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Pop-up story shop tells tales of famed Shanghai road

By He Qi in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-03 09:54
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Story cards in a corner shop draw attention from a passerby on Yuyuan Road in Shanghai, on Aug 21, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

A pop-up "story shop" has been launched in downtown Shanghai to curate old and new stories from residents of the Yuyuan Road neighborhood.

The 9-square-meter store, which will remain through Oct 31, aims to be a space for social interaction and local culture through storytelling, according to Da Hai, a co-operator of the store.

The store invites people to write down or tell a story related to the road and neighborhood. The stories are displayed in the store on red and blue cards.

A total of 101 stories will be selected to compile a book to honor the 101 years of history that the Yuyuan Road neighborhood carries.

"We want to hear about what it's like to grow up here, what annoyances they have, what funny moments they've experienced," Da said. "Stories have a power when they are told even if they seem ordinary to the storyteller; that is how we will find a collective culture.

"We are not just trying to document the history of the neighborhood of famous buildings and residents, but also the stories that come from those who grew up here."

Sitting on a bamboo chair, she continued, "We used to do social engagement work and workshops, and we heard amazing stories from those who came, but it was an occasional thing. So we wanted to create a space that could draw the community together and attract others to tell their stories as well."

The store is nestled on a small street corner at 1112 Yuyuan Road. The floor is paved with watermelon green tiles, and trinkets such as cameras and speakers decorate the space. Doodles and graffiti line the walls alongside books and lamps. And there are also a colorful bongo, a worn guitar and a marine-colored clock. Photos documenting the neighborhood are lined up in chronological order alongside the wall.

However, the main exhibit lines the window-rows of string, each dangling red and blue cards. The red "observer" card, is meant for visitors passing by the store, while the blue "resident" card is meant for longtime residents of the neighborhood who have spent years witnessing changes on Yuyuan Road.

"We wanted to see the contrast between stories on the red cards and blue cards," Da said. "They show the difference between living on the inside versus observing from outside," Da said.

Yuan Chenyuan, a 27-year-old who grew up in the Yuyuan neighborhood, commended the store's idea. As she shared her childhood memories of studying at the elementary school on Yuyuan Road, she recalled that the street had many alleys and was very busy.

"My memories of Yuyuan Road include the great food, familiar neighbors, family members and happiness," Yuan said. "It was great to share my memories with people who love the road and the neighborhood."

Apart from cards, the store also looks for "store owners" who will host the space for visitors on the weekends. The store owners are residents and other shop owners who are interested in the neighborhood.

Last Saturday, a store owner came to the store and hosted a concert, playing a few songs based on his stories in the neighborhood.

"It was past 10 pm, and we turned off all the lights except for one lamp," Da said. "It was definitely a warm atmosphere."

When the card exhibit closes at the end of October, Da says that she wants to compile the stories into a book, a form of "feedback" for the neighborhood. It would be a collection of 101 stories to honor the neighborhood's 101 years of history.

"We want it to be a gift that inspires those who are interested in human stories," Da said.

One of the most famous streets in Shanghai, Yuyuan Road, which starts from Jing'an Temple and ends in Changning district's Zhongshan Park, was created in the 1920s.

More than 50 years ago, many famous personalities called Yuyuan Road home, such as scientist Qian Xuesen, writers Fu Lei and Shi Zhecun, pianist Gu Shengying and actress Lydia Shum.

He Chenglin contributed to this story.

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