Shanghai is the largest Chinese city by population and the largest city proper by population in the World. It is one of the four direct-controlled municipalities, with a population of more than 24 million as of 2013. It is a global financial center, and a transport hub with the world's busiest container port. Located in the Yangtze River Delta in East China, Shanghai sits at the mouth of the Yangtze in the middle portion of the Chinese coast. The municipality borders the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang to the north, south and west, and is bounded to the east by the East China Sea.
During the Spring and Autumn period, Shanghai belonged to the Kingdom of Wu, which was conquered by the Kingdom of Yue, which in turn was conquered by the Kingdom of Chu. During the Warring States period, Huang Xie, the Lord Chunshen of Chu, was one of the Four Lords of the Warring States. He organized people to excavate the Huangpu River, which is also known as the Chunshen River, and Shen became a nickname of Shanghai.
Fishermen living in the Shanghai area created a fishing tool called hu, which became another nickname of Shanghai. During the Song dynasty (960–1279) Shanghai was upgraded in status from a village to a market town in 1074, and in 1172 a second sea wall was built to stabilize the ocean coastline, supplementing an earlier dyke. From the Yuan Dynasty in 1292 until Shanghai officially became a city in 1927, the area was designated merely as a county seat administered by the Songjiang prefecture.
Two important events helped promote Shanghai's development in the Ming Dynasty. A city wall was built for the first time in 1554 to protect the town from raids by Japanese pirates. It measured 10 metres (33 feet) high and 5 kilometres (3 miles) in circumference. During the Wanli reign (1573–1620), Shanghai received an important psychological boost from the erection of a City God Temple in 1602. This honour was usually reserved for places with the status of a city, such as a prefectural capital not normally given to a mere county town, as Shanghai was. It probably reflected the town's economic importance, as opposed to its low political status.
Parks and resorts
Shanghai's parks offer some reprieve from the urban jungle. The former racetrack turned central park, People's Square park is located in the heart of down town Shanghai and is known for its proximity to other major Shanghai landmarks. Fuxing Park, in the former French Concession of Shanghai, features formal French-style gardens and is surrounded by high end bars and cafes.
Zhongshan Park in northwestern central Shanghai is famous for its monument of Chopin, the tallest statue dedicated to the composer in the world. Built in 1914 as Jessfield Park, it once contained the campus of St. John's University, Shanghai's first international college; today, it is known for its extensive rose and peony gardens, a large children's play area, and as the location of an important transfer station on the city's metro system.
Because of Shanghai's status as the cultural and economic center of East Asia for the first half of the twentieth century, it is popularly seen as the birthplace of everything considered modern in China. It was in Shanghai, for example, that the first motor car was driven and (technically) the first train tracks and modern sewers were laid. It was also the intellectual battleground between socialist writers who concentrated on critical realism, which was pioneered by Lu Xun, Mao Dun, Nien Cheng and the famous French novel by André Malraux, Man's Fate, and the more "bourgeois", more romantic and aesthetically inclined writers, such as Shi Zhecun, Shao Xunmei, Ye Lingfeng, and Eileen Chang.