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[Covet]: Offbeat Antiques

The promised land for antiques, curios, furniture, and crap, crap, crap. Shopping at the Mu Lan antique warehouse in Outer Pudong-land...
2011-02-24 14:23:26

Most people in Shanghai think shopping for antiques and curios in Shanghai begins and ends with Dongtai Lu. It doesn’t. Here’s where you have to go: “Shanghai Mu Lan Hua Ge Jia Ju Li Curio Company.” (上海木蓝花阁家具丽)

If you’re looking to satisfy your sense of adventure, spend an afternoon in Outer-Pudongland, sifting and pouring through the wonderful mountain of crap and curiosity at this offbeat antiques and furnitures market. The name just rolls of the tongue -- the Shanghai Mu Lan Hua Ge Jia Ju Li Curio Company. And sure, it involves a trek out to the wilds and it's almost impossible to find, but that's half the fun. Builds character.

More a giant clearing warehouse than a market, really, Mu Lan contains 20-meters-high piles and piles of old trunks, chairs, tables, ladders, stools, musical instruments, taxidermied baby goats (that’s a hot item), old radios, televisions, buddha statues, and more. Miscellaneous, miscellaneous, miscellaneous.

The sheer amount of bric-a-brac is overwhelming, and as you squeeze through the narrow openings, the only thing that comes to mind is again and again is, “Where on earth did all this stuff come from?”

It’s a unique shopping experience -- oozing with authenticity, as they say -- not for the faint of heart or those afraid to get their hands dirty. Everything is covered in dust (and authenticity), it's cold, damp, dark, and would make a great setting for a horror film. But on the upside, among the mountains of junk, there are plenty of gems to be found. Randomness you can’t find anywhere else. Not only that, but anything you want to buy can be repaired and painted by the friendly fellows who staff this place, so in many ways, your only constraint is your imagination.

The best thing about Mu Lan is the prices. Our purchases: 80rmb for a large bamboo ladder, 200rmb for a large bird cage, 500rmb for a large cabinet (these prices include repairs, a fresh coat of paint and delivery to your home). Bargaining is essential, but an appropriate starting point is about half of the first offering price, rather than the 10 to 20 percent common at markets that cater to tourists.

But even if you’re not specifically wanting to buy anything, it’s still a pretty amazing place to spend an afternoon if you’re looking to get out there and do something different with your weekend.

Details: Address is 1788 Ji Yang Lu, near Shangpu Lu (济阳路1788号), next to Lingzhao Xincun metro station on Line 8. The best way to find the place is to show someone the name (in Chinese) when you get off the metro. Tel: 5841 7001 / 137 0163 3804 (Sun Miao Hong, General Manager).

Photos by Emily Minor.