In the World Now @en

The Peaks of Shanghai

25Sep 2018 蔡国耀
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Guoyao CAI

China – Shanghai City

2017 Nagasaki Prefectural Overseas Technology Trainee

Period of Stay in Nagasaki: August 2017 ~ March 2018




Hello everyone.

My name is Guoyao Cai, and I was a 2017 Nagasaki Prefectural Overseas Technology Trainee from Shanghai City. I lived in Nagasaki from the end of August last year to the beginning of this March. During my stay in Nagasaki I received training at Television Nagasaki (KTN), and I really enjoyed my time spent there. Although it has already been more than 5 months since I returned to Shanghai, and I have now returned to work at my original job, I sometimes recall Nagasaki and it almost feels I was there just yesterday.



When I used to chat with friends in Nagasaki, every time the conversation turned to Shanghai, the first thing my Japanese friends would always say was “Wow! It’s a big city!”. They were also always astonished by Shanghai’s skyscraper-filled skyline. In particular, the Shanghai Tower, newly built in 2014, is particularly stunning. Standing at 632 m tall, it soars up as if to pierce the heavens.


I thought this would be the perfect chance to introduce you all to the changes in the “height” of Shanghai.




With the continual march of time, the days when the “Park Hotel Shanghai” reigned as the “Peak of Shanghai” – in other words, the tallest building in the city – are long past. I thought that charting the development of Shanghai through the heights of its buildings and seeing the changes in its “Peak” would be very interesting, so I chose it as the theme for this essay.




Firstly, I would like to start my description from the oldest recorded tall building in Shanghai.


【977 AD】The Longhua Pagoda – 40.55 m

At the time when this pagoda was built, the height of each pagoda represented the prosperity of each town. The Longhua Pagoda remained as the highest building in Shanghai – in other words, its “peak” – for a considerably long period. The Longhua Pagoda was built in 977 AD, and with a total of 7 stories, its height is 40.55 m. It stood for almost 900 years, without any complaint, as the Peak of Shanghai.




【1860】The Union Building – 45.75 m

“The Peak of Shanghai”, a throne long-monopolized by the Longhua Pagoda, was finally stolen by the Union Building. The Union Building is located in Shanghai’s most famous tourist district, the Bund, and at the time it was a three-story brick building constructed in 1860. It was re-built in 1916, when it took its current form.




【1893】The Custom House – 78.2m

The “record” held by the Union Building was broken after 33 years, and the throne of the “Peak” of Shanghai welcomed a new master.

The Custom House is also located in the Bund, just like the Union Building. Incidentally, from the latter half of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century, the Bund was also the Shanghai International Settlement (an area where foreigners lived). It is lined with Western-style multi-story buildings built at that time. These buildings were designated as National Significant Cultural Heritage Sites, and convey a sense of the face of old Shanghai today.

This brick building was completed in 1893, and with a Gothic-style clocktower on the upper portion, it is a distinctive building even within the Bund area. It’s maximum overall height is 78.2 m. During the period in which the Customs Building occupied the “Peak” position, two strong contenders for that place appeared. However, the final result was that these challenges ended in failure.



Challenger 1: 【1929】 The Sasoon House (The Peace Hotel) – 77 m.

The Sasoon House is a 10-story building (one section has 13 stories) located in the Bund area, with a maximum overall height of 77 metres. Failing to surpass the Custom House, its challenge ended in failure.



Challenger 2: 【1934】 Broadway Mansions – 77m

The Broadway Mansions are located at 20 Bei Suzhou Road, which is adjacent to the Bund. The name “Broadway Mansions” comes from the fact that it stands at the end of what was formerly Broadway (now Daming Rd). Made up of a main building and annex, Broadway Mansions are located on the north-side of the Garden Bridge, a Shanghai landmark. It’s maximum overall height is 77m, so it too failed to surpass the Custom House.




【1934】The Park Hotel – 83.8 m

In 1934, the “True King” appeared. The Park Hotel was built at the intersection of West Nanjing Road and Huanghe Road. The maximum overall height of this 24-story building is 83.8m. At last, the age of the “squabbling petty feudal lords” was over.



【1955】The Sino-Soviet Friendship Building (Shanghai Exhibition Center) – 110.4 m

The Sino-Soviet Friendship Building was built in 1955 with the co-operation of experts from the Soviet Union, which at the time had friendly relations with China. This classical Russian style building was the “Peak” of Shanghai for a considerably long period of time.

This is something of a digression, but at that time, it is said that there was an unspoken agreement in the Shanghai construction world. The rule was, “The height of all buildings planned for construction should not exceed the height of the Sino-Soviet Friendship Building”.

Incidentally, its height of 110.4m includes the star at the very tip of the tower.




【1972】Shanghai Television Transmission Tower – 205m

Completed in 1972, the Shanghai Television Transmission Tower is 205 m tall, and was completed entirely using manual labor, without using machinery such as cranes.




【1993】The Oriental Pearl Radio and Television Tower – Maximum Overall Height 468m

A true “giant” finally appeared in 1993, when this 350m high (measured to the very top of the highest circular building) structure was completed. This building is probably the first thing to come to mind for a lot of people when they think about Shanghai. Located on the opposite bank of the western-style buildings in the Bund area that have been previously introduced, the atmosphere of the buildings separated by the river is very different. The maximum overall height is 468 m. She continued to reign from the throne of the “Peak of Shanghai” for 6 years.




【1999】The Jin Mao Tower – 420.5 m

In 1999, the Jin Mao Tower suddenly came onto the scene in the same district as the Oriental Pearl Radio and Television Tower and stole away her crown, just like that. At 420.5 m tall, the Jin Mao Tower building is presently the third-tallest tower in Shanghai. The “Grand Hyatt Shanghai” is located on its upper floors. It has become a similarly popular observation spot as the previously-mentioned Oriental Pearl Radio and Television Tower. Incidentally, this building is also well-known because its construction was co-ordinated by the designers who were responsible for the tallest building in the world, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.




【2008】The Shanghai World Financial Center – 492 m

The reign of the Jin Mao Tower was only just 9 years. In 2008, the Shanghai World Financial Center became one of the world’s leading skyscrapers. It’s also known for having been financed by Japan’s Mori Building Company. This building has 101 stories above ground and a maximum overall height of 492 m. It is famous for its unique design that features an empty space in the middle of its upper floors.

In a short period of time after the Oriental Pearl Radio and Television Tower, the Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Tower rewrote the record for the “Peak” of Shanghai.




【2014】 Shanghai Tower – 632m

August 3rd, 2014. On this day, the record for the “Peak of Shanghai” was set at “632”. This is the second tallest building in the world, after Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.




The main structure of Shanghai tower is 580m tall, with a maximum overall height of 632 m. It has 121 floors above ground and 5 below ground. With features like hotels, exhibition spaces, shopping and an observation deck all in a single space, it’s almost like a “vertical city” that stretches upwards. The elevator that ascends from floor B2 to the 118th floor travels at a speed of 18 m/s. It takes just around a minute to reach the 560m high observation deck area on the 118th floor from floor B2. Beautiful views of Shanghai can be enjoyed from the Observation Deck Area.



I think that by looking at the history of the “Peaks” of Shanghai in this way, you can come to understand the development of the city of Shanghai very clearly.

If you come to Shanghai, be sure to enjoy the view from the observation deck of Shanghai’s tallest tower!