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Visitors peruse civil records of bygone age at new museum
2012-12-03
By Hu Min

THE Shanghai Civil Affairs Museum opened to the public yesterday, featuring marriage certificates, lottery tickets and group wedding photos of bygone eras.

The exhibition offers a glimpse on Shanghai's civil affairs development with a multitude of old photos, multimedia displays, sculptures and exhibits dating back some 5,000 years. Some exhibits were donated by local residents.

Marriage certificates issued in 1924 and 1948 are among the most eye-catching. The certificates, with a pink background and red and light brown edges, feature exquisite patterns of yuanyang (Mandarin duck), fenghuang (phoenix) and peony, making them look auspicious and more fanciful than those of today.

Yuanyang are believed to be the incarnation of life-long couples and are regarded as a symbol of conjugal affection and fidelity by Chinese. Fenghuang signifies virtue and grace in Chinese culture.

The names of the bride and bridegroom, their "eight characters of birth time," believed by the ancients to be linked with a person's fate, and blessings given to the couple were written in beautiful calligraphy on each certificate with the seals of matchmakers and those who officiated. Visitors to the exhibit are filled with nostalgic memories.

"I get fascinated by these certificates, which strike a chord of nostalgia for mirroring the change of time," said 51-year-old Chen Gengfa. He has his own certificate, but it looks much simpler than those exhibited, he said.

Also on display are tomb purchase stubs issued in 1932, an old publicity poster for charity awards for those who provided relief for refugees, donation receipts issued in the 1940s by Buddhist associations, documents of China's first marriage law, a divorce certificate from 1954, the city's first lottery tickets, a local couple's wedding photo shot in 1940, and a photo of a group wedding from 77 years ago. It was the first time that a group wedding was recorded in the city.

Porcelain earthenware used to serve food was found in suburban Qingpu District at Songze Culture Ruins, belonging to the Songze Culture (3,900-3,200 BC), one of the city's earliest cultures. There also is a gravestone from the Ming Dynasy (1368-1644).

Visitors can also check the city's civil affairs policies and make online bookings for marriage registration at the museum.

The museum covers 800 square meters in a 1920s building that was the former site of Shanghai Children's Welfare Institute. The address is 105 Puyu Rd W. in Huangpu District. Admission is free.

It is closed on Mondays and open from 9am to 4:30pm other days, though no entry is allowed as of 4pm.

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