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[Offbeat]: Wenmiao Lu

Welcome to the street for bootleg comics, ghosts, video games, erotic action figures, and…Confucius. It's a diverse neighborhood.
2015-03-19 12:58:29

We lost the Dongtai Lu antiques market to urban renewal last month, but just down the road is an even wilder street, specializing in bootleg comic books, Korean boy-band fan gear, toys and model robots, video games, and erotic Japanese action figures. Welcome to Wenmiao Lu, in Laoximen. It's chaotic, but the harmony stays in balance thanks to one of Shanghai's most low-key altars of worship, the city's only Confucian Temple. It's a fine place to spend a Sunday, especially if you get up early enough to hit the ghost market.

The gate to this land of erotic manga and hot plastic is at Zhonghua Lu and Wenmiao Lu, about five minutes from the Laoximen metro station. You'll know you're getting close when you spot street vendors selling graphic novels. They're mostly in Chinese, and bootleg. There's a big used bookstore on the corner too, and an imported food shop selling mystery cookie brands.

The beginning of the Wenmiao strip is mostly toy shops. Here we have a young security guard watching over a shop full of model airplanes and Gundam figures.

They sell all that delicious paint and glue too. You will need to haggle. There are also yo-yos, basketballs, and Ultraman figures.

Just like digging for records. The robot Baymax from Big Hero is the most popular character in China at the moment, so, lots of him.

A few doors down you've got a place where people speak the universal language -- Magic: The Gathering.

There's also stores selling video games and bootleg electronics, like these killer headphones. Think this is what happens when you listen to too much EDM. Don't let this be you.

But most stores sling expensive figurines of mostly erotic Japanese figurines. Most of these range from 200-600rmb. Here we have a modern day Leisure Suit Larry.

And...just a droid tossing salad.

The 60-ish Shanghainese lady running this store said she's been there for ten years, long before the other vendors. She also claims all her toys come from Japan, ordered by her daughter, and that the other stores sell fakes made in China.

Some of these shops can put your anime love on a pillow case or T-Shirt as well. Actually they can put any image on a pillowcase, for less than 100rmb, depending on the size.

WEAPONS. Yeah they've got knifes too. Imagine getting stabbed with a Naruto knife by some greaser at Windows Too. Talk about embarrassing.

If there's one item a market catered to children and young adults needs, it's colorful, alcohol filled Jello Shots right under a Tom and Jerry sign.

Classic socialist / communist comics for sale on the street. There's also a dude selling PS2 and OG Xbox games for like 60rmb each. They had Metal Gear Solid 2.

Just posted on the block, moving Minecraft bricks all day...

So, lording over this anime kingdom is my man Confucius. His temple has moved around Shanghai since 1290, surviving several dynasties, the Cultural Revolution, and some minor Robotech skirmishes. He reached this spot in 1855.

If you're looking for a temple in Shanghai, this is way, way chiller than the tourist hive Yuyuan. Now, Yuyuan is fine on a slow Monday, but on a weekend, forget it. It's also full of Dairy Queens, McDonald's, and selfie sticks. Wenmiao is the low key cousin, mostly frequented by local Shanghainese and a small flock of tourists. It's also the only Confucian temple in Shanghai. There were maybe ten people in the temple on Sunday afternoon. Tickets are 12rmb a piece.

We just missed it, but if you come between 5am-noon on a Sunday, you can catch the "ghost market". They set up in the dark, when only the ghosts can see what's going down. This market specializes in second hand books, mostly in Chinese but with some English titles too.

You can make a wish to Confucius and hang it from a tree for 6rmb. There's wishes in all languages. Confucius is on that Rosetta Stone.

Some are looking to improve their studies…

Others are hoping for a brighter future...

So, Wenmiao. Land of Jello shots, sexy figurines, and comics. And Confucius. It's a diverse neighborhood. Maybe not the best place for young kids though – no guarantees on the lead content. But for a cheap afternoon date, definitely. The only cost is the metro ticket and the 12rmb entry fee to the temple. And it's raw Shanghai in the city center. Surely the temple can withstand the pressures of modernization, but who knows if these little shops can survive more than another decade. Enjoy this place while you can.