“Antique” being a relative concept, of course.

If ever there was a place where “buyer beware” was a useful phrase to keep in mind, it’d be the Dongtai Road Antique Market.


This market is located in the old town of Shanghai, with possibly hundreds of stalls stretched along two streets, selling all sorts of stuff.  Antiques, though, they are not.


Nonetheless, it’s a pretty interesting place to visit, just to see the crayzy amounts of stuff on sale.


While the stallholders were mostly happy for me to photograph the goods, they weren’t so keen to be in the photos themselves.  I don’t whether this is Chinese humility or paranoia, but the transition from in-yer-face salesperson to shy photo-model was stunningly swift.


Having been around for many years (and in that time, gaining a reputation for its dubious claims about the antiquity of its products), it is also surprising the market is still peddling the whole “you might be the lucky one who discovers a priceless Ming vase under a pile of junk” line.  It seems the product-suppliers are experts in making things look old … smearing everything with a bit of dirt and ensuring that they are displayed as randomly as possible.


This stall was particularly random, piled high with old cameras, mannequins, maps and paintings.


After a bit of wandering around, you just start to see the same stuff.  There are lots of old-style cigarette adverts and picture calendars, which (if they actually existed in the old days), would have been quite raunchy for their time.


Lots of old watches and clocks and figurines and bangles.


Paintbrushes and chopsticks and boxes and (at the centre of the lower image) little folding things emblazoned with drawings of people doing naughty physical things.  When I took one of my Aunties BS (and others) here for a visit, she purchased one of the little red boxes, only to discover later that the inside of the box contained some of the same naughty drawings.  Hadn’t noticed that before, she claimed …


Old coins and bottles and statues and multi-lingual copies of “Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung” aka the little red book.


It’s a place where Communist imagery meets blatant commercialism … possibly best expressed in this fetching Obama T-shirt.

The market is famous for hard bargaining … itself a fakery of a sort.  Buyers come here expecting dramatic cuts to the asking price, and sellers jack the prices up accordingly.  Negotiations occur through rapid-fire price offers, sighing and guffawing, hand-wringing and money-flashing, even fake tears (it’s true: I have seen it).

But, in the end, both emerge winners.  One has extracted a good sum of money for a mass-produced “antique”.  And the other, knowing full well that this was the case, has a cheap souvenir and a good story to tell.


4 Responses to “Antique” being a relative concept, of course.

  1. Justin says:

    Great photos of the merchandise – and strange that the stall-holders were so camera shy. This brought back memories – mostly of Yoko being a spectacularly bad bargainer here and yet thinking she had got a good deal 🙂

  2. Gizzard says:

    Hello Good Doctor, could you pick up one of those raunchy cycling lady posters for my games room please? Oh, hang on, I don’t have a games room. Dang.

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