The two Chinese characters in the city's name are '上' ("above") and '海' ("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 interpreted, but Chinese historians have concluded that during the Tang Dynasty Shanghai was literally on the sea, hence the origin of the name. Older Chinese was written right-to-left, so a reversed order "海上" is sometimes used for terms related to Shanghainese art and culture.
Shanghai is officially abbreviated 沪 (Hù) in Chinese, a contraction of 沪渎 (Hù Dú, 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.
An older name for Shanghai is Shēn (申), from Chunshen Jun (春申君), a nobleman and locally revered hero of the third-century BC state of Chu. From this, it is also called Shēnchéng (申城, "Shen City"). Sports teams and newspapers in Shanghai often use this character in their names.
Another early name for Shanghai was Huating (华亭). In 751 AD, during the mid-Tang Dynasty, Huating County was established at modern-day Songjiang, the first county-level administration within modern-day Shanghai. Today, Huating appears as the name of a four-star hotel in the city.
The city also has various nicknames in English, including "Paris of the East".
Shanghai sits on the Yangtze River Delta on China's eastern coast, and is roughly equidistant from Beijing and Hong Kong. The municipality as a whole consists of a peninsula between the Yangtze and Hangzhou Bay, mainland China's second-largest island Chongming, and a number of smaller islands. It is bordered on the north and west by Jiangsu Province, on the south by Zhejiang Province, and on the east by the East China Sea. The city proper is bisected by the Huangpu River, a tributary of the Yangtze. The historic center of the city, the Puxi area, is located on the western side of the Huangpu, while the newly developed Pudong, containing the central financial district Lujiazui, was developed on the eastern bank.
Shanghai has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) and experiences four distinct seasons. Winters are chilly and damp, and cold northwesterly winds from Siberia can cause nighttime temperatures to drop below freezing, although most years there are only one or two days of snowfall. Summers are hot and humid, with an average of 8.7 days exceeding 35 °C (95 °F) annually; occasional downpours or freak thunderstorms can be expected. The city is also susceptible to typhoons in summer and the beginning of autumn, none of which in recent years has caused considerable damage. The most pleasant seasons are Spring, although changeable and often rainy, and Autumn, which is generally sunny and dry. The city averages 4.2 °C (39.6 °F) in January and 27.9 °C (82.2 °F) in July, for an annual mean of 16.1 °C (61.0 °F). Shanghai experiences on average 1,878 hours of sunshine per year, with the hottest temperature ever recorded at 40.2 °C (104 °F), and the lowest at −12.1 °C (10 °F).
Shanghai has an extensive public transport system, largely based on metros, buses and taxis. Payment of all these public transportation tools can be made by using the Shanghai Public Transportation Card.
Shanghai's rapid transit system, the Shanghai Metro, incorporates both subway and light railway lines and extends to every core urban district as well as neighboring suburban districts.
As of 2010, there are twelve metro lines (including the Shanghai Maglev Train), 273 stations and over 420 km of tracks in operation, making it the third longest network in the world. On 22 October 2010, it set a record of daily ridership of 7.548 million. The fare depends on the length of travel distance starting from 3 RMB.
Shanghai also has the world's most extensive network of urban bus routes, with nearly one thousand bus lines, operated by numerous transportation companies. The system includes the world's oldest trolleybus system. Bus fare normally costs 2 RMB.
Taxis are plentiful in Shanghai. The base fare is currently ¥14 (inclusive of a ¥1 fuel surcharge; ¥18 between 11:00 pm and 5:00 am) which covers the first 3 kilometers. Additional kilometers cost ¥2.4 each (¥3.2 between 11:00 pm and 5:00 am).
Due to its cosmopolitan history, Shanghai has a rich blend of religious heritage as shown by the religious buildings and institutions still scattered around the city. Taoism has a presence in Shanghai in the form of several temples, including the City God Temple, at the heart of the old city, and a temple dedicated to the Three Kingdoms general Guan Yu. The Wenmiao is a temple dedicated to Confucius. Buddhism has had a presence in Shanghai since ancient times. Longhua temple, the largest temple in Shanghai, and Jing'an Temple, were first founded in the Three Kingdoms period. Another important temple is the Jade Buddha Temple, which is named after a large statue of Buddha carved out of jade in the temple. In recent decades, dozens of modern temples have been built throughout the city. A predominant religion in Shanghai is Mahayana Buddhism, and Taoism is also followed by many Shanghai residents. Islam came into Shanghai 700 years ago and a mosque was built in 1295 in Songjiang. In 1843, a teachers' college was also set up. The Xiaotaoyuan Mosque is located at 52 Xiaotaoyuan Lane,East Fuxing Road, South District. This is where the Shanghai Muslim Association is also located, which has a reputation known throughout the world. Shanghai has the highest Catholic percentage in Mainland China (2003). Among Catholic churches, St Ignatius Cathedral in Xujiahui is one of the largest, while She Shan Basilica is the only active pilgrimage site in China. communities. Christianity in Shanghai includes Eastern Orthodox minorities and, since 1996, registered Christian Protestant churches. During World War II thousands of Jews descended upon Shanghai in an effort to flee Hitler's regime. The Jews lived side-by-side in a designated area called Shanghai Ghetto and formed a vibrant community centered on the Ohel Moishe Synagogue, which is preserved remnant of this portion of Shanghai's complex religious past.