LQBTQ+ nightlife in Shanghai is its own strange and special animal — so much so that we have a whole separate article about it — dive in here
For context throughout the remainder of this article, just know that Lucca 390
is the city’s most popular gay nightclub, and Roxie is the city’s most popular (read: only) lesbian bar/club.
Though this is changing more and more in recent years, there’s a several block strip in Changning district around Panyu Lu and Fahuazhen Lu that has a reputation as Shanghai’s “gayborhood” thanks to its being the location of almost all the city’s major LGBTQ+ bars and clubs. Some of these have since closed, including Shanghai Studio
and the beloved Eddy’s
, but lots more, including Lucca 390
, Asia Blue
and Rice Bar
, are alive and well.
Newer spots have cropped up elsewhere in the city in recent years, and lesbian bar Roxie
is in a completely different neighborhood in north Jing’an, but these few blocks remain the epicenter of Shanghai gay nightlife.
The drag scene in Shanghai remains small, but it’s everywhere if you know where to look. Lucca 390 will have a performance or two peppered throughout the night nearly every weekend, while other gay bars like Hunt, Roxie and newcomer SAOxHAUS
, along with recurring queer parties like Medusa, also regularly showcase performers.
Like elsewhere in the world, the style of drag popularized by RuPaul’s Drag Race is most prevalent, with lots of fishiness, glamour, professional-level dancing and pop-song focused lip syncs. Shanghai’s drag scene is fairly inclusive however, and there are also more fluid and genderbending styles, bearded queens, and several prominent drag kings.
Beyond the clubs and parties, there is also the option to see drag shows in a more theatrical or cabaret type atmosphere, most notably at cocktail bar Candor
and independent theater The Pearl
. These are significantly more expensive than a night out at the gay bars and can run you as much as 300–400rmb, but can be worth the occasional splurge for the production values and the variety show experience, where you can drink in several hours of fierce performances within different genres of drag rather than a scattered lip sync here and there at the club.
For those interested in trying out drag yourselves, Shanghai’s small and intimate scene is a fabulous place to do so. Many of the gay bars, including HUNT and Lucca, are safe, welcoming spaces for newbie queens and kings to show up in drag for parties and special events, which may eventually lead to an occasional gig lip-syncing or hosting an event. A few of the drag performers we know already had professional performance experience before arriving in Shanghai, but many more felt inspired and emboldened to start because of the relatively welcoming atmosphere in Shanghai compared to more established scenes in other cities worldwide.
One noteworthy annual event to mark down on your queer calendars is Lucca 390’s drag competition
, usually held in November every year. With dozens of queens and kings of diverse aesthetics competing for the crown, it's the single best showcase of drag’s continued development in Shanghai and an absolute joy to experience.
There is also an amateur category with no barrier of entry, so it’s a great place for any baby kings, queens and in-betweens to bring your Drag Race fantasies to life before an audience as well as make an impression that might lead you to get further bookings later.
Shanghai has also dipped a glittery toe into the rich American culture of ballroom over the past couple of years. House of Kawakubo
hosted several events to teach Voguing and runway before linking up with queer club night Medusa to host a series of ballroom competitions, which were so overwhelmingly popular that they are on hiatus until they can work out a bigger space to host them.
Most recently, April 2020 saw the launch of Voguing Shanghai
, a dance studio from several members of the House of Kawakubo and other Shanghai-based performers with a background in ballroom, offering classes in all the fundamentals including Vogue Femme, Vogue Old Way, Vogue New Way and Hands Performance, plus a Heels class from notable Shanghai drag queen Mo Meaux. (Wechat: VoguingShanghai).