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Private home becomes a museum
By Yang Jian

A PRIVATE museum about traditional Shanghai life opened officially yesterday at a shikumen home filled with old items and traditional decorations.

The three-story shikumen (stone-gate) house hidden on Yongkang Road in Xuhui District is open to public every Saturday while reservations are required on other days, said Da Shiping, the owner of the house who turned it into a museum. There is no admission charge.

"The museum especially welcomes foreigners to show them a traditional Shanghai home and how people lived," said Da, 58, who also teaches Chinese to foreigners at Shanghai Normal University.

The house, built in 1925, has been owned by Da's family since 1942 and four generations of his family have lived there. They moved out in 2003 after learning the house would possibly be demolished for an urban redevelopment project.

The government later changed its plan, opting to preserve the block. Da then decided to turn it into a private museum.

"The furnishing and decoration inside remain the same as when my family lived here," Da said.

Exploring different rooms inside the museum is fun given Da's rich collection of everyday items from a bygone era.

In the bedroom on the second floor, Da opened the wardrobe, where his aunt's old qipao hangs in immaculate condition.

An old-fashioned copper hot water bottle used by Da's parents is on the bed.

Da's parents wrote and drew a picture book to celebrate the 1950 Marriage Law. It is considered the most precious exhibit as famous painters Chen Shifa and He Youzhi contributed pictures for the book.

Da said it was not easy to run the museum, especially after the official opening, as he acts as a guide for visitors.

The district cultural heritage authority offered 100 yuan (US$16) per person a day for Da to recruit staff to help maintain the museum, but Da said it was a bit inadequate for the non-profit museum.

"I have to recruit some more volunteers from universities to help out," he said.

Private museums emerged in the city in the mid-1980s and thrived in the 1990s.

More than 200 family-run museums have appeared in the city, but amid soaring rents and labor costs they have met harder times since 2000 and half have shut their doors, said the Shanghai Collection Association.

"Tight budgets, lack of successors and relocation to rural areas in the urban construction campaign caused the closure of private museums," said Wu Shaohua, director of the association.

Address: 35, Lane 38 Yongkang Rd.

Tel: 1891 608 4112 (Da Shiping)

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