Richard P. Greenfiel
you walk down Dong Tai Lu, one
of the main antique markets for Shanghai it is hard not to be struck by how
many things are there. Pick up
a snuff bottle and wonder is it old, or does it just seem old?
An opium pipe, was it around when there were still opium dens in
Shanghai or did it come out of some workshop in Guangzhou last week?
is very easy to be fooled and to forget that even experts are fooled by
forgeries that are so close to originals that they can seem more like
original pieces than like replicas. That
is why the Rule of Fools, as someone once taught me applies.
The Rule of Fools states simply that to buy something for any other
reason than that you like it or need it or that someone you know will is the
act of a fool. Please yourself
and let the appraisers at Sotheby’s and Christies’ have a day off.
are things there to please and they are not hard to find.
At the shop of Mr. Shang Yu Sheng at 23 Dong Tai Lu a dragon peers
out from around a phone. Of
course there are dragons all over the market, dragons and phoenixes and a
whole Ark of mythological and zoological curiosities.
That is part of Chinese history and culture, the dragon is ever
intermixed there. But this
dragon is not just standing guard over the phone, he is the phone.
Pick it up and dial, and his eyes flash, the receiver is his back,
his head rests above, the whole massive stand is carved from dark mahogany
wood so that when the dragon’s eyes flash red like sparks from a ruby, or
some prehistoric laser. The
whole look is so preposterous, so wonderfully out of synch with our day to
day universe of ever smaller mobile phones and desktop units that are
designed to look and act and maybe be part of your computer and do your
shopping, pay your bills, balance your checkbook, pay your traffic tickets
and adjust your air-conditioning.
Dragon Phone wants nothing to do with any of that
neo-Scandinavian-Minimalist-post-modern multi-tasking sensibility.
Put him next to one of those modern units, however sleek its lines
and however broad its functionality and he will eat it, visually, if not in
Dragon may be recumbent on the phone but he is not relaxed.
This is not Puff the Magic Dragon for children.
this Dragon is saying that there is one corner of your life that is serious
and dark, where myth may take form in your thoughts and conversations.
This is a Chinese Dragon, not a Western one, and it is no coincidence
that the phones are also made in the design of the Phoenix, for the Dragon
and the Phoenix have ever been symbols of China (not for nothing was the
Emperor’s Throne called “The Dragon Throne.”).
this Dragon is not Imperial, though he may very well appear to some to be
imperious. Put him at the edge
of your desk and he will guard it as though it were the Imperial Throne
Room. You will shock your family and delight your friends.
And if a bit of Chinese mythology rubs off, then talking through the
Dragon may give you an Edge you never knew existed.
Phone at Shang Yu Sheng
23 Dong Tai Lu