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Is antiques market set to become history?
By Zhao Wen


AN antiques street market popular among overseas tourists looking for quirky Chinese souvenirs could lose its charm as the homes it’s based around face demolition.

The Shanghai Dongtai Road Antique Market, which has been running for more than 30 years, features around 150 stalls along Dongtai Road and Liuhekou Road.

Most are small booths along the streets and little stores in the ground floor of residential buildings.

“If demolition takes place, it’s inevitable that the stores inside residential buildings will be lost,” an employee of Liuhe neighborhood committee, who declined to give his name, said yesterday.

Stall owners said they don’t know if the antique market will be retained in some form after the residential buildings are demolished.

The market supervisor was not available for comment yesterday.

Huangpu District government said there is currently no information to say that the market will be closed.

“Whatever happens, the market won’t be the same as it is now,” said stall owner Ma Yuanxiu.

Ma, 79, has been running his stall at the market for 30 years, selling old furniture, currency, photographs and vintage machinery.

He said he collects from city householders who are throwing out old things and people in rural areas.

“The market is like a home to me. Many stall owners here are neighbors and old friends. If they weren’t here, I’d feel that I’d lost something,” Ma said, waving to another stall owner coming over for a chat.

The antique market opened in the 1980s when several residents there began collecting old items and reselling them to antique dealers and collectors.

After some made lots of money, more residents joined in and they knocked down walls to open stores.

But as more people realized the value of old things, it became more difficult for stall owners to collect antiques.

As a result, many stall owners shifted their business to selling replicas and knick-knacks with a Chinese flavor, such as figurines of Chairman Mao, old Shanghai poster reprints, portraits of Qing Dynasty emperors and brass and jade Buddha statues.

This made the market grow famous among foreign tourists looking for unusual Chinese souvenirs.

It has been recommended by travel guide Lonely Planet as a good souvenir hunting ground in Shanghai.

Yesterday, foreign visitors to the market told Shanghai Daily that it would be a shame for the city to lose the antique market, as it’s a unique and interesting place reflecting Chinese culture and the identity of Shanghai.

Sam Foster, from Los Angeles, was recommended by a friend to visit the market.

He bought a brass horse at 130 yuan (US$21) and three silk scarves at 60 yuan each.

“The street market is cute, odd and very different from normal shopping. When you go to a mall, that’s got Hermes and Prada,” Foster said.

“Part of its charm is in the old buildings, and it certainly wouldn’t be the same if they put it in a neighborhood of new buildings.”

Aurelien Armagmac, from Paris, said the market is very special as it’s in the center of Shanghai.

“It is nice to have it near big office towers, and it is part of the authenticity of the city,” he said.

Sean Jackson, from New York, said the market is exceptional, with a lot of interesting people, beautiful art crafts, antiques and — most importantly — history.

“It’s a shame that people want to move this history from Shanghai when it’s so special and important to identity of the city,” Jackson said.

“New York doesn’t have a place like this.

“If New York had a place like this, people would fight to keep it where it is, to maintain its originality and its character,” Jackson said.

The New Yorker resisted Chinese-themed knick-knacks and bought a United States hockey jersey as a gift for his sister — although there was something not quite right about it.

“It’s not the right colors, and that’s why I like it.

“I’ll always remember this street,” Jackson said.

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