In 1842 the Treaty of Nanjing opened Shanghai to foreigners. First came the British. Then in 1849 the French were granted a concession and in 1862 an American settlement was established.
As a result, for the latter half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries, Shanghai was, after Hong Kong, the city most known to the West. In fact, westerners controlled the economy of Shanghai for about 100 years.
The Bund has dozens of historical buildings that once housed numerous banks and trading houses from the ‘western’ world and Japan, as well as the consulates of Russia and Britain, a newspaper, the Shanghai Club and the Masonic Club. These banks and many hotels were moved after 1949.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the thawing of economic policy in the People’s Republic of China, buildings on the Bund were gradually returned to their former uses. Government institutions were moved out in favour of financial institutions, while hotels resumed operation.
A series of floods caused by typhoons motivated the municipal government to construct a tall levee along the riverfront. What we see today is a result of The Bund’s restoration and revitalization which began in 1986 with a new promenade by the Dutch Architect Paulus Snoeren and which has dramatically changed the streetscape of the Bund. The embankment now stands some 10 metres higher than street level.