Family treasures on show at new museum

City's first lilong museum will revive memories with its displays of items from local residents.
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A man admires old pictures at Xiwang Garden Lane Museum, the city’s first lilong museum which opened in Jing’an District on Thursday.

From toys of the 1930s to beepers in the 1990s, family treasures and collections are on show at the city’s first lilong museum which opened in Jing’an District on Thursday. 

Xiwang Garden Lane Museum is tucked away in the century-old Xiwang residential compound at Lane 68 on Fengxian Road.

Xiwang, built in 1911, is a typical Shanghai lane-style neighborhood, known by locals as lilong, that fuses Eastern and Western flavors. It houses 12 British Queen Anne-style buildings that are situated on interconnected lanes. 

Its history is told on noticeboards and in old photos in the museum.

“Xiwang had been built to accommodate wealthy expats and upper-class people. Due to historical reasons, one unit was partitioned into smaller flats occupied by several families,” said social worker Huang Siqi, who has volunteered to be the museum’s guide.

Lai Zongren, 78, who has lived in Xiwang for more than 70 years, said: “My parents said our neighbors used to be foreigners, and there once were beautiful iron fences on the gate. The city’s old Sikh police, or hongtou asan as they were locally known, had been recruited as security guards to patrol around.”

American journalist Agnes Smedley, who was among the first to introduce Communist China to the Western world, lived in Xiwang in late 1920s and early 1930s. It is also home to several local celebrities, such as composer Tu Bahai, Chinese painting master Zheng Boping and bass singer Wen Kezheng, the exhibition boards showed.

“Xiwang has a rich history and culture. We hope to dig out what residents are proud of themselves and show it to the public,” said Teng Yi, deputy director of Shimen Road No. 2 Community office, which administers the neighborhood.


Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A girl takes pictures of an old sewing machine at the museum. In the 1970s, a watch, a sewing machine, a bicycle and a radio were the four must-have gifts for newlyweds. 

Residents brought some of their family treasures and collections to display in the museum. They include a small waist drum made in late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and several vintage tin toys, including a model of America’s Lincoln Tunnel made in the 1930s.

Li Chongxiang and her husband Wen Zhongshan moved to the neighborhood in 1997. They collected a number of cards, such as the old bus monthly pass, which are no longer in use but which epitomize a certain era.

“We hope to revive our common old memories, and also offer a platform for residents to build ties,” said Ma Yinghui, the Shimen Road office’s director.

Teng said the exhibits will be changed regularly, and themed activities, such as paper-cutting in the Spring Festival, will be held.

Currently, the community operates the museum. It opens from 9am to 12pm, Monday to Saturday, free of charge. People who want to visit in the afternoon should call 6256-8519 or 6253-8158 to make a reservation.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Xiwang, built in 1911, is a typical Shanghai lane-style neighborhood that fuses Eastern and Western flavors. It houses 12 British Queen Anne-style buildings that are situated on interconnected lanes. 


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