Shanghai is one of China's more interesting cities despite its short history (by Chinese standards). An unremarkable fishing town until the 1840s, its potential as a strategically located trade emporium didn't go unnoticed by the British after the First Opium War, and within years Western colonial enclaves were set up; the largest two were the British-American “international” settlement and the concession française.
From that point, Shanghai became a boomtown where all manner of economic activity, legal or otherwise, thrived. Whereas it is said that Hong Kong was built on opium smuggling, Shanghai was instead built on prostitution. By the turn of the 20th century it was called “the greatest brothel in the world”, and a common remark among visiting missionaries was that “If God allows Shanghai to endure, He'll owe Sodom and Gomorrah an apology”. In spite of, or perhaps thanks to, its sulfurous reputation, it attracted large numbers of artists and intellectuals from Charlie Chaplin to André Malraux.
Because of an administrative loophole, no visa was necessary to enter Shanghai. As a result it became a destination of last resort for thousands of refugees, most of them Jewish, who had nowhere else to go in the late 1930s. Although the Japanese submitted it to brutal occupation from 1937 to 1945, they left said refugees mostly unmolested. Following a wartime agreement between the Allies and Jiang Jieshi's Nationalist regime, the foreign enclaves were abolished after the Japanese surrender.
After 1949, Shanghai was kept on a tight leash by the Communist regime which regarded it as a den of capitalist decadence. However, after 1991 it returned to its old ways with a vengeance, and it is once again a boomtown of white-hot economic activity.
Hendryk has been there four times to date.