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It’s an undeniable fact that most of us will unanimously agree on:  When it comes to doing business in Shanghai –  sky is the limit. Correction – it HAS ALWAYS BEEN the only limit as it has always been the city of trade. According to ‘In the 20’s and 30’s it also became a massive manufacturing center, producing about 50% of the Chinese industrial output. In this modern city in contact with new products from abroad, entrepreneurial businessmen were starting fresh ideas and introducing new brands”.

In this post, meet 6 legendary Shanghai brands. Some of them managed to survive Cultural Revolution and exist till this day.

1.Mayar Silk Mills  美亞織綢廠 Měiyà zhī chóu chǎng

Picture; the Moh family - Moh Shangqing standing 5th from the right

China’s first modern silk company, founded by  Moh Shangqing -  an influential silk tycoon in old Shanghai. Moh owned more than 10 silk factories. To mitigate risks caused by fluctuating global silk prices, he had decided to enter the silk-weaving business and founded Mayar Silk Mills in 1917.They used modern machines rather than traditional family mills that had been used for thousands of years.

By 1930, Mayar had 859 looms and more than 2,000 employees.

 Its modern way of production avoided handmade flaws and improved product quality. Many old Shanghai movie stars chose to wear Mayar’s silk.

The Moh family left Shanghai for Hong Kong in the 1950s. What they left behind is their former home at 4 Wukang Road.

Picture; former residence of the silk tycoon

 It  is now a private gallery exhibiting the family’s history and their textile business. Graced with flowing curves and large glass windows, this simply cut, utterly modern villa is the work of a Chinese architect – Xi Fuquan - who had studied in Germany.

Picture; exhibition inside the former residence of the silk tycoon

2.Pathe Orient - 百代唱片 Bǎidài Chàngpiān

Picture source:Pinterest; vintage poster of Pathe Orient Record, advertising singer Hu Die

Around the beginning of the 20th century, a young Frenchman named Labansat set up an outdoor stall on Tibet Road in Shanghai. He played gramophone records to Chinese citizens who were curious. The phonograph was purchased from Moutrie and Company, and he charged anyone 10 cents to listen to a novelty record called "Laughing Foreigners" (洋人大笑).Anyone capable of resisting any laughs or chuckles got their money back. Phonographs were becoming popular in the city in 1906. By 1908, he received help from a French engineer and an assistant from Ningbo and established "Pathé Orient" (東方百代), also known as "Pathé Asia," though other sources point to the renaming in 1921. It marked the beginning of China’s record industry.


The company initially recorded Peking Opera. Mandarin popular songs became hits, and they were sold at stores like Wing On in Shanghai.

In 1930 Pathé's factory was taken over by Columbia Records in Shanghai and was used to press Odeon and Beka with the manufacturing portion named "China Record Co. Ltd," and the distributor continued as Pathé Orient.

In 1950 Pathé stopped releasing records in China and was taken over by the Chinese Communist government.

3.White Rabbit -  大白兔 dà báitù

Picture source:eBay

The milky, vanilla-scented chew first appeared in Shanghai around 1943. A Chinese merchant, inspired by the milk candies he had tasted in England,  re-created his own version of the treat.  It is one of the country’s few brands to have survived the Communist Revolution. Manufactured at the Aipixi Candy Factory, it was first named Mickey Mouse Sweets and emblazoned with a picture of its namesake rodent.

However , in 1950s foreign symbols were demonized and washed from the public sphere in the 1950s. The government acquired the private firm and as a result -  the logo changed to the current cheeky cartoon bunny, designed to resemble Chinese brushstrokes.

The humble sweet went on to become part of the leaders’ lexicon. In 1959, the candies were handed out as gifts for the 10th National Day of the People’s Republic. In 1972, Premier Zhou Enlai gave them to President Nixon during their pivotal meeting. Even today, especially for October Holiday, Chinese New Year and celebrations such as weddings and births, White Rabbits are a constant presence.

4.Shanghai Jahwa United - 上海家化 Shànghǎi jiā huà

Picture source:Pinterest

One of the oldest Chinese daily-used chemicals companies. It was previously known as Hong Kong Kwong Sang Hong,  established in 1898. It was listed on Shanghai Stock Exchange in 2001 over more than 100 years of development. Shanghai Jahwa has attached great importance to the construction of self-owned brands, with several domestic famous brands such as "Herborist", "Liushen", "Maxam", "GF" and "GIVING".

Picture source:Pentawards

Facing the fierce competition from Chinese market, Jahwa has achieved outstanding results by adopting differentiated brand management strategies, making it a leader among numerous market segments.

5.Shanghai watch –  上海手表 Shàng hǎi shǒu biǎo


One of China’s ‘fù gǔ” (复古, or “retro”) brands.

Shanghai Watch factory was set up in 1955 and has produced over 120 million watches. In the sixties, because of the limited supply, a Shanghai watch meant power. There was a well known saying that no girl would marry you if you didn't have a Shanghai Watch.

The biggest fans and ambassadors of the brand were Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Zhou Enlai.

Shanghai Watch has enjoyed a second wind following its 2008 collaboration with Jellymon and W+K, launching new high-end models that range in price up to US$100,000. Vintage Shanghai watches have also become collector’s items on Taobao. For more details, check out the website

6.Forever bikes永久 yǒng jiǔ

Picture source:Culture Shock's private archive

Last but not least – another fugu brand, and another daring survivor among Shanghai’s oldest brands.

The history of Forever Co. Ltd. can be traced back to 1940. As one of the earliest bicycle manufacturing enterprises in China, Forever Co. Ltd. has made great contributions to the development of China's bicycle industry and the culture it inspired.

The first factory opened in 1940 on Tangshan Lu in Yangpu District. The original name of the brand was 熊球 Xiongqiu and the inspiration came from close relations between China and the former Soviet Union. The logo featured a polar bear standing on top of the globe. In the end, the officials decided on “Yongjiu” (Forever), and the original logo featured the Chinese characters in bold red colors (a symbolic color for Communism). Subsequently, bicycles named Forever started appearing in late 1949.

Since then, the company has increased their production from about 3,000 bikes per year in the early 1940s to more than 28,000 by 1952 -- more than one-third of China’s total production at the time. What made the classic Forever black bikes so popular was the simple structure.

It belonged to the leader-styled enterprise for nearly 30 years.  Forever used to be a precursor in of the bicycle world in many ways and produced many  "Number One" models :  the first standard bicycle, the racing bicycle , the 26-inch bicycle.

And…. Yes! The bikes that Culture Shock  use as the means of exploring Shnaghai’s hidden gems are  the legendary yǒng jiǔ bikes themselves!

Picture source:Culture Shock's provate archive
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