This past weekend, we took our third ever trip to Shanghai. Having been twice before, we were keen to discover some cool places off the beaten path. The Mulan Hua Ge Curio Warehouse definitely qualifies.

I’d read about it in advance on various blogs that said things like the following:

Mulan Hua Ge Curio Warehouse is a unique shop that has one of the city’s largest collections of antiques and collectibles. Offering a wide range of architectural salvage mainly from the pre-revolutionary period, the shop offers 20-meters-high piles of old trunks, chairs, tables, ladders, stools, musical instruments, old radios, televisions, Oriental screens, Buddha statues and many more. (My City Antiquing)

and

 Many visitors go to the huge XinYang Market which is under the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum (line 2 metro station of same name) in Pudong. It contains a large range of souvenirs along with clothes and electronics but is essentially for Westerners and similar to Beijing’s Silk, Pearl and Yashow markets.

For something more authentic (but always double check), visit the Mulan Hua Ge Curio Warehouse at 1788 Ji Yang Lu, near Shangpu Lu, exiting at Lingzhao Xincun metro station on Line 8, in Pudong, near the Lupu Bridge. This unique shop has one of the city’s biggest collections of antiques and collectibles in Shanghai. (10 Hidden Gems in Shanghai)

I probably should have paid more attention to Smart Shanghai‘s description:

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 off 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.

In particular, this advice would have been helpful to note in advance:

The best way to find the place is to show someone the name (in Chinese) when you get off the metro.

Somehow, I missed that advice. Instead, I consulted Google maps:

a location marked on a map

Right beside a metro stop. Not so bad, right?

Yeah, except that it’s literally a gazillion miles away from everything else in Shanghai:

a city map on which an area at the top is coloured orange and marked with a large black arrow. The pin noting the sought-after location is at the bottom of the map.

See all those little orange dots? They’re the other tourists. See that pin a gazillion miles south of the orange dots? That’s us.

We got out at the metro station and began to search for the shop, to no avail. And then the rain began. A massive downpour that went on for a long time.

We almost certainly wouldn’t have found the shop if not for a lovely man who, despite the rain, despite the fact that he was on duty at his traffic stand (where he had initially offered us shelter from the rain), and despite the fact that he neither spoke any English nor had ever heard of the curio shop, nonetheless took on the mission of guiding us to our intended destination, a role that he assumed with unparalleled tenacity (even though we didn’t really ask him to take it on).

Here he is with the Kid just before the 30 minute long adventure in the rain that would ultimately leave him and us considerably damper:

A Chinese man in a uniform smiling with a blonde teenage girl

…So, thirtyish minutes and eight soaking wet feet later, down an unmarked alley we went, past barking dogs and piles of rubbish until at last we arrived at our destination. There’s not much to say about Mulan Hua Ge that wouldn’t be better expressed by images. …except for two things:

1. When the Kid finally found the place (Cab and I sensibly sent her ahead as scout and stayed behind, out of the rain, at the metro station), the owner bought a broken umbrella from a neighbour and ran back to the metro station with her, partially sheltering her from the rain.

2. When we entered the shop, the younger of the two proprietors silently sprayed down our exposed skin with something from an unmarked bottle that stung for an hour afterwards. Insecticide, one assumes. As Cam noted, this may have been a literal flea market.

And now, the photographic evidence.

First, some exterior shots:

An address roughly painted on the side of a buliding

How could we have missed the address when it’s so clearly marked?

Mu Lan Hua Ge painted roughly onto the side of a building

Every business needs a sign!

a scruffy little dog

…and maybe a guard dog!

A shack surrounded by rubbish, with a large, blue tarp covering its entrance

Here’s the whole store front.

Now, for a few glimpses of the wares:

a dirty, dark aisle crowded with old junk

A typical “aisle”

a crowded aisle with a lit window at the end

…this one has some natural light

brass objects, including Mao figurines, buddhas and temple bells

Maos, temple bells, buddhas…

cluttered shelves with dusty old brassware

dirty stacks of wooden furniture

Part of the “furniture section”

a pile of textiles surrounded by junk

Clothing section!

blue porcelain bookends shaped like children reading books

a pile of antique cracker tins

Cracker tins!

drums and a Guanyin statue

Drums and Guanyin

an accordion, an old electric fan, and other stuff...

a doll and a camera on a Buddha statue with an accordion nearby

Buddha, dolly, camera, accordion

metal stairs stretching upwards

There’s an upstairs too!

Last but not least, the “adult” section:

a brass Buddha figurine with an erect penis and large testicles

A well-endowed Buddha. Nearby, there were other brass figurines that interlock with the aroused Buddhas, with complementary orifices and arms that twine around the Buddha’s torso.

a hand-carved wooden sculpture of three figures, two male and one female, having sex

This one was hand-whittled. Three figures — two male, one female (on the bottom) — in flagrante delicto. I can’t believe I didn’t buy this. What was I thinking?

Ok. While the Mulan Hua Ge warehouse was *clearly* the very best thing we did in Shanghai, there is much more to report from Shanghai. I’ll devote my next post to that!

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