relics reconnect East Bay woman with China
Article Last Updated: 6/19/2006 11:00 AM
Revolution relics reconnect East Bay woman with China
By Chad Jones, STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay Area
VICTORIA EDISON, a native of China's Hunan Province,
came to the United States at age 15 as part of a student
While she was attending Los Gatos High School, the
Tiananmen Square massacre happened, and Edison was
interviewed on TV saying angry things about the Chinese
That made her an enemy of the government.
She found herself facing the choice
of staying in America, finishing high school and going
on to college or returning home to her family and
being put in jail.
The Chinese consul, who himself had
been blacklisted, told Edison it was safer to stay
where she was.
So Edison began to make a life for herself
in her adopted country. She went to San Jose State
University with the idea that she would eventually
become a CPA.
Those plans changed when she made her
first trip back to China in the early 1990s, and she
discovered the fascinating world of Cultural Revolution
memorabilia, including propaganda posters and Mao
"Being in China and seeing these
things at flea markets brought back so many memories,"
Edison says. "My parents and grandparents lived
through the Cultural Revolution, and in fact, my grandparents
were in a labor camp for intellectuals. I saw figures
and posters representing China's enemies, and from
what I heard from the people selling these things,
I sensed that China was opening up a little bit."
Edison started collecting the memorabilia
but didn't realize that within a few years, she'd
be going into business selling the stuff.
Edison owns De Sino Gallery in Berkeley,
which includes a sub-gallery called 1930 Shanghai
specializing in Cultural Revolution collectibles.
There are other things in Edison's gallery
— including a whole lot of Buddha statues, antiques
and paintings both old and new — but what seems
to get the most attention are the relics from China's
"There are some people who find
it scandalous that in my shop you find Buddha and
Mao," Edison says. "It's an interesting
contrast, but both are from the same culture and the
same dynamic country. I find there are plenty of interested
parties for both items."
When Edison first began selling Mao-related
items five years ago, most of her customers were in
Europe. But in recent years, and with the help of
her gallery and Web site (www.1930shangahi.com), most
of her customers are from this country.
"I find some customers who find
the Cultural Revolution items ironic and comical,"
she says. "I've even had die-hard Communists.
I don't really connect with these people, but appreciate
that they are interested in a different culture. For
the most part, our customers are intellectuals, people
who are interested in the outside world. People who
don't shop at Wal-Mart."
One little wrinkle in Edison's successful,
if quirky, business, is that it's illegal to bring
Cultural Revolution memorabilia out of China. About
three years ago, a Chinese bill was introduced forbidding
the shipment of statues and memorabilia from that
"They don't enforce it," Edison
says. "You can still send them."
The fact that she's in the public business
of selling these items scares Edison a little bit.
"I'm a little afraid of going back,"
she says. "I've e-mailed friends in China and
included links to stories about my business, but nobody
can read them. Maybe I'm blacklisted again."
Edison and her husband, James, her co-author
on the book "Cultural Revolution Posters &
Memorabilia" (Schiffer, $39.95), relocated their
gallery to a bigger space last year.
Interest (and business) has increased
since the move, but Edison, who still serves as a
consultant in the corporate world and is mother to
a 2-year-old, says she's not in this business to make
"With this type of business, you're
never going to get rich," she says. "It's
more about bringing like-minded people together and
sharing our experiences. Mao would be very, very upset
that I'm making money from his stuff."
Spoken like a true American capitalist.
- De Sino Gallery is at 2216 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley.
Call (510) 843-1449 or visit http://www.1930shanghai.com
You can e-mail Chad Jones at email@example.com
or call (925) 416-4853.