The neoclassical Custom House, established at this site in 1857 and rebuilt in 1927, is one of the most important buildings on the Bund. Capping it is Big Ching, a bell modelled on London’s Big Ben. Clocks were by no means new to China, but Shanghai was the first city in which they gained widespread acceptance and the lives of many became dictated by a standardised, common schedule.
During the Cultural Revolution, Big Ching was replaced with loudspeakers that blasted out revolutionary songs (‘The East is Red’) and slogans. Look for the socialist realism plaque outside its front door, depicting scenes from the 'liberation' of Shanghai.