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Century-old Dashijie is back in business after 13-year revamp
By Yang Jian

CULTURAL heritage skills, Chinese opera and traditional food were presented to invited residents at the century-old Shanghai Dashijie amusement center that reopened for a trial operation yesterday.

The building, also known as the Great World Amusement Center, has now become an exhibition center for China’s “intangible cultural heritages.”

Inheritors and masters of traditional skills, such as ceramic making, cloth painting and fabric weaving, are performing their skills and will also teach visitors and invite volunteers to take part.

“The center mainly exhibits the intangible cultural heritages related to people’s daily lives to encourage the public to help protecting the skills,” said Xie Jun, an official with the preparation team for the Dashijie center.

The newly opened center has four stories along with an open-air middle stage area, the same layout as the amusement center had.

“I feel like entering the original Dashijie two or three decades ago,” said one of the first batch of visitors surnamed Lin who is in her 50s. “I can even recall what kinds of shows were once performed in the rooms.”

However, exhibitions and performances now taking place are different to times past — with one exception.

The 12 “distorting mirrors” remain in situ. They were made in the Netherlands and their presence in the lobby area became a popular attraction and cherished memory for many local people.

The original mirrors have been repaired and placed again in the lobby. Visitors will see them as soon as they enter the building on Xizang Road S. in Huangpu District.

The central stage in the building has been restored to its original look and will host Peking Opera and other Chinese operas.

The Original Intangible Cultural Heritage hall on the second floor becomes the centerpiece of the new center.

“I think it is a good platform to let the public to enjoy the cultures of handicrafts that have been ignored amid mass industrialization,” said ceramic artist Li Youyu, the inheritor of the Shanghai Hanguang Ceramic, a local intangible cultural heritage.

Several of Li’s masterpieces are being exhibited in the hall. Hanguang porcelain is renowned for its purity, smoothness and elegant illustrations.

Among the first batch of masters — who will change every month — are Chen Baihua, a master of festival lantern, Long Shengying, the inheritor of the Miao nationality embroidery skills and Liu Lanfang, who makes traditional herbal scented bags.

Xie said these fashion exhibits were designed to attract younger generations to enjoy the traditional skills.

The exhibitions will be changed regularly, Xie said.

A “traditional skills teaching room” invites teachers from local art colleges and technical schools specializing in intangible cultural heritages to teach visitors about the skills involved.

Foreign students would be invited to study Chinese traditional skills during summer and winter holidays, Xie said. Some of them would also bring their own foreign traditional skills to exchange with their Chinese counterparts, she added.

On the fourth floor, more than 100 historic ceramic bowls with paintings about “all walks of life” in ancient China are being exhibited.

The center plans to place a huge traditional spinning machine on the same floor to invite some 50,000 visitors to weave a large carpet after its official opening by the end of March, Xie said.

The Dashijie entertainment center was built in 1917. It closed in 2003.

The building is now able to receive a maximum 3,300 visitors simultaneously once reopened to the public.

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