About Us

Historic Shanghai was founded in 1998 by Tess Johnston, Patrick Cranley & Tina Kanagaratnam with the goal of preserving Shanghai’s unique history by raising awareness, and appreciation, of the city’s remarkable built heritage and social and cultural history. We do this through monthly walking tours through different neighborhoods and on different themes, talks on a wide range of topics, conferences, books and articles. Our tours have been featured in the New York Times, Sydney Morning Herald, DestinAsian, Lufthansa, Iberia, and Air Canada inflight magazines ~ and CNN called us one of the reasons Shanghai is the world’s greatest city!
Twenty years on, we’re still trying to answer the question we started out asking: how it was that a Chinese coastal city came to have such a rich stock of prewar western architecture, more Art Deco buildings than any other city in the world, a wild, flamboyant, 1930s, became a safe haven for European Jews, and the founding city of the Communist Party of China?
The more answers we find —  in the ephemera of the old markets, in oral histories, and random conversations, maps, memoirs and memories, directories, photographs, books, music, film, and literature, in the buildings themselves, even in food — the more questions that come up, like bamboo shoots after rain. And the pursuit, of course, is complicated by the fact that parts of Shanghai’s multilayered history have been deliberately neglected or forgotten.
Curious about old Shanghai? Join us on a walk through its incredible history, and learn more. For upcoming walks, click here.
Researching old Shanghai? Tell us what you’re working on, and if we have material in our collection that can help, we’ll be happy to share, or to point you to an expert in the field.

Historic Shanghai’s founders, from left: Tess Johnston, Patrick Cranley & Tina Kanagaratnam


Historic Shanghai’s monthly walking tours explore the built heritage of different Shanghai neighborhoods.

World Congress on Art Deco in Shanghai – 2015
In November 2015, Historic Shanghai hosted the 2015  World Congress on Art Deco in Shanghai – a wonderful week of talks, walks and entertainment, held for the first time in Asia in our dynamic city. For more on Shanghai Art Deco, visit www.shanghaiartdeco.net.
Art Deco mansion-Yongjia

The World Congress on Art Deco explored Shanghai’s Art Deco heritage.

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