5 Shanghai Urban Legends

Halloween is quickly approaching and there are frightful howls and screams all over Shanghai and I’m not talking about outside of Perry’s.

There are many urban legends in Shanghai about the secret spots where you might find a ghost or two. We here at The Shanghai Show don’t believe in urban legends and ain’t afraid of no ghosts! So we’ll tell you what we think really happened. 

The Paramount

In its heyday,  The Paramount was the place to be seen. Westerners visiting Shanghai would always make a stop over at this beautiful theatre. Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Shanghai’s notorious gangster Du Yueshang and the wealthy elite of Shanghai all would dance the night away in the coolest place in the East.

The Legend

A young girl named Chen Manli was a dancer at the Paramount in the 1940’s. She was the type of dancer you could pay to join you for a couple of dances when you were in town. According to who tells you the legend, she refused to dance with either Du YueShang or a Japanese officer. The gangster/officer was so angry, he walked in to the club and shot Manli where she immediately died. If you can sneak up to the fourth floor where she was killed, some say you can still see her ghost dancing by herself.

Later on the same theatre had a tragic scaffolding accident that lead to the death of a pedestrian. Some say this pedestrian can still be seen on the top floor of the Paramount throwing things out of the top floor window. 

What we think happened

Chen Manli was a woman about town and had debts to pay off. She decided that the easiest way to do this was to fake her death. She hired the gangster/Japanese official to fake her death. When her body was eventually removed, she was whisked away to Bangkok where she helped start the very first “lady” bar on Soi Cowboy. Some say you can still see her granddaughter selling overpriced tequila on the fourth floor of that bar. 

Qiu Mansion


The Qiu Brothers were migrant workers from Shandong who moved to Shanghai at the turn of the century to try to earn a living. In 1915, they came into a warehouse formerly owned by the Germans but later fled during World War I. The story goes that the warehouse was loaded with paint. As the war waged on and prices of paint skyrocketed, the brothers quickly became millionaires. They became some of Shanghai’s most elite businessmen above that of some notorious gangsters.

 The brothers built identical mansions and surrounded themselves with immaculate gardens with tigers, peacocks and crocodiles around a man-made lake. It is said that every day at noon, two thousand pigeons were released from a towering aviary, darkening the skies over the country club on Love Lane (now Wujiang Lu)

 At the height of their powers, the Qiu brothers disappeared. No one knows what happened to them. Their animals were sold off or eaten by starving Shanghainese. One of the mansions was demolished in the 1950’s.

The Legend

During a demolition on Weihai Lu and Shimen Yi Lu a rumor circulated around the city. Li Fei, a night nurse at Yueyang Hospital, treated several construction workers for bit wounds despite there not being any wild animals around. People say that a mason attacked his manager with a hammer and claimed that “lizards” made him do it. A nearby neighbor swore she spotted a dragon crawling on a construction crane.

Workers at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel, located across from the site complained they were afraid to work night shifts due to creepy crawlers and ghostly animals. 

What we think happened

Real Estate prices in Shanghai have always been wild. Mansions are expensive, man. What’s the best way to get a mansion for cheap? Release thousands of man-eating lizards around the site. Boom. ??? Profit. Problem is lizards move quick. Soon, they found they couldn’t control the lizard population so they gave up on building a swanky pad on the site. Instead, they sold the land to Jalapeno and now you can eat Mexican food surround by…I mean…with absolutely no lizards around. 

Plaza 66

Behind that beautiful mall where you sip your lattes and buy your designer clothes lies a dark past. During its construction, everything went wrong. It got to the point where they had to call in fengshui master to see what was going on. Turns out, an ancient goddess was living in the foundation of the construction site and she was not too pleased with the new project. 

The Legend

The ancient goddess was so unpleased with the project that the fengshui master helped to alter the design of Plaza 66. If you look at it today, the designed was changed to resemble that of incense burning in honor of the goddess. After that, construction crews claimed they had no problems on the site and everything went back to normal after the goddess was pleased. 

What we think happened

I wish there was a way when I messed up at work that I could just blame it on an ancient goddess. "Uh, boss...I didn't finish that project because...you know, the ancient goddess." Clearly, the architect noticed quickly that this building was just ugly and instead of fessin' up to the boss and having to say, "we have to start over," he just told him, "sorry boss, gotta make it an incense holder for the goddess. How much more? Just an extra couple million. You understand."


Jing'an Park


Some of you that have enjoyed a stroll through Jing’an Park may not know that this was once a cemetery for expats in Shanghai. In the 1950’s it was exhumed to make room for the park.

The Legend

After being exhumed, ghosts have been reported in the park. If you go for a late night stroll through Jing’an Park, keep an eye out for the spirits of expats past that haunt the park searching for their final resting place.

What we think happened

This one’s true. I’ve had many friends attacked by ghosts as they left Windows Too at 3am. Wait, ghost is another name for a streetwalker, right?

The Dragon Pillar

You may have noticed this pillar if you’re walking around Shanghai near Jing’an. In the 1990’s, Shanghai was completing the construction of it’s elevated highway system in the city center. They were working at an incredible pace until the team found that they were unable to drive in the pile supporting the conjunction of the two elevated highways. They say it just refused to go down no matter what they tried. The government and engineers were perplexed as to why this was happening because Shanghai overall had very agreeable soil and this was the most important part of the whole highway system.

The Legend

A theory was proposed by fengshui experts that they may have hit a “dragon vein” and have offended the dragon guarding the city. This upset government officials but the crew couldn’t get it done and even foreign scientists couldn’t figure out why when brought in.

Eventually, everyone gave in and brought in a monk from Longhua Temple Zhenchan to explain what was happening. After he surveyed the site, he explained that the only was to solve the problem was to invite the dragon, who was lurking underground, to come out. He explained that to do this, a series of religious rites must be performed. What these rites actually were has yet to be discovered as they were hidden away. The monk chipped away at the dragon carvings which can still be seen today.

Eventually, the dragon was pleased and the pillar was put in place. The monk, Zhenchen, passed away seven days after the construction of the pillar.

What we think happened

Another case of the, “Oh, crap, this isn’t working…let’s tell the boss some ancient story.” To be fair, I like these kinds of stories way more than the ones we get back in the West. How much nicer would it be if this is how Western government officials spoke:

Reporter: Why isn’t that roadway system finished?

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