlement and the French Concession were subsequently established. The city then flourished, becoming a primary commercial and financial hub of Asia in the 1930s. During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the city was the site of the major Battle of Shanghai. After the war, with the communists takeover of the mainland in 1949, trade was limited to other socialist countries and the city’s global influence declined.

By the 1990s, economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping a decade earlier resulted in an intense redevelopment of the city, especially the Pudong New Area, aiding the return of finance and foreign investment. The city has since re-emerged as a hub for international trade and finance; it is the home of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, one of the largest stock exchanges in the world by market capitalization and the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone, the first free-trade zone in mainland China. As of 2020, Shanghai is classified as an Alpha+ (global first-tier) city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network and ranked as having the 3rd most competitive and largest financial center in the world behind New York City and London by the Global Financial Centres Index. It has the largest metro network of any city in the world, the sixth-highest number of billionaires of any city in the world, the fifth-largest number of skyscrapers of any city in the world, the fifth-largest scientific research output of any city in the world, and highly ranked educational institutions including Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Tongji University, East China Normal University, Shanghai University, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, and East China University of Science and Technology.

Shanghai has been described as the “showpiece” of the booming economy of China. Featuring several architectural styles such as Art Deco and shikumen, the city is renowned for its Lujiazui skyline, museums and historic buildings including the City God Temple, Yu Garden, the China Pavilion and buildings along the Bund, which includes Oriental Pearl TV Tower. Shanghai is also known for its sugary cuisine, distinctive local language and vibrant international flair. As an important international city, Shanghai is the seat of the New Development Bank, a multilateral development bank established by the BRICS states and the city hosts more than 70 foreign representatives and numerous national and international events every year, such as Shanghai Fashion Week, the Chinese Grand Prix and ChinaJoy. Shanghai is the highest earning tourist city in the world, with the seventh most five-star hotels in the world, and the second tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower. In 2018, Shanghai hosted the first China International Import Expo (CIIE), the world’s first import-themed national-level expo. (Wikipedia)

These amazing photos were taken by Belgian-American photographer Jerome De Perlinghi that documented everyday life of Shanghai from between 1985 and 1987.

(Photos © Jerome De Perlinghi)

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