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The antiques man on East 55th

Updated: 2019-05-25 09:00:00

( China Daily )

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Chen Shizhen sees his own company, which bears the name Ton Ying, as a continuation of some sort for the old Ton Ying company. [Photo by Judy Zhu/China Daily]

Following in the footsteps of a legendary figure, Chen Shizhen has cut out a sizable reputation for himself over half a century in New York.

On a weekend morning in 1964, Chen Shiz-hen, 28, looked down from an eighth-floor window of the Ton Ying Company on East 57th Street in Manhattan and saw a familiar limousine parked in front of the building.

"That car belonged to John D. Rockefeller III, who came in almost every weekend to look for 'Chinese toys', as he would call those pieces of antique," Chen, now 83, says.

"The place where our company used to sit, just opposite Tiffany's, has long been overtaken by another luxury brand if not Chanel," he said, surveying his congested antique gallery, tucked in a corner in the Manhattan Art& Antique Center, two floors below street level. Porcelain vases, big and small, together with dismantled wooden screens, inscribed or mounted with jade and precious stones, block the door.

"We used to have a different approach - what they call the Madison Avenue approach, where a few select antique pieces were displayed proudly in glass cases and didn't have to rub shoulders with one another," he says, referring to the old company's location at No 5 East 57th Street, between Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue.

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