Museum exhibits vintage Shanghai-style qipao donated by Taiwan collector

An exhibition of 72 vintage Shanghai-style qipao dresses will open on Friday at the Shanghai History Museum.
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

An exhibition of 72 vintage Shanghai-style qipao dresses will open on Friday at the Shanghai History Museum.

The qipao is a lady’s gown originating from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The gowns became icons of Shanghai style and culture between the 1920s and the 1940s as fashion influences from the West led to innovations in its design. In their heyday, these form-fitting garments were prized by the city’s stylish women, and frequently appeared in fashion magazines, advertisements and popular films.

Highlights of the exhibition include a blue dress in indanthrene cloth, and a gown with a printed paisley pattern, both of which are representative of Shanghai-style qipao, according to experts at the museum.

Along with the garments, the show features a multi-media presentation on the culture of the qipao. There’s also an interactive feature where visitors can scan a QR code and take a photo of themselves wearing a digital qipao.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A silk sleeveless qipao with printed paisley pattern on coffee ground around the 1940s.

The garments now on view were donated by Wang Shuizhong, a collector from Taiwan who offered over 300 vintage qipao to the museum.

Wang, who is originally from the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian, has been a collector of Chinese art and artifacts for decades. He is currently the director of the Chinese Culture and Fine Arts Association in Taipei.

During a ceremony at the museum on Thursday, Wang said the donated qipao were collected over a 30-year period.

“Donating them was like giving away my own daughter,” he said. “I felt reluctant, but also very happy that I found a beautiful place for these beautiful things.”

Wang has made several such donations to museums on China’s mainland. 

“Taiwan and the mainland are one family, and we share the same culture and root,” he said.

The qipao display is in an exhibition hall on the first floor of the East Building of the museum on Nanjing Road W. It runs until October 16.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

One printed floral pattern silk sleeveless qipao on black ground looks like the one donned by Zhou Xuan, a famous singer and movie star from Shanghai, in an old picture.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Weng Tiehui (right), vice mayor of Shanghai, hands over a certificate of donation to Wang Shuizhong.

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