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【China Face】Museum down memory lane

[ 2013-10-31 16:53] 来源:中国日报网     字号 [] [] []  
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Shanghai is a city with an eye to the future - but some residents are nostalgic for times past. Wu Ni chatsto a 'retro-holic' who is collecting pieces of the lost city.

For many Shanghai natives, nostalgia is a natural reaction to the rapid and drastic changes that arehappening to the city. Wang Xiaojia went a step further - she built a museum to commemorate the goldendays of old Shanghai.

The museum is hidden away in the middle of a residential compound for war veterans. Stepping inside,one is immediately transported into the past, with a nostalgic atmosphere created by the dusky lighting,slow jazz melody and thousands of items reminiscent of old Shanghai.

They include qipao, or cheongsam, the popular dress among socialites and upper class women in the1920s in Shanghai, rusty tin boxes for cigarettes, vintage watches and bags, and complete householdarticles used by old Shanghai families from glassware to ashtrays, light bulbs, wash basins, thermoses,sewing machines and wardrobes.

Wang named her museum Shanghai 1937, an era in her eyes when the city's prosperity rivaled Parisand New York, but was interrupted by the invasion of the Japanese army.

Wang's family has lived in Shanghai for generations. Born in the 1980s, she grew up in a traditionalstone-arched Shikumen lane house. As skyscrapers and shopping malls gradually took over the city, theold houses were demolished, big families dispersed and things that she was familiar with disappeared.

She started to collect the old-fashioned items and accumulated so many things that they piled up in astorehouse. Her brother, a photographer, had a vacant photo studio that she thought could be a perfectspace to display her collection.

The 200-square-meter studio was transformed into a tiny museum that unexpectedly became a populardestination for those who are fond of local culture and seek old Shanghai flavor.

"These exhibits are not expensive or rare, but people feel intimate with them," Wang says. "Visitors arereminded of the times past and beautiful memories."

Wang recalls a middle-aged woman who bought a cassette of Fei Xiang, or Kris Phillips, the renownedChinese-American pop icon who was popular on the Chinese mainland in the 1980s.

"She said the singer was her idol when she was young but she could not afford the cassette. Now shehad fulfilled her girlhood dream, although the cassette was shabby and the sound quality notsatisfactory," Wang says.

Wang works as a stylist but contributes most of her sparetime to the museum. She calls herself a "retro-holic" and isproud that she has saved precious items and their storiesfrom fading from history.

On a wall of the museum are a dozen wooden doors shesalvaged from a bulldozer. "I was passing by a constructionsite and saw workers were ready to demolish the houses. Icried out loudly to stop them and said I would take thewooden doors," she recalls.

"The doors are no more than 100 years old. They might not be that valuable for antique dealers but theyare precious to me," she says. "Look at those lines and colors, they were sculpted by time."

She also has two razors she collected from an old man whose grandfather received them from Americansoldiers, in exchange for food, in the 1940s, when Shanghai was a World War II battlefield.

Most exhibits are tradable except for a few personal items. Wang cherishes the pianos she has collectedthe most. The oldest one is an antique Robinson piano dating back to the 1870s that was used in areligious school. The piano keys are made of ivory.

A Montrie piano was left by Wang's grandmother. The brand, created by the British and produced inShanghai, was very popular in the 1930s. She also has a Nieer piano, a Chinese produced piano fromthe 1950s. The instrument is simple, and was made without a cover because there was scant access tomaterials in that era. She also has a mini-piano Wang played when she was only a kid.

Ann Gu, a 25-year-old Shanghai native, found many exhibits spark memories. "The clothes, bags, vasesand cups, no matter what time they belong to, are exquisite. I think they reveal the pursuit of Shanghaipeople for high-quality and exquisite life," she says.

The museum is only open to the public on Saturday afternoons. On otherdays, it is used as a photo studio where customers can dress in the1930s style and pose for photos, or a cute space for friends to haveafternoon tea, or even a small bar where several friends come for a drink.There are plenty of old-fashioned snacks and beverages available here.

Wang's brother, who asked to be called by his nickname Lao Hei,explained that the flexible management aims to earn some money tomaintain the museum. He says the collection includes some clothes andnewspapers dating back to a century ago that need to be regularly taken care of.

It is not easy for a private museum to survive in the city if it lacks financial support from the governmentor foundations. But the siblings say they will try their best to carry on and hope to find a larger space todisplay the items chronologically.

"These exhibits embody what used to be a part of our life. We loved them, commemorate them and wouldlike to introduce them to more people," Wang says.

By Wu Ni ( China Daily)























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