LivingTravelThe two sides of Shanghai: Puxi and Pudong

The two sides of Shanghai: Puxi and Pudong

Shanghai has an unusually short history for such an amazing city. Visitors often barely get their bearings before setting off again, whether it’s to the next destination on their China tour or at home after a week-long business trip.

Shanghai is certainly unique in its cultural divide between Pudong and Puxi. And if you are staying in Shanghai for more than one or two nights, it is important to understand the difference between the two places. It will help you get your bearings and could save you time and confusion.

Pudong and Puxi

The names of these areas of the city come from their locations in relation to the Huang Pu River (黄 浦江). One is to the east (dong), hence Pu Dong (浦东). One is to the west (xi), hence Pu Xi (浦西).


Pronounced “poo shee”, Puxi is the historic heart of the city. In earlier times of foreign concessions, this was the area that housed the multitude of foreign nationals from the mid-19th century until WWII. The area had a French concession and an international concession, as well as a walled Chinese area. It is in this area that (what remains of) are the historic houses and buildings, the Bund and the famous architecture of the Art-Deco heritage.

Puxi is where the Hong Qiao International Airport (SHA) is located, as well as the two train stations and the long-distance bus terminals.

Puxi Landscape

The landscape is almost infinite. Extending from the banks of the Huang Pu River in the east, Shanghai in Puxi flourishes in all directions. If you drive from Shanghai to Suzhou (in Jiangsu province) or Hangzhou (in Zhejiang province), you’ll feel like you’ve never left the city. And it is difficult to say where the “center” is.

As you head west, you rush into a taxi, most likely along the Yan’an Causeway, passing clusters of skyscrapers around People’s Square, along Nanjing Road, and then further into Hong Qiao. Puxi is an endless mass of office towers and residential complexes.


Pudong, until about 30 years ago, was home to many warehouses, as well as farming and fishing communities. Now, it is home to some of the tallest buildings in China, such as the SWFC, as well as the financial center of Shanghai.

Pudong is home to the Pudong International Airport (PVG). It is connected to the rest of the city with many tunnels, bridges, subway lines and ferries across the river.

Pudong landscape

The landscape of Pudong differs from that of Puxi in that it is finite. The Huang Pu River cuts this piece of land into a virtual island, so eventually, if you keep driving, you will find the sea. (There are no beaches to speak of, so you don’t need to bring your swimmers…) The tall buildings of Pudong are clustered around the financial center in Lujiazui and it is here that you will find many of Shanghai’s most luxurious residences and hotels. Further afield, you can still find some small farm operations that have not been razed in residential complexes.

Two sides of the city

Some see Puxi as Shanghai’s past and Pudong as the future. It is impossible to make fun of each other, but if you simply look at the horizons on both sides of the river, it certainly gives you a presence on two occasions at once.

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