I know it is referring to Shanghai, and Baidu has a handy explanation of its origins here, but how would you translate it? "The Mystic Capital"? "The Devilish Capital"? In the theme of 帝都 to describe Beijing as the "The Imperial capital" etc.

  • The Magic Capital
    – xenophōn
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 15:44
  • I think the magical metropolis would be better when I view this question again now.
    – xenophōn
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 2:28

6 Answers 6


You can use Demon City.

魔都 (used for 上海) came from the novel 魔都 written by 村松梢風 in 1924, and according to wikipedia, the novel's name is translated as Demon City.

Note that you don't have to translate into capital, because it means big city too.

● 都
 1. 大都市:~市。~会。通~大邑。

  • I didn't know it as a Chinese.
    – sfy
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 7:00
  • The magical metropolis is better
    – xenophōn
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 2:29

If we disregard the existing historic translation Demon City, and want to come up with a more, perhaps "modern" English translation to convey what early 20th century Shanghai was like, then what about: Sin City. It is still used to describe historic Shanghai, as seen in these examples:

Sin City Shanghai | For a short time in the beginning of the 20th century this city ... Shanghai was THE island of wickedness on the Chinese continent.


Sin cities in which you can pursue vice and debauchery have existed throughout history, from Rome’s ..., to Shanghai where you could float for days in opium dens high on sex and drugs.



Why not "Mordor"... I have always believed this is the only correct transl(iter)ation.

  • Good idea, but when 帝都 and 魔都 come up together, which word would you choose for 帝都?
    – Stan
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 18:58
  • Interesting choice, but since Mordor and 魔都 are unrelated etymologically and also have very different meanings, this would be a poor translation. They only sound similar, coincidentally. Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 2:27

Demon city definitely is not a good interpretation of Shanghai. I believe “Magic city” or “Enchanting city” is better.


I would use Shanghai (the Magic City) or whatever name I like to translate in the parenthesis. Simply use a nickname is too much for English speaking audience and very likely they won’t understand what you’re talking about.

Personally I like Modern City or Magic City.


Strictly on its own and without any contextual reference, 魔都, can only mean "Devil / Evil City" and calling it a "Metropolis" makes no semantic difference.

Since the author 村松梢風, Muramatsu Shōfu, is Japanese, then the Japanese translation for 魔都 should carry the intended meaning; and as I found out, 魔都 is "Mazu" which means "Magic City"

But WiKi says, "In his 1924 novel Mato (“Demon City”, 1924), he portrayed the dichotomy of Shanghai – a modern, beautiful, civilized façade, hiding a darker side populated by all manner of criminals and vice"

So there you have it. Pick the one meaning that suits your idea of Shanghai, now and in 1924, assuming you were alive in Shanghai then.

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