Top 10 Historic Shanghai Gifts: Our Annual Guide

Revolutionary ornaments. 1932 maps. Old Shanghai memoirs. Mao-rabilia. There are gifts, and then there are Shanghai heritage gifts for the true aficionados. If you’ve got one in your life*, you know we’re a little harder to buy for, so we’ve done the hard work for you: Historic Shanghai has curated the top 10 gifts that celebrate Shanghai’s unique heritage. And we’ve made it easy, too. All of these items are either available at the fabulous Madame Mao’s Dowry, 207 Fumin Lu/Julu Lu, or can be ordered from individual vendors online with delivery. (Items available for delivery are noted below). Happy shopping!

(*If that Shanghai heritage aficionado is you, there is no rule saying you’re not allowed to buy yourself a pressie, you know.)

1. Madame Mao’s Revolutionary Ornaments



Madame Mao’s gorgeous ornaments are based on their fine collection of propaganda posters, with a new line each year (for which we wait in eager anticipation!) Each line features a quartet of ornaments, three featuring propaganda images, and one of the Shanghai skyline. We highly recommend buying all of them, because, really, who can decide? In robin’s egg blue (which is beautiful against green pine!) and packaged in a revolutionary-red velvet box, it’s also a perfect hostess gift. RMB 100-150, available exclusively at Madame Mao’s Dowry, 207 Fumin Lu/Julu Lu.

2. A Year of Historic Shanghai

Historic Shanghai group-Tobacco Mansion

Creeping into abandoned houses with rich histories… visiting (pictured above)  a Chinese tobacco king’s grand mansion… hearing from experts on their research … exploring the little-known and the treasures hidden in plain sight … it’s all part of our quest to discover the incredible history of Shanghai. Historic Shanghai’s walks, talks, films, and weekend explorations uncover the stories  behind the architecture, people, and ideas that made old Shanghai.  A Historic Shanghai annual membership is truly the gift that keeps on giving! Annual Membership: RMB 500 single, RMB 900 couples. Join at any upcoming event, or click here.

3. Remembering Shanghai: A Memoir of Socialites, Scholars and Scoundrels


Isabel Sun Chao’s memoir of growing up in old Shanghai is a treasure, especially for Shanghai history fans. Written with her daughter Claire Chao, this story of the rise and fall of a great Shanghai family reads like a novel, richly dotted with historic figures as well as the family’s scholars, socialites and most deliciously, scoundrels, of the title, along with Isabel’s eyewitness tales of growing up a privileged daughter in glamorous 1930s and 40s Shanghai. It’s a beautiful book as well, with vintage black and white photographs and illustrations, and sections on Shanghai culture and life. Book Review: To read our review of the book, click hereRMB 200, available at Madame Mao’s Dowry, 207 Fumin Lu/Julu Lu, or can be ordered for delivery at www.rememberingshanghai.com and amazon.com.

4. Mao-rabilia

Madame Mao’s expertise is in  original Mao-era propaganda, and their wonderful poster collection contains some real treasures. Each one comes with a translation and certificate of authenticity. There’s also a host of other original Mao collectibles, from period photographs and statues of the Chairman, to buttons, teacups and glassware, mirrors with revolutionary sayings, and so much more. It’s well worth spending some time in the delightful shop, perusing the collection! Available exclusively at Madame Mao’s Dowry, 207 Fumin Lu/Julu Lu.



