Fake Mao antique, Shanghai "antiques" market

Today in my ongoing series of photos from my travels: this artfully aged Chairman Mao statue stood about a meter high, on sale at an "antiques" stall in Shanghai. The street market was filled with cheerfully fake pieces (I found a nice fake Omega antique brooch clock and when the vendor argued for a few more RMB on the price, he said, "Omega, Omega!" and I countered, "Fake Omega!" and he said, "Chinese Omega!" and we both cracked up). At the next stall over a man was working with sandpaper and some kind of chemical to age a revolutionary-era plaque.

The revolution-kitsch antiques were in great supply, each of them weathered like this Mao, to look as though they'd been pulled out of an old town tenement just before it was bulldozed to make way for a gaudy, neon-clad skyscraper. Reality? Probably made in Guangzhou a week before. Link


  1. When I visited Hong Kong last year I was surprised by the amount of Mao based tat on sale in the night markets of Kowloon. It was hard to tell whether it was original and imported or reproductions. There were lots of Little Red Books around though, and they were practically banned in HK until 1997.

    A friend went to Guangzhou earlier this year to sort out a manufacturing deal and came back with ‘Zippo’ lighters with a Mao engraving that he had bought at the airport. They looked reasonably believable although they fell to bits after a couple of weeks of use.

  2. Thanks for a great reminder of my trip to China two years ago! Everywhere we went in Beijing and Shanghai, merchants would follow us trying to sell stuff. I had the refrain, “Gucci, lady! Gucci, lady!” haunting me in my sleep for weeks.

  3. During my all too short stay in Shanghai, the only items in the market that I couldnt haggle over were anything to do with chairman mao.

    That was only seven years ago – I would like to think that the man was a saint to these people; in reality Chinese communism is a mostly lip-service, they are the best merchants in the world – fair play to them!

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