Fluid tradition, splintered modernity
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In the early nineteenth century, Shanghai was already a prosperous market town that had developed beyond its walled urban core and formed a bustling suburb along the Huangpu River. But compared to major urban centers in the Jiangnan (or lower Yangzi) region, such as Suzhou and Yangzhou, it was still merely a frontier county seat. In the wake of the First Opium War, the Treaty of Nanking (1843) designated it an open port, and soon the British Settlement (1845) and the French Concession (1849) were established to the north of the old walled city. In 1863, the British Settlement merged with the American Settlement to form the International Settlement. In the beginning, the residents of the settlements consisted of only a few hundred foreigners and their servants. But during the Small Sword rebellion and the invasion of the Taiping rebels in the 1850s and 1860s, Chinese refugees streamed into the settlements, which became a city of mixed residence ( huayang zaju ). After the Taiping rebels were suppressed, many refugees returned home and the settlements fell into a temporary economic slump. From the 1870s on, however, Shanghai experienced phenomenal economic growth, especially in trade and real estate, and it attracted hundreds of thousands of immigrants and sojourners from the hinterland.