Shanghai (1927-1937)/ Transportation system plan in the Greater Shanghai Plan (Part I)

The Greater Shanghai Plan including the plan about the transportation system was the most significant, systematic and complete road reorganizing plan took place in Chinese Sections in modern time. The plan made the starting point of gradually transforming the area from into a modernized urban city. The plan mainly included the road system, railway system and the construction of new harbor. The road system will be discussed in part I and the rest would be in part II.


Western urban planning theories were introduced and adapted into Shanghai local condition. Inevitably, the road system plan was quite similar to the road systems in western cities at the same period in terms of the form of the road network and the distance between the networks. The main axial roads around the administration center was the key elements in achieving a magnificent spatial order. The layout and density of the roads in the city center area was quite reasonable. Roads surrounding the wujiaochang and administration center axis and the roads radiating outwards subdivided the lands and the right-angle intersection between roads maximized the use of lands. The dense road network allowed for versatile transportation routes.[1] According to the plan, boulevards were to be 60m wide and main streets were to be 30m wide. The rest of the roads were to be 25-30m wide. While at the same period, the Nanjing Road which was the widest road in foreign settlement area was only 30m wide.[2] The plan was a great achievement in urban planning during modern time and had continuous influences to what the city looks like today. We can still figure out the spatial characters in current road system that sustained from the old time.


However, there are some drawbacks within road system plan. Firstly, the road plan was completely organized within the Chinese Section. The road system was at the fringe of Shanghai which barely had contribution to the current city congestion. For example, the main axial road Zhongshan Road was too far away from the original city center at that time. Secondly, the connections between the new civic center and the foreign settlements relied on Siping Road and Huangxing Road which restrained the development of the city center. Thirdly, the plan had a great envision but most parts were in theories. The technology for road construction was far behind the foreign settlement in terms of the construction material and equipment.[3] Some roads were not completed because of insufficient money. The construction was also affected by Shenyi, one of the key figures behind the plan. According to her theory, it would be more beneficial if the government construct ten kilometers dirt road rather than one kilometer black tar road.[4] Fourthly, the planned metro and rail-transit system by the mayor wasn’t built and the plan did not reserve enough empty land for future metro system development.[5] Finally, the introduction of western theories did not match with the technology in China, which means that the advanced engineering technics weren’t paid enough attention to.

Shanghai shi shi zhongxinqu daolu xitong tu,上海市市中心區道路系統圖 Scale:    1:10000


[1] Wei Shu魏枢, <The Greater Shanghai Plan> Qi Shi Lu—Jin Dai Shanghai Hua Jie Du Shi Zhong Xin Kong Jian Xing Tai De Liu Bian《大上海计划》启示录——近代上海华界都市中心空间形态的流变, (Southeast University Press 东南大学出版社, 1995), 106

[2] Kerrie L. MacPherson, Designing China’s urban future: The Greater Shanghai Plan, 1927–1937, University of Hong Kong, Department of History. Planning Perspectives Vol. 5, Iss. 1,1990, 55

[3] Wei Shu魏枢, <The Greater Shanghai Plan> Qi Shi Wei Shu魏枢, <The Greater Shanghai Plan> Qi Shi Lu—Jin Dai Shanghai Hua Jie Du Shi Zhong Xin Kong Jian Xing Tai De Liu Bian《大上海计划》启示录——近代上海华界都市中心空间形态的流变, (Southeast University Press 东南大学出版社, 1995), 106Lu—Jin Dai Shanghai Hua Jie Du Shi Zhong Xin Kong Jian Xing Tai De Liu Bian《大上海计划》启示录——近代上海华界都市中心空间形态的流变, (Southeast University Press 东南大学出版社, 1995), 149

[4] Shen Yi, 沈怡, Shi zheng gong cheng gai lun,《市政工程概论》,(The Commercial Press,商务印书馆, 1930),75-76

[5] Gong Shiji, 龚诗基, Dui Yu Shi Zhong Xin Ji Hua Zhi Yi Jian, 《对于市中心计划之意见》,1930, 3-4

5 Comments on “Shanghai (1927-1937)/ Transportation system plan in the Greater Shanghai Plan (Part I)

    • In the plan for redeveloping roads based on current road system, the side pavement was in the consideration. Road signs and traffic signals were added which made the road system in Chinese Sections more modernized. However, the plan was mainly aimed for the increasing numbers of automobiles and the plan tried to make connections with the foreign settlement. In terms of road width and density of the networks, the old curvy roads were replaced by straight boulevards based on a grid system. Under the influence of City Beautiful movement in the western world, parks and public squares were developed along with the road network. Landscape design was involved to create a axial view in the administration center with large piece of green land and squares. It is quite interesting to see that such design method still exists in almost every city center.

  1. I find it interesting to know that the road system at that time included the planning for metro system and further planning. Did the plan stop when wwii began and did it carry on after wwii and the civil war? (I realise it’s out of the time period, but I think you make it stopped in 1937 for a reason.)

    • The plan was called to an end because of the Japanese intrusion in 1937. The plan however was partly carried on in the later plan made for the Japanese military force. In the civil war period, a new plan was made which referenced to the Greater London Plan by Patrick Abercrombie. Some of the main ideas about developing the ports and constructing arteries in city center were remained. As for the metro system, there was actually a metro system built by the Japanese troops near Wujiaochang for the military use.

  2. It was intriguing to see so many incidents happened later that altered the original plan for Shanghai transportation system. From the narratives, I see that the huge contrast between two sides of the river was due to colonization. However, when Chinese government claimed authority for the land later again, was there major changes to the plan as well? Did the urban planners connect both sides of the river with their new road system?

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