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Antiques and Dragon Phones
Richard P. Greenfiel

If 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?

It 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.

There 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.

The 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 actuality.

The Dragon may be recumbent on the phone but he is not relaxed.  This is not Puff the Magic Dragon for children.

Rather 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.”).

But 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.

Dragon Phone at Shang Yu Sheng
23 Dong Tai Lu

Fax: 021 63853592

Email: (Richard P. Greenfield)


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