From 1844 through 1943 Shanghai was one of the strangest political entities which has ever existed. It was three geo-political bodies in one, the International Settlement, The French Concession, and the Chinese municipality of Greater Shanghai. During this period, it became one of the leading commercial cities in the world. Its position was constantly threatened and finally eroded by a succession of conflicts: the Taiping Rebellion, the deterioration of the Empire, the 1911 Revolution, the Warlord squabbling, the Nationalist consolidation, the Sino- Japanese War, World War Two, and the Civil War. Communist takeover led to stagnation, but as China has reopened in the last few years, Shanghai has again become one of the busiest ports in the world.
Shanghai was first opened to the west as one of the first of the "Treaty Ports" created by the Treaty of Nanking, which ended the Opium War. The other treaty ports, such as Hankow and Tientsin, were set up through specific parcels of land being declared concessions to specific governments. While Shanghai did have a section which was a French concession ruled directly from France, another part of the city was called the "International Settlement" because it was theoretically under the shared control of a number of different countries, including the Great Britain, The United States, and Japan. In fact it was be highly self-governing. Surrounding these two were the Chinese sections, eventually known as "Greater Shanghai". The International Settlement had its own government, with a council with members from the politically dominant national communities, primarily the UK and the US. But it was never a proper colony, nor was it free of external control. Over time, in recognition of the growing number of Chinese actually resident in the city, Chinese representation was increased.
Although Shanghai had a Volunteer Corps for self-defense, it wasn't very large. Whenever Shanghai was threatened by serious conflict, a number of the colonial powers would send troops to defend their nationals' interests. This occurred in 1927 when the Nationalist Army was winding up the "Northern Expedition", in 1932, when the Japanese Navy attacked the Chinese city, and in 1937, when the Japanese started what is known as the Sino-Japanese war, but which was in reality the beginning of World War II in that region. The foreign powers also maintained gunboats on the Yangtze to protect foreign commerce and the various concessions from the turn of the century through World War II.
Over the last few years I have been attempting to develop a collection of medals awarded by various governmental bodies recognizing events or service in Shanghai or the Yangtze valley. I have tended to confine myself to medals which were awarded by non-Chinese institutions or to members of the foreign community. This list is similarly mostly confined to non-Chinese material, although some medals specific to Shanghai are included. Chinese medals warrant their own checklist and it well beyond my competence. What is presented below is mostly a "wish list", although I do own a few of the items. The information is derived from personal collections, relatively recent auction catalogues, and miscellaneous texts and articles, most of which are given in the bibliography.
The first version of this was published in the Journal of East Asian Numismatics, Volume 5, # 2, pp 16-20 (Issue 16, 1998). However, this is still a very preliminary checklist of medals. In many ways it shows my ignorance as well as my knowledge. As I learn more, it will be included in later versions. If any reader has any additional information, or corrections to what I present here, please don't hesitate to let me know.