“A great, wicked and quite extraordinary city” was how, in 1947, LIFE described Shanghai. Or Demon City — as it had been known by a younger generation — since Shōfu Muramatsu used the term in his 1924 book, Mato.
Demon City? Shanghai had (and still has) a reputation for reflecting both the lightness and the darkness of humanity — something LIFE made no bones about. It was, they said, a city of “noise and sin and tarnished glamor.”
And the traffic. In 1947, four million people had made Demon City their residence (today, that number is 24 million). It seemed that at any one time, a very substantial proportion of the population was on the Shanghai streets.
“The traffic has become a monstrous, screaming blend of rickshaws, coolie-powered push carts, limousines, three-wheeled pedicabs, jeeps and six-ton trucks,” exclaimed LIFE.
The set of pictures below, taken by Mark Kauffman to illustrate that point, depict some of the many and various human-powered vehicles to be found on the streets of Shanghai in ’47.
Kauffman was just 24 when he photographed Shanghai. Seven years before, he had become the youngest person ever to shoot a cover for LIFE: a portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt.