The Shanghai hills are the nearest thing to a mountain near the city. Driving there takes about 1 hour from the center if traffic is good. Located in the East of the city, it is quite near from the major expatriates area of HongQiao and HuQinPing. Since the opening of the Meridien hotel, ithas become popular spot for Sunday family outing. While indulging with delicacies, few people seem to be aware of the hill’s history and climb to the top of it.
In the old Shanghai time, SheShan was known as Zose (Sheshan in Shanghainese). The name was also the one of the village at the bottom of the hill. The attraction on the hill was the Observatory established in 1900 by the Jesuits fathers. It was one of the most advanced observatory in Asia. Weather informations were gathered from all over Asia, to be able to predict the weather for sea transportation. Information was sent to Shanghai French Bund for display on the Guslav Tower. The observatory has now been turned into a museum but is still nice to visit.
The location is mentioned as an interesting excursion from Shanghai in the American Express guide for “Sigthseeing in and around Shanghai” from 1934. The return trip to the hill took then 1 full day starting with train from “Shanghai North Station at 7.10 a.m” arriving at “Sungkiang 8:39am”. (Songjiang is now a part of Shanghai, with a metro line reaching is in less than 1/2 hour.) Traveller would then take a boat on the canals reaching Zose “in about 2 and half hour”. The guide also recommended to take your own picnic (in a picnic basket) to eat after climbing the hill before going back to Shanghai in a journey of about 4 hours by the same way. It even propose “a more leisurely alternative” in taking a boat on the Suzhou Creek from Shanghai to reach Zose in the evening and climb the hill the next morning. People climbed the hill enjoy the landscape of “surrounding plains, with their villages and cultivated fields and waterways winding like silver bands.” Rice paddies in that part of Shanghai are long gone, and villages have been replaced by compound of luxurious villas but the viewing is still very nice from up there.
What is not mentioned on this guide from 1934… is the She Shan cathredral built by the Jesuits and finished in 1935. The cathedral is the largest in Asia, dominating the surrounding planes. It is very impressive and has been well renovated, after damages done during cultural revolution. Like XuJiaHui Cathedral, it is a strong symbol of the Jesuits presence in this part of the world. It is a nice building and visiting it is a nice complement of a nice meal in the hotel downhill.