Dark Tourism in Shanghai

Most tourists might have thought that European cities have more spooky, dark tales to tell about spirits that walked its cobbled stoned paths. But who knew that in Asia, particularly Shanghai, darkness lurked within its neon-lit skyline?

John Newman, a British expat has recently started a Ghost Tour in Shanghai, bringing tourists around downtown Jing’an district; to spots that seem to be unlikely haunted on the outset. Here are some spots, which I thought would be the most interesting ones to visit:

1. Paramount Theatre: was known as the ‘grand dance hall’ in the 1930s. It is believed that 2 ghosts still loom the majestic theatre- a Chinese woman who was shot by a Japanese solider in the 1930s; and a passer-by who was unfortunately killed during its renovation in the 1990s.

2. Nine Dragons Pillar: a silver pillar, intricately carved with nine golden dragons erected at the intersection of Yan’an Road and the South-North Elevated road. Legend has it that workers found it impossible to bore a hole during the pillar’s construction. Clueless of what to do, they called a monk who mentioned that they had awakened a dragon that has been sleeping underneath Shanghai for centuries. The monk died the next despite the workers’ apologies.

3. Plaza 66: located at Nanjing Road West, the building’s construction kept being delayed. After developers asked a feng shui master for help, he discovered that there was an ancient goddess living in its foundations. The building’s design was changed to look like a stick of incense to honor the angry goddess and to keep her at peace.

Myth or true story- no one really knows. What I find particularly interesting is how most of its dark tourism sights in Shanghai tell more folklore than actual events of conflict, unlike Western countries (ie. like the Berlin Wall). Nonetheless, dark tourism gives a unique and intriguing way of knowing more about a country’s untold, underrepresented or misrepresented history.


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