Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Shanghai Arts and Crafts Museum

The Shanghai Arts and Crafts Museum is another tourist-oriented place that I think is worth dropping by, even for those who live in this fair city. It's located on 79 Fenyang Lu & Taiyuan Lu, which is near-ish to the Changshu Lu subway station. It's in a pleasant area with a lot of musical instrument stores nearby. The building and grounds are themselves very pleasant - it's a large mansion originally built in 1905 for a French government official, and it sort of resembles a miniature White House:

Really it's a small complex of buildings, and I gather it acts as some government-sponsored master class for teachers and apprentices of traditional Chinese handicrafts. Most of the mansion is dedicated towards display rooms, where these arts are shown. It's mostly what one would expect, for example a number of examples of carved jade:

There's also carved wood, and to honest I found those examples much more impressive, some of them were unbelievably finely detailed. This wasn't the most impressive example, but it's always fun to see artwork featuring angry proletariat:

I think I've put off talking about one big negative to the whole place too long: it doubled as a well-done shopping center. A lot of the art had price tags attached, and there was a huge gift store downstairs. That said, it was easy to ignore the price tags, there was absolutely no pressure to buy anything, and really it seemed like a good if not-cheap place to buy those kind of handicrafts. It certainly didn't have the feel of one of the (too many) places where they take tour groups and try to hustle them into buying corny souvenirs.

Moving on, there were many other varieties of Chinese handicrafts, they didn't get as large displays but they were also interesting. One favorite was Gu embroidery, where the artist takes a transparent gauze and then "paints" a scene onto the gauze using extremely fine silk threads. This isn't the best photograph, but the best examples shined with a beautiful sheen to them:

Another examples is figurines made out of dough. Actually there was also an artist there working on these when I visited, it was fascinating seeing someone work with what's essentially playdough to make actual art:

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