How to Read Shanghai Bus Stop Plate

Edward told me he is still confused when he read Chinese Bus Stop Plate in Shanhgai after living in the city for 3 years. He came from UK and travelled a lot in China. The most confusing part is about the difference between “Upward” and “Downward” route. Let me try to help explain it.

A typical bus stop plate in Shanghai

Here is the informaiton on the plate. People who do not understand Chinese may also recognize the information.


© Jian Shuo Wang

The one in the middle is a route with Chinese name. It is similar.

Upward and Downward

Many bus stops are wired. If you leave a bus at one stop, and after you get back and go to the opposite site of the road, you cannot find the bus stop to go back. It happens all the time. It is because there are just too many single-way roads in Shanghai that makes it impossible to get back on the same road. So the route of buses going to one direction may differ slightly from the route going to the opposite direction. I also get confused when they use “upward” or “downward”, because I don’t know what is the definition of up and down. Upward may mean “east to west”, or” “west to east”, “south to north” or “north to south”. Anyone can explain it?

Ask the driver or the bus conduct to get more information about where the bus actually stops, since two bus stop with the same name (typically the name of a road) may be very far (say, more than 10 km away) from each other.

22 thoughts on “How to Read Shanghai Bus Stop Plate

  1. Can your friend read chinese? The bus stop plate you show here is actually very nice. Full of information.

    How is the public transit in shanghai. Are most people satisfied with the service? Will people choose to ride bus or subway althogh they have vehicles at home?

    Bus service in suburban Toronto is really terrible.York region is running a new service. However other than the “high-tech” (for example, it has digital plate and real-time schedule information), it doesn’t provide any practical benefits. Soon after the initial curiosity, not many people are happy with it.

    I really feel sad about the “no-future” public transit service here. I hope shanghai can do a better job.

  2. I find the slogan underneath the two info plates funny – “改掉陋习” – Get rid of your bad habits! What a well baby-sitted country!

    There are lots more slogans like this in one of the un-used plates at a bus stop, such as “Don’t spit on the street”, “Speak Pu tong hua (Mandarin instead of Shanghai dialect)”, “Use polite language”, “Please use pedestrian crossing” etc.

    I always wonder what is the point of these slogans because people still spit wherever they feel like, still cross the roads whenever they want, even piss wherever they want.

  3. Another good source of information about bus stops is crossing guards. If you’re lucky, you’ll even run into one who speaks English!

    Also, a note to accompany Wang Jianshuo’s diagram: the start and stop times on the bus stop sign are the times for that particular stop, not for the entire line. I find this very convenient and helpful.

  4. I may help a bit regarding your confustion of that “upward” and “downward” stuff.

    It doesn’t actually mean direction. Just to indicate going from Terminal A to B, and from Terminal B to A.

    The sample plate you put there is not a perfect example. On some plates, there will be two names written side by side with one put in parenthesis. For example, Beijing West Rd. (Shimen No.2 Rd.). This means when you go from Terminal A to B, the stop is called Beijing West Rd, and when you go from Terminal B to A, it is called Shimen No. 2 Rd. In other words, there is no return stop on the opposite side of Beijing West Rd, neither of Shimen No. 1 Rd. These two names share the same spot only on the plate, but not so when it comes to the real stops.

    Hope I’ve made it clear. :-)

  5. Well-done jianshuo! I find it very educational and helpful!

    And to Sabrina, totally agree with your “get rid of those silly + ugly slogans” as those who are doing it won’t just give up the “陋习” by reading the them, maybe some of they can’t even read anyway…

    Talking about baby-sitting government, china is not the only one in the world, and I guess if the government really mean it they could have had better ways to handle it, instead of just with the ugly paint fading slogans…

    Finally spitting in streets, yuk! The most disgusting habit, but guess what? Have u ever seen well-dressed banker spitting in street? : Yes I have! and more than once, in London near Bank station.

    Well anyway that’s enough of me babbling. Sorry jianshuo for going off your wonderfully helpful topic :P

  6. Hi Jianshuo

    I will be going to shanghai with 2 other friends in end of dec. Would like to ask u where can i check the daily train timetable from shanghai to suzhou and hangzhou.coz need to plan my trip and book hotels. Or do u happen to know the timetable??


  7. Kia Ora Jianshou.

    I suspect that the “upward” and “downward” is a legacy of the possible British beginnings of the Shanghai bus service?? In Britain, the habit was to talk about going UP to London or DOWN from London. The railways refined this to talk about trains being UP trains or DOWN trains when running to or from a major terminal . So I suspect that Up busses go TO the major terminal and you go FROM it on a DOWN service. So compass direction has nothing to do with it. You just need to know which is the major terminal :-).

