As a major administrative, shipping and trading city, Shanghai grew in importance in the 19th century due to trade and recognition of its favourable port location and economic potential. The city was one of five treaty ports forced open to foreign trade following the British victory over China in the First Opium War. The subsequent 1842 Treaty of Nanking and 1844 Treaty of Whampoa allowed the establishment of the Shanghai International Settlement and the French Concession. The city then flourished as a centre of commerce between China and other parts of the world (predominantly the Occident), and became the primary financial hub of the Asia-Pacific region in the 1930s. However, with the Communist Party takeover of the mainland in 1949, trade was limited to other socialist countries, and the city's global influence declined. In the 1990s, the economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping resulted in an intense re-development of the city, aiding the return of finance and foreign investment to the city. It has since re-emerged as a hub for international trade and finance; it is the home of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, one of the world's largest by market capitalization.
Shanghai has been described as the "showpiece" of the booming economy of mainland China; renowned for its Lujiazui skyline, and museums and historic buildings, such as those along The Bund, as well as the City God Temple and the Yu Garden.
The two Chinese characters in the city's name are 上 (shàng/zan, "upon") and 海 (hǎi/hae,"sea"), together meaning "Upon-the-Sea". The earliest occurrence of this name dates from the 11th-century Song Dynasty, at which time there was already a river confluence and a town with this name in the area. There are disputes as to exactly how the name should be understood, but Chinese historians have concluded that during the Tang dynasty Shanghai was literally on the sea.
Shanghai is officially abbreviated 沪 (Hù/Wu) in Chinese, a contraction of 沪渎 (Hù Dú/Vu Doh, lit "Harpoon Ditch"), a 4th- or 5th-century Jin name for the mouth of Suzhou Creek when it was the main conduit into the ocean. This character appears on all motor vehicle license plates issued in the municipality today.
Another alternative name for Shanghai is Shēn (申) or Shēnchéng (申城, "Shen City"), from Lord Chunshen, a third-century BC nobleman and prime minister of the state of Chu, whose fief included modern Shanghai. Sports teams and newspapers in Shanghai often use Shen in their names, such as Shanghai Shenhua F.C. and Shen Bao.