Sharing old house of antiques brings nostalgia, joy to collector
By Zhu Xueyi
AT the former residence of renowned author Eileen Chang’s uncle which is tucked into a quiet lane along Wanping Road in Xuhui District, a room is decorated with various antiquities dating to the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) — precious vinyl records on the walls, wooden furniture, gramophones and radios, goblets and snuff bottles.
Accompanying them are old Shanghai elements — freshly made rose-pear tea, old Shanghai coffee and traditional Shanghai desserts.
The curator of this tiny exhibition, Landy He, a Western art critic and a member of the China Association of Collectors, is more than happy to introduce each piece of his collection to whomever walks in.
“I love this exhibition because it is engaging!” says a visitor who just stepped out of “The Nostalgic Exhibition of Old Shanghai.”
“I can touch the old goods and recall the life that their former owner enjoyed.”
Growing up with his grandmother who was a typical Shanghainese lady, He is an expert on Shanghai culture. He inherited large amounts of antiquities from his family as his grandfather was a comprador who owned a foreign goods shop in the former French concession.
“Profits are not my intention (for this exhibition). I understand that China is in desperate need of cultural exchange with foreign countries, but it is unjustifiable to throw away our old and delicate life,” says He, who now owns the old villa.
Paying his tribute to the old days, He is happy to share his large collection with the public. He would show visitors around the room when he’s talking about each art piece to let them have more sense of the history and life back in the old days.
“I want visitors to know how enjoyable the Shanghainese life once was,” the collector says.
This is new to the younger generations. “Now I understand why my grandparents miss the so-called ‘good old days’ so much,” says a post-1990s student who visited the exhibition. “It was not just about watching all these exquisite antiquities. I wish I could lead a delicate life like this.”
He is so happy with what the student visitor said. “I cannot be happier when I see students attracted by what they see in my villa,” he says. “To me, it is more than keeping old stuff. This exhibition is my way of preserving Shanghainese culture.
“If our next generation becomes interested in this lifestyle, hopefully they will revive the delicate Shanghainese life.”
Concerned that the precious and fragile gramophones might break, He only allows them playing on weekends. Due to the size of the villa, he controls the number of visitors to 15 every time. Between 1pm and 6pm, there will be five successive performances.
Within the hour, He will deliver mini-lectures on delicate old Shanghai life together with typical traditional desserts to bring people back several decades to the golden bygone era.