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Things to Do

city scene

Modern skyscrapers fill the city.


An interesting interaction with the Chinese is bargaining. If you ever want to buy something in China, you have to bargain for it. When the Chinese merchants see that you are an American/foreigner/not Chinese, they will automatically quote a price that is usually two to four times more than the product is worth (or even more). You should immediately shout out, “tài guì le!” (too expensive) and the bargaining begins. Both you and the vendor will hash it out for a few minutes until you come to a price that you are both satisfied with. The shop or store owners are rather aggressive and if you do not want to get ripped off, you have to be aggressive while bargaining back.

You should always start at about 25 percent of the original asking price. It is always a safe bet. Once you’ve lived in Shanghai for a while, you will learn what the actual price should be and you will become a better bargainer. Remember, however, to consider the concept of “face.” You do not want to embarrass a vendor by forcing them to accept your extremely low price, but you also do not want to “lose face” by accepting a price that is too high. Bargaining is a social art. It takes time and practice.

Festivals & Holidays

Lunar New Year – 春节 (chūn jié)

Also known as Spring Festival, the festivities for this holiday begin on the first day of the month of the lunar calendar and end on the fifteenth day of that month. The last day is the Lantern Festival. According to legend, in ancient China, Nián (年) was a man-eating beast from the mountains which came out every twelve months somewhere close to winter to prey on humans. The people later believed that Nián was sensitive to loud noises and the color red, so they scared it away with fireworks and the liberal use of the color red. These customs led to the first New Year celebrations.

Mid Autumn Festival - 中秋节 (zhōng qiū jié)

The Mid Autumn Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. It is a celebration of abundance and togetherness. Also known as the “Moon Festival” or “Mooncake Festival,” the celebration falls on the Autumn Equinox of the solar calendar, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. Friends and family gather for a huge feast and eat moon cakes together.

The traditional story behind the festival is that of Chang’e and Houyi. There are several different versions, but most legends about Chang'e in Chinese mythology involve some variation of the following elements: Houyi, the Archer; Chang'e, the mythical Moon Goddess of Immortality; an emperor, either benevolent or malevolent; an elixir of life; and the Moon.

Yu Garden

Yu Garden

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This French supercenter is similar to Wal-Mart and carries many of the everyday things you may need – that is, if you cannot find it at TrustMart, located at ECNU’s front gate. Take the 67 Bus from the front gate stop north two stops. You will land right at Carrefour, which is located on the lower two floors of Cloud Nine Mall. Aside from groceries and everyday needs, this is also a great place to buy a cell phone when you arrive. Remember, if you have a seasoned bargainer with you and more than three people buying a phone at once, you can get the price lowered! (Hint: Take Joyce, the secretary, with you. She's a great bargainer!) In addition to a lot of high-end clothing stores, you will also find a Starbuck's Coffee and Coldstone at Cloud Nine.

Located to the right of the front gate of ECNU, TrustMart has a lot of useful products, including food, hygiene products, school supplies, CDs, clothes, China Mobile phone cards, and snacks. Take a look around. Students near campus often utilize this store for everyday goods.

For an exciting adventure and tons of bargaining practice, take the 3 or 4 train to Baoshan Lu. After exiting the subway station, turn right, and walk a few blocks south on Hainan Lu. Qi Pu Lu is a street full of stores carrying anything you may want or need, for extra low prices. That is, if you know how to bargain! They close at 6:00PM, though, so go early.

Everyone needs at least a few custom-made business suits or a traditional Chinese dress, a qí páo (旗袍). At the fabric market, you can get almost anything tailor-fitted. Just bring in a picture or pick from the patterns they already have. The tailors will measure you and usually have the clothes ready within a week. Make sure to explore and look at all the options. Some tailors or better than others, so look carefully at their samples. The vendors also give discounts if you order several things at once (or just order with some friends). Suits generally cost anywhere from 350-800 RMB, which is about $44-$100. Coats also start at around 500 RMB. Although there is a bus that goes there from People’s Square, it’s less of a hassle to go by taxi, especially if you plan on picking up a lot of items. 399 Lujiabang Rd.

You can find the “No. 1 Department Store” at Nanjing Lu, as well as many high-end, foreign stores. Nanjing Lu is known for its lights, so make sure you visit at night!

Full of Western shops and foreign restaurants (including Brazilian, Thai, American, Japanese, and more), Xintiandi is always bustling and busy. If you are looking to find a little bit of America in China, stop by Xintiandi and grab a cup of Starbuck’s!

Similar to a 7-11, Kedi shops are located all around Shanghai. The closest one to campus is right across the street from the front gate of ECNU.