  8. Hi hui, shanghai-suzhou timetable:

    T732 7:00-7:47

    T706 9:00-9:48

    T708 10:00-10:47

    T712 10:00-1047

    N504 11:13-12.28

    T714 12:30-13:17

    T716 13:15-14:12

    T740 14:10-14:57

    can you read chinese?you can look


  9. Hi pad,

    I think you have misunderstand it.

    When the name is close and with a bracket, it usally means the detail place of Stop.

    In you example, Beijing West Rd. (Shimen No.2 Rd.) it means the stop is in Beijing West Rd. and near Shimen No.2 Rd. or in Shimen No.2 Rd near Beijing West Rd.

    “upwards” and “downward” only appear in the map.

    If it is a usual map solded at bookstore, downward means from first to end, while upward means end to first.

    For example , one bus in the map is Yan An Rd, Huaihai Rd, Fuxing Rd. downwards mean from Yan an Rd to Fuxing Rd. while upwards from Fuxing Rd. to Yan An rd.

    If it is the map in the bus, there usually have 2 line(usuall one blue, and one red) to indicate the different dierction.

  10. Great explanation, thanks to all contributors. Chinese buses are great, it never occurred to me that the signs were that full of information, I just look for the place I want to go to on the signs, hop on and hope for the best. If I make a mistake hop off and try again on another route, most of the time I get close enough to walk at first attempt anyway. Sad to say I rarely take buses in Shanghai these days, underground goes to most of the places I take public transport, but it is always an eye opener and honour when I do.

  11. Those bus stop plates are nice but can anybody tell why they give only half of the information you need. They tell you the crossroad but not the road the bus is traveling on. When you are outside the 1st ring road there might be 6 different bus lines with ChongQing Lu on them but you have to guess and might end up 3km away from where you are planning to go. Is this done to confuse people, or is the road info considered state secret (in North Korea street signs are missing to make things difficult for the South Korean Army in case they are invading) or is it just that the people who designed these signs were the same ones who got sent out to the country side the learn from peasants instead of going to college.

  12. Hi

    I was wondering if there are any direct train routes from Hangzhou to Suzhou/Wuxi. It seems like they all have to pass thru Shanghai first. Is it true?


  13. hi zap,

    I think it is only who design it doesn’t think it need a detail info, since the road is very short in the first, and this become a custom.

    But now, it will be changed, the new or changed stop plate will use “double road name” such as “Chongqing Rd. Yan’an Rd.”. But it need a time.

    I think the bus stop plate will be all use “double road name” in five years.

  14. spitting, piss and hiss are the common stuff in everyplace in the world, just for personal convenience or urgent necessity. Again, we have to explode to economical and educational strength of the place. People in rich country customarily has less poor sanitary habit, but still existed. I did see people from their cars, just low down their window, threw out the cigarrette bud and unfinished soda. It happened in well-developed country. When economical, educational and moral standard are elevated, those bad habits will be decreased to the minimum. It will never be totally eliminated. I live in Las vegas where there are so many magnificent casinos, hotels, restaurants and fast food serivces. I have no problem to find a bathroom. Besides,there are so many waste baskets, along the street and outside supermarket, and chain stores, too. For the convenience of the local residents,that certainly makes people to do the right thing and kick off the bad habit. Anyway, there are so many reasons and seems no specific answer yet. To improve country’s or city’s images, politicians should do something seriously to minimize those bad habits. Rome is not built in one day. Time and other factors should be counted as well


  16. I found this page that lists all the buses and their stops. Still looking for a map since these lines SEEM to wander anywhere the wind takes them without rhyme or reason. Its hard to even guess where they go . Anyone seen a map with the bus routes yet ? Maybe none exist !

    There is one link on the page whereby you can download the whole list .

  17. Kia Ora Jianshou.

    I suspect that the “upward” and “downward” is a legacy of the possible British beginnings of the Shanghai bus service?? In Britain, the habit was to talk about going UP to London or DOWN from London. The railways refined this to talk about trains being UP trains or DOWN trains when running to or from a major terminal . So I suspect that Up busses go TO the major terminal and you go FROM it on a DOWN service. So compass direction has nothing to do with it. You just need to know which is the major terminal :-).

    Posted by: unclejohn on November 28, 2005 4:20 PM


    i agree this point of view. i was taught this by my elder brother when i was young. He told me Upward means from contryside to the city center, Downward means from the city center to contryside.

  18. I hate tourist busses because they limit you so. I would like to go by local bus to Xitang or at least to Jiashan from Shanghai. I live in Baoshan district.

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