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What makes Shanghai China's hottest city? It's elementary.

AS THE SUN RISES ON SHANGHAI, bathing the waterfront's historic buildings in the most flattering light, dozens of people gather on the promenade alongside the Huangpu River to practice tai chi - or qigong, as the Chinese call it. According to traditional Chinese medicine, qi is the energy, or life force, of all beings. Its five elements - fire, earth, metal, water, and wood - must be in perfect balance for a person to thrive and have energy to soar.

No place in the world right now is thriving like Shanghai; its energy and growth are unparalleled. Some Westerners attribute the city's success to China's economic reforms, others to its history as an international port city. But the Chinese know that some of the credit should go to Shanghai's qi. Here are 25 places that exemplify it.


Fire represents the heat of summer. It's the most energetic element, associated with passion, joy, growth, and warmth in relationships.

Bar Rouge

Bar Rouge is not only the hottest nightclub in Shanghai, it's ranked among the world's top new bars. Its handblown Murano­-glass chandeliers cast a crimson glow on the city's elite, who come for the bar's fire shows, its fantastic skyline views, and some of the best people-watching in town. Twins Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, two of the youngest chefs to earn three Michelin stars, opened Bar Rouge to complement their adjoining Sens & Bund, the first Relais & Châteaux restaurant in China. "There's a great energy you feel here in Shanghai," Jacques Pourcel says. "That energy makes you want to step up, go ahead, move ahead." 7/F, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, 011-8621-6339-1199, www.bund18.com.

Ready for an alternative to Szechuan fare? The hot Hunanese cuisine at Guyi singes nose hairs and sets the standard for pepper power in Shanghai. Customers willingly wait for a table in order to feast on chile-laden hot pots and tender, smoky pork ribs, two highlights of the vast menu at this clean, value-priced venue. 87 Fumin Lu, 011-8621-6249-5628.

Sunday Brunch
Chalk it up to the free-flowing­ Champagne, but there's no warmer and more jovial gathering in Shanghai than the Sunday brunch at the Westin Shanghai. It feels like a family reunion. There's a supervised kids' corner, live entertainment, and a bottomless buffet with fresh seafood, Chinese and Western entrées, a vodka and caviar bar, and decadent desserts. 88 Henan Zhong Lu, 011-8621-6335-1888, www.westin.com/shanghai.

Spin ceramic studio
To drink your share of all the tea in China, snap up a chic tea set from Spin. This workshop puts a modern stylistic spin on centuries-old techniques from Jingdezhen, the capital of Chinese ceramics. Fired at 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit, the shop's signature teacups sport bold blue-and-red slashes that slice through the traditional celadon glaze. 758 Julu Lu, Bldg. No. 3, 011-8621-6279-2545.

Yu Garden Bazaar
With Xiangyang Market shutting its doors, the Yu Garden Bazaar is poised to become the city's next hot spot for legitimate and knockoff souvenirs. The Ming-styled marketplace and nearby Cang Bao Building have always been favorite stops for antiques, chopsticks, tea sets, and other traditional wares. But expect more whispers of "DVD? Bag? Watch?" and back-alley stashes of knockoffs as the displaced Xiangyang vendors find a new home. Find it all (and more) at the corner of Fuyou Lu and Jiujiachang Lu.