By Hart Hagerty
January 20, 2017
Ryan Pyle/Corbis

Buying Chinese antiques is tricky. Once you finally score the jewel from the sea of fakes, you’re confronted with the Chinese government’s strict laws about exporting ancient relics from the Middle Kingdom. Those who have fat wallets are serious about antiques can put their trust in stores like Green Antiques and Hu & Hu, who sell the real deal and help clients negotiate the very stick red tape of getting the gems out of the country.

Shanghai claims the most Art Deco architecture than any other city in Asia, but the beautiful remnants are disappearing at Maglev speed, as developers raze century-old lane houses to pave way for shiny new skyscrapers. A few stores in Shanghai have dedicated themselves to preserving this piece of design heritage, including Art Deco in M50 and Gelin Casa.

Shanghai also has countless mom & pop antique shops that sell more charming antique-looking pieces without the hefty price tag. There are handful of unassuming little furniture shops on Jiashan Road, Jinxian Road and Huating Road. Just look for a 老家具 (lao jia ju) sign, which simply translates as old furniture. There are also plenty of kitschy curios and antique-looking goods to be scored at Dongtai Lu Antique Market.  

Hu & Hu

Sisters-in-law Lin and Maybelle Hu have been trustworthy names in the local antique market since 1998. They are the authorities when it comes to the real deal at honest prices. Maybelle meticulously oversees the restoration of every centimeter of her gems and can also create made-to-measure reproductions for her loyal clients. Hu has a wealth of knowledge and resources to help people invest, thanks to her work in Taipei’s renowned National Palace Museum and Sotheby’s in Los Angeles. 

Gelin Casa

Gelin Casa is an antique store and design firm specializing in Shanghai Art Deco. Husband-wife interior design duo Leo and Vivian are passionate about preserving this part of Shanghai’s heritage before it is bulldozed away. The pair forages soon-to-be-torn-down properties in old Shanghai neighborhoods for Art Deco furniture and design elements, which they meticulously restore or upcycle into furniture available at their gorgeous shop in Jing’An.

Green Antiques

Green Antiques is an enormous 100,000 square-foot warehouse with antiques and reproductions as far as the eye can see.  Sourced from all over China, the huge selection has pieces dating back to the Cultural Revolution, Qing dynasty, Ming dynasty, and even older periods. Friendly, English-speaking staff are on-hand to help visitors make sense of the massive selection, including lacquer cabinets, ethnic embroideries, ancient shrines, and courtyard doors. 

1930

1930 is a quaint treasure trove of quality, expensive vintage objects and furniture from, you guessed it, Shanghai’s swinging 30s era. Owner Gao Shiling scours markets around China to handpick each piece for his store, from desks to lamps to watches. 1930 thoughtful arranges its inventory to make shopping feel like you’re wandering around an old home. It feels especially homey when you spot one of Mr. Gao’s friends smoking in the back room or an amiable granny knitting on the sofa. 

Mu Lan Hua Ge Antique Market

Mu Lan Hua Ge Antique Market is the stuff of legends. This giant warehouse in the badlands of Pudong takes antiquing to a whole new level. Where else can bargain hunters retrieve an Art Deco chair from a 10-meter-high mountain of junk? Carve out an entire afternoon to give ample time for patiently digging through old trunks, phonographs, broken radios, rusted tea tins and splintered ladders. While it’s been sufficiently picked over through the years, intrepid shoppers can still score dream antiques and delightful curios for rock-bottom prices.

Advertisement