Tourist Locales

  • Located at 170 Anyuan Lu, by Jiangning Lu 安远路170号, 近江宁路
  • Tel: 021 6266 3668
  • Hours: 8:30am-5:00pm

This temple is one of Shanghai's few active Buddhist temples. It attracts large numbers of local and overseas Chinese tourists. Built between 1911 and 1918, the centerpiece is a two meter high white jade Buddha around which the temple was built. The story goes that a monk from Putuoshan traveled to Myanmar (Burma) via Tibet, lugged the Buddha back to its present site and then went off in search of alms to build a temple for it. During the Spring Festival in January or February, some 20,000 Chinese Buddhists come to worship. The seated Buddha, encrusted with jewels, is said to weigh 1000 kilogram. A smaller Buddha from the same shipment reclines on a mahogany couch. There's an extra 10RMB admission to view the Buddha. No photography is permitted.

  • Located at 88 Century Avenue 上海浦东世纪大道88号
  • Tel: 021 5047 5101
  • Hours: 8:30am-9:00pm

Shanghai's most spectacular building, visible from almost everywhere in the city, is largely an office block, but boasts stupendous views from the 88th- floor observatory.

  • Located at 2 Lujiazui Lu 陆家嘴路2 号
  • Tel: 021 5879 1888
  • Hours: 8:30am-9:30pm

Shanghai's skyline boasts one of the most futuristic TV towers of any international city skyline. At 468 meters (1,536 feet), the Oriental Pearl TV tower is the world's third tallest TV and radio tower. Besides great views from its three domes, the Shanghai Municipal History Museum is located at its pedestal. Don’t forget to check that out too! There is a 2 train stop conveniently located nearby the tower, as the first stop in Pudong.

The delightful Yuyuan Gardens took 18 years (1559-77) to create, only to be ransacked during the Opium War in 1842. The gardens have been restored and are a fine example of Ming garden design. Right outside the garden is a bazaar full of tasty snacks and souvenirs. Just be aware of price gouging!

Things to look out for include the Exquisite Jade Rock, which was destined for the imperial court in Beijing until the boat sank outside Shanghai and the Hall of Heralding Spring (Dianchun Tang), which in 1853 was the headquarters of the Small Swords Society (perhaps one reason why the gardens were spared revolutionary violence in the 1960s). Note also the beautiful stage, with its gilded carved ceiling and excellent acoustics. The two shiny pavilions in the eastern corner were added in 2003.

Next to the entrance to the Yuyuan Gardens is the Mid-Lake Pavilion Teahouse (Huxinting), once part of the gardens and now one of the most famous teahouses in China, visited by Queen Elizabeth II and Bill Clinton among others. The zig-zag causeway is there to thwart spirits, who are said to be able to only travel in straight lines. Buy a packet of fish food and enjoy the sight of dozens of dancing koi just below your feet!


  • Located at 325 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Xinchang Lu 南京西路325号, 近新昌路
  • Tel: 021 6327 2829
  • Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm

In 2000, this museum relocated to a stunning new location in the former British racecourse club building (originally built in 1933), and some of its decorative features, such as the Art Deco chandeliers, remain. The collection ranges from modern works and pop art to the Shanghai school of traditional Chinese art.

Of the Shanghai Museum's 120,000 works of art, one-third have never before been shown. The museum is a showcase for Chinese history that dates back thousands of years. Students can expect to spend at least half a day roaming around, if not an entire day. The museum shop sells postcards, books, and replicas of its many pieces.

  • Located at 62 Changyang Lu, near Zhoushan Lu 长阳路62号, 近舟山路
  • Tel: 021 6541 5008
  • Hours: 9:00am-4:00pm

During World War II, thousands of European Jews fled to Shanghai to escape persecution. They settled in the city’s northeast area of Hongkou. This museum, which was opened by Ashkenazi Jewish community in 1927, commemorates their plight.

  • Located at 100 Renmin Dadao, near Xizang Zhong Lu 人民大道100号, 近西藏中路
  • Tel: 021 6318 4477
  • Hours: Mon-Thu 9:00am-5:00pm, Fri-Sun 9:00am-6:00pm

The exhibits paint a picture of how Shanghai will develop in the next 20 years. The highlight is definitely the absorbing scale plan of the Shanghai of the future. Many consider it high-tech propaganda, but it is nonetheless quite a thrill. There are some interesting photos of 1930s Shanghai, a few interactive displays, and a cafe. Don’t miss the basement street exit of mock 1930s cafes. You’ll be just as tall as the buildings!

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