5. Vintage Fountain Pens & Inks

 Pens and Inks

What better way to be immersed in old Shanghai than by writing the way they did in the ‘3os – with a vintage fountain pen and historically themed ink? Madame Mao’s carries a terrific range of fountain pens, but we’re partial to 1970s Wing Suns, a Chinese brand. Pair them with gorgeous inks named for Chinese historic cultural figures – favorites include architect Lin Hui-Yin, silent star Ruan Lingyu, writer Eileen Zhang, and poet Xhu Zhimo. Pens, from RMB 100 Inks, from RMB 20,  Madame Mao’s Dowry 207 Fumin Lu/Julu Lu


6. 1937 Shanghai Skyline Cushion

the Bund cushion

This cozy cushion improves any interior décor! Based on a 1937 photograph published in The London Illustrated News, The cushion allows you to study this historic photograph in detail (while lying on the couch, no less).  Note the Bank of China under construction, and all the consulates over in Hongkou! Created by Beijing Postcards, a wonderful organization in the capital whose products are based on their collection of visual interpretations of China.  From RMB 180-320 (including cushion) RMB 150-260 (cushion cover only).

Available at (1) Madame Mao’s Dowry, 207 Fumin Lu/Julu Lu; (2) Beijing Postcards beijingpostcards@gmail.com /WeChat/phone 186-1244-2152. Free delivery from Beijing Postcards if you mention Historic Shanghai!

7. The New Map of Shanghai 1932

shanghai map 1932

Maps capture moments of history, and the New Map of Shanghai captures a particularly significant one in the Shanghai story: the city following the January 28 Incident, also known as the Shanghai War of 1932, when Japanese aircraft bombed the Shanghai north railway station and Hongkou – the first terror bombing of a civilian population. RMB 450Available at (1) Madame Mao’s Dowry, 207 Fumin Lu/Julu Lu; (2) Beijing Postcards beijingpostcards@gmail.com /WeChat/phone 186-1244-2152. Free delivery from Beijing Postcards if you mention Historic Shanghai!

8. “A Child’s Map of China” jigsaw puzzle

children map puzzle

Cold winter evenings are perfect for jigsaws, and they’re even better when a dose of Republican history is part of the puzzle! This 1944 map, drawn by Wango Weng and published by the American Junior Red Cross News, reflects its time. The capital’s in Chongqing, and in a corner, a little girl is expounding on the father of the country, Sun Yat-sen. Great for kids … and their grownups, too! Available at (1) Madame Mao’s Dowry, 207 Fumin Lu/Julu Lu; (2) Beijing Postcards beijingpostcards@gmail.com /WeChat/phone 186-1244-2152. Free delivery from Beijing Postcards if you mention Historic Shanghai!

9. Vintage Shaving Products 

 Straight Razors

For that old school, Jazz Age shave, the well-groomed gentleman requires vintage shaving products: Straight Up Razors to the rescue. The Shanghai-based company offers a line of exquisitely handmade and packaged premium shaving items, from complete shaving kits to safety razors – and they’ll gift-wrap with Paper Tiger paper for Christmas, too! Additional bonus: these look just right in a Shanghai 1930s bathroom …




10. New Writing on Old Shanghai

Sh-Singapore cover

Alluvium, Literary Shanghai’s journal, has produced a new volume featuring new writing and translation on old Shanghai. From Paul French’s essay on Café Tipsy in Hongkou to Gretchen Liu’s story of the Shanghai Art School pioneers, new translations of the quintessential Shanghai poet Xu Zhimo by Shelly Bryant and a new translation of a Wang Anyi short story by Graeme Meehan. A great collection of bite-sized articles and stories, perfect for reading between the bouts of Christmas activity!

Shanghai in Singapore: An Alluvium Anthology, RMB 100, available at Madame Mao’s Dowry 207 Fumin Lu/Julu Lu. 

…all wrapped up with Paper Tiger’s gift wrap! Homegrown Shanghai brand Paper Tiger has the most gorgeous gift paper we’ve ever seen, modern design that takes the classic shapes and symbols of China – and Shanghai – and creates beautiful wrapping paper (and more).  For us, no Historic Shanghai gift is ever complete until it’s wrapped in Paper Tiger paper. There is a wonderful range, but our signature paper is forever the one with historic Shanghai buildings. Available at Madame Mao’s Madame Mao’s Dowry, 207 Fumin Lu/Julu Lu.


Building Wrapping Paper




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