Objects of the old Shanghai can still be found in the city when you know where to look for. Very expensive icons of doubtful authenticity are offered to tourists for enormous amounts of money. What I find more interesting is to look for daily life objects that have gone through the ages. They are generally much cheaper and less likely to be fakes. I recently run into a full box of sewing line for sell in an antic market. It was probably an old survivor of times, kept preciously in a bottom of a wardrobe during dark times when replacement would be difficult to find and all originality in dresses forbidden. Although the box seemed old, I was not sure when it was from and whether this could have any interest in my search of the old Shanghai. The box contained about 30 rolls of line of various color. I looked at it, but did not really want to buy them… Until I saw “MADE IN SHANGHAI” printed on the label. The Chinese characters are traditional characters, so these objects were probably produced before 1949, when the characters were changed to simplified. The “MADE IN SHANGHAI” label in English proves to me that these rolls were made during the old Shanghai time, as from 1949 there are is little chance to have something written in English on the product, and certainly not “MADE IN SHANGHAI”, but more probably “MADE IN CHINA”.
These rolls were probably made in one of the multiple factories that were built in Shanghai during the concession time. The French concession corner near Xu Jia Hui (Xi Ka Wei in the old spelling) was a heavy industry area, along with the Suzhou Creek sides and the banks of the Huangpu. One of the remains is Xu Jia Hui park, where a high column of bricks stands… the old chimney of a factory. As for other objects and documents, they are a little bit of the old Shanghai that have crossed the ages. Touching it and looking at old pictures, it’s easy to imagine Chinese tailor sewing fabrics to create traditional Chinese or modern western cloths, as they still do today. In today’s Shanghai as in the old Shanghai, tailor is a respected work and most people have their cloths made by their skilled hands. This is one of those things that never changes in Shanghai, part of daily life in both the old and new Shanghai.