A singular museum in north China offers a rare insight into its musical history

Wang Xinwei tosses a coin into a black hat, and the hurdy-gurdy man slowly cranks into life, playing the kind of novelty song last heard on the streets of New York in the early 20th century.

But the organ grinder is an animatronic model, manufactured in the Netherlands in 1918, and the location is a museum in Lüshun, a small city at the extreme southern tip of the Liaodong Peninsula, with its own singular history.

“Let’s give a cheer for these magical sounds from 100 years ago!” cries Wang, encouraging his audience of some 20 tourists, who’ve come from around the world to explore his phonography museum, a damp storage building that Wang, a retiree in his 60s, has converted into a unique private collection.

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Sound of a Century is a story from our issue, “Modern Family.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


Lu Dan is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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