Shanghai is China’s largest city and its financial and economic capital. It has become the major hub of internal and foreign investment in China, a model of Chinese development for the twenty-first century. Shanghai’s Nanjing Road is the most famous shopping district in the country.

Due to better health care facilities and earning power, life expectancy in Shanghai is now ten years longer than in parts of impoverished Gansu province. Shanghai has also produced a string of important political leaders, the so-called Shanghai clique, including former President Jiang Zemin.

Shanghai became an important port city during the Qing dynasty in the seventeenth century, developing as a major trade hub for the Yangtse delta region. It was here that some of the early Jesuit missionaries settled and laid the foundations for a Catholic community.

Among the early pillars of the Catholic church was a nationally renowned scholar-official of Shanghai, Xu Guangqi. The Xu family later bequeathed land to the Catholic church.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Jesuits founded a university and observatory in Shanghai. The leading educationalist, Ma Xiangbo, helped found one of China’s first independent universities.

In 1924 the first national Catholic Council was held in Shanghai, which established a series of new seminaries to train a Chinese priesthood. An important Catholic pilgrimage site at Sheshan, dedicated to Our Lady Help of Christians is located to the southwest of the city. It now also houses a Seminary and retirement home for elderly priests.

Protestant presence in Shanghai accompanied the development of foreign concessions, wrung from the Chinese by force after the ‘Opium Wars’. Many Protestant missions established their Chinese headquarters in Shanghai, while the concessions also built churches, schools and hospitals for their own populations. The YMCA and YWCA were particularly influential in the city, and gave rise to some of the future leaders of the independent Three Self church in the 1950s.

The China Christian Council and Three Self Patriotic Movement now have their offices in downtown Shanghai, in renovated buildings which previously belonged to the Anglican cathedral school. The regional East China Seminary was created in 1985 and serves to train pastors from six provinces. According to official statistics there are more than 120,000 Protestant Christians worshipping in 30 registered churches, all of which hold several services for thousands of congregants each Sunday.*

*see US Embassy of the People's Republic of China

Shangai panorama
Pudong at sunset. Photo: le niners Creative Commons logo
Haitong Securities Building
River boat
Architecture. Photo: le niners Creative Commons logo
River boat. Photo: le niners Creative Commons logo
© Churches Together in Britain and Ireland 2010