If you thought Yongkang Lu was just a busy drag of poser-friendly bars, you’d be right – with one exception. Hidden behind the hullabaloo, at number 35, is the Shikumen Museum. Built in 1925, the house has been with four generations of the Da family since 1942 and for three year’s now Mr Da has opened his doors to the public.
Inside, three floors display a range of rare ephemera and curios, which Mr Da – who still lives in the house – guides you through personally.
When the museum first opened to Chinese locals, more than 500 people turned up on the first day. ‘A lot of elderly people come here with their children to show them what Shanghai used to be like,’ Da tells us.
Most days, however, the house is quiet, interrupted only by the chatter of neighbours drifting through the walls. There are four main rooms, which take an hour and a half to explore thoroughly. In the living room, German clocks, American navy cutlery and a 90-year-old French piano decorate Chinese rosewood furniture. On the second floor, highlights include a 3,500-year-old turtle shell from Hunan and two hua jong he, the traditional red box given to newlyweds.
‘My grandfather used to paint a lot and my mother would help him. My younger brother is also a professional painter,’ says Da, brushing past ancient scrolls. It’s exactly this slice of personal history that makes the museum worth dropping in for.
Visits are free but reservations are essential so contact Mr Da directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.