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About 600 years ago, an Anhui scholar surnamed Cao and his family came to Changning Area of northwest Shanghai and settled here. They set up the Cao village. 200 years later, in order to make the water traffic more convenient for residents living on both banks of Wusong River, Shanghai, they built piers and small canals in the area, which named Caojiadu. Since then most water traffic between Shanghai city center and Baoshan or Jiading had been passed through here. Later the slit had been accumulated in the river, so the inhabitants had to build a bridge to cross it. But the water traffic was resumed through reconstruction of the waterways by Cao's offspring in early Qing Dynasty.

In the turbulent mid 19th century, Caojiadu had been harassed by the Heavenly Kingdom Rebellion and colonial Concession. But the commercial scenes of local folks had been flourished since then. Docks for cargo ships were set up, and farmers could ship their rice and many kinds of agricultural products from here to other places. Additionally, the business of restaurants, taverns and teahouses were very prosperous. In late 19th century lots of factories had been found in Caojiadu. In 1920s, British merchants opened public bus services as far as Hongkou District that made much convenient traffic to northern Shanghai.

Shanghai Municipality was established in 1927 and Caojiadu belonged to it and known as "Little Shanghai inside the City". But it had been notorious historically - bad night clubs, sinful drug dens, sinister casinos and vile Japanese brothel were all around here. Thieves, killings and fraud activities were rampant at that time, folks here had been harassed so often. Ironically during Anti-Japanese War (1937 - 1945) refugees from the city center came here, so temporary houses were built throughout Caojiadu. It became an extremely crowded place that hygienic condition was so bad, epidemics were very common especially during summer and traffic accidents were frequent too. There were no schools and hospitals.

As many poor places in Shanghai, Caojiadu's condition had been greatly improved through lot of painstaking projects which were done under the leadership of the CPC. The prosperous atmosphere returned during late 1950s. Since late 1970s, the development pace of industry and business had been quite smooth in the area.

In recent years, Caojiadu has become the center of Shanghai west, office buildings, shopping malls, supermarkets and restaurants are for your tour and leisure. Moreover, some famous snack restaurants of China, like Hangzhou's Zhiweiguan (established in 1913), Huang Tianyuan Cakes from Suzhou and so on.