Cul­ti­vat­ing pros­per­ity

Shang­hai Ar­chives Bund branch hosts fam­ily ar­ti­fact ex­hi­bi­tion

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Du Qiong­fang Page Edi­tor: chen­[email protected]­al­times.com.cn

Nearly 1,000 love let­ters weigh­ing 4 kilo­grams, tick­ets, house­hold bills record­ing fam­ily liv­ing costs and pay­roll stubs re­flect­ing the in­crease of lo­cal res­i­dents’ in­come… These and other pre­cious ex­hibits rep­re­sent­ing the vast changes in Shang­hai fam­ily cul­ture over the past 40 years are ex­hib­ited at the new hall of Shang­hai Mu­nic­i­pal Ar­chives at the Bund for one month.

Or­ga­nized by the Shang­hai Women’s Fed­er­a­tion, the free ex­hi­bi­tion show­cases the his­tory and achieve­ments of Shang­hai’s de­vel­op­ment since China’s re­form and open­ing-up, with over 100 ex­hibits, mul­ti­me­dia and in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ences on dis­play.

Ac­cord­ing to Xin Yingna, cu­ra­tor of the ex­hi­bi­tion and deputy di­rec­tor of fam­ily and chil­dren depart­ment from Shang­hai Women’s Fed­er­a­tion, the ex­hibits were col­lected from lo­cal res­i­dents and pri­vate col­lec­tors since the project was first launched in July.

One of the most im­pres­sive ex­hibits are the 971 writ­ten love let­ters con­tain­ing 970,000 Chi­nese char­ac­ters that weigh 4 kilo­grams. Since mod­ern telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions such as email and WeChat have been pop­u­lar­ized in China, hand­writ­ten let­ters on paper are more pre­cious to au­di­ences.

The love let­ters be­tween a lo­cal cou­ple, Chen Caix­uan and Lu Caiy­ing from Ant­ing, Jiad­ing district, were writ­ten over the span of 15 years in the 1960s and 1970s while the cou­ple were liv­ing apart. They first met each other when they were in the army.

Since they had few op­por­tu­ni­ties and lit­tle time to meet each other, they had to com­mu­ni­cate through let­ters be­fore and af­ter ty­ing the knot. The let­ters were kept by the cou­ple for nearly 50 years, al­though the cou­ple lived apart for many years af­ter they got mar­ried and moved house in the progress.

Food tick­ets

“I used to be a soldier as well. I think the cou­ple have very deep feel­ings to­ward each other,” said 74-yearold Fan Gong­ming, who joined the army in 1964.

Tick­ets, in­clud­ing food coupons (aka liang­piao), bus tick­ets, bathing tick­ets and regis­tra­tion tick­ets for wed­ding fur­ni­ture, are also on dis­play. Among them, food coupons, a kind of voucher is­sued by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment dur­ing a spe­cific eco­nomic pe­riod from the 1950s to the 1980s, evokes mem­o­ries of a past gen­er­a­tion.

The ear­li­est types of food coupons in­cluded grain stamps and ed­i­ble oil tick­ets. The food coupons were di­vided into na­tional and lo­cal va­ri­eties. The na­tional food coupons re­ferred to those which peo­ple could pur­chase food sup­plies wher­ever they went in China.

If peo­ple wanted to go on busi­ness or visit rel­a­tives in other prov­inces, they had to use lo­cal food coupons in ex­change for a cer­tain num­ber of na­tional food coupons. Lo­cal food coupons were is­sued by the food bu­reaus of prov­inces, cities and au­ton­o­mous re­gions. The de­nom­i­na­tions of the tick­ets var­ied from place to place.

Ac­cord­ing to Xin, the min­i­mum de­nom­i­na­tion of lo­cal food coupons was usu­ally 50 grams, but the min­i­mum de­nom­i­na­tion of food coupons is­sued in Shang­hai was 25 grams, which shows the care­ful­ness and metic­u­lous­ness of Shang­hainese ci­ti­zens.

Frozen egg blocks

“I started work­ing in 1975, and the re­form and open­ing-up started in 1978, so I have deep feel­ings to­ward this pe­riod of his­tory,” said a 61-yearold lo­cal woman named He De­fen who was born in 1957.

Ac­cord­ing to He, when she was young, all ma­te­rial sup­plies were scarce. She liked eat­ing meat, but tick­ets for meat is­sued to her fam­ily were not suf­fi­cient. She still re­mem­bers that one day, while rid­ing his bike home, her brother lost all the meat he had bought with the meat tick­ets her fam­ily had saved up.

Ac­cord­ing to He, eggs were not sold in­tact. Eggs were in­stead bro­ken up and whisked to­gether into a mix­ture added with water and then frozen. They were sold as frozen “egg blocks.”

Water­mel­ons were usu­ally only sold to pa­tients with a high fever and a doc­tor’s pre­scrip­tion. Peo­ple could choose to eat their water­mel­ons at a fruit shop, but they were not al­lowed to take the wa­ter­melon seeds away from the shop. “So the smell of the fruit shop was al­ways ter­ri­ble,” He said.

An­other in­ter­est­ing ex­hibit are records of ya­suiqian (gift money given to chil­dren on the Chi­nese New Year’s Day) from be­tween 1978 and 2000. The records demon­strate the great eco­nomic changes to so­ci­ety that have taken place.

“I had a com­plex life. I went to univer­sity in Bei­jing. Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, I was as­signed a job in an­other prov­ince. Later, my hus­band and I were sent to [South­west China’s] Guizhou Prov­ince to sup­port the con­struc­tion of in­land prov­inces. Af­ter that we were trans­ferred back to Shang­hai and worked here till we re­tired,” a 75-year-old lo­cal woman sur­named Fang told the Global Times.

“The re­form and open­ing-up brought great changes to my life and I feel very sat­is­fied with my cur­rent life,” Fang added.

“Many lo­cal par­ents are tak­ing their chil­dren to this ex­hi­bi­tion,” Xin said. “While par­ents can re­call their life in the past, chil­dren can re­ceive an ed­u­ca­tion through this ex­hi­bi­tion. With such ed­u­ca­tion, chil­dren will trea­sure their cur­rent life more.”

As an old Chi­nese say­ing goes “a har­mo­nious fam­ily cul­ti­vates pros­per­ity.”

Pho­tos: Du Qiong­fang/GT

Dif­fer­ent types of food coupons dis­played at the ex­hi­bi­tion

From top: Fan Gong­ming ad­mires items at the ex­hi­bi­tion; Hand­writ­ten love let­ters on dis­play; Red en­velopes for ya­suiqian

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