Book­store opens new page on is­land her­itage

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA -

Su Xiaodong calls his book­store on Gu­langyu Is­land a kind of worm­hole.

“A worm­hole con­nects dif­fer­ent times and spa­ces. That’s ex­actly what I want to do: Con­nect the is­land with its beau­ti­ful past,” said Su, from the city of Xi­a­men, in Fu­jian prov­ince.

Su, 47, trav­eled to many coun­tries be­fore he de­cided to set up the book­store last sum­mer. “The his­tory and cul­ture here is very dis­tinct,” he said.

Gu­langyu, off the coast of Xi­a­men, is fa­mous for its var­ied ar­chi­tec­ture and mul­ti­cul­tural his­tory and was in­cluded on the UN­ESCO World Her­itage list on July 8.

The is­land is dot­ted with East-meets-West style res­i­dences built by over­seas Chi­nese elites who re­turned to the is­land in the early 20th cen­tury.

Su rents Haitian Pav­il­ion, a his­toric build­ing, as his book- store and ren­o­vated the in­te­rior to look like it did in the early 20th cen­tury.

“It was the best time on Gu­langyu, quiet and with peo­ple from dif­fer­ent cul­tures liv­ing in an in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity peace­fully,” Su said.

To­day, Gu­langyu re­ceives more than 10 mil­lion vis­i­tors per year, and many bou­tique shops, restau­rants and ho­tels have sprung up in re­cent years. Su said he wants the book­store to be a space where peo­ple can es­cape com­mer­cial­ism, and ex­plore the is­land’s cul­ture in a his­toric set­ting.

His store has col­lected more than 3,000 books about Gu­langyu, and he has an on­go­ing project search­ing for more world­wide.

“Pre­serv­ing cul­tural her­itage is not only about pro­tect­ing the build­ings,” Su said. “It’s also about the mem­o­ries of these build­ings and recre- at­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence for mod­ern peo­ple, so they might bet­ter un­der­stand a cer­tain place or time.”

Su be­lieves art is one way for peo­ple to go be­yond the here and now and ac­cess a “worm­hole” that brings them to the past or fu­ture.

In Novem­ber, his book­store ex­hib­ited works of young artists from 16 coun­tries who had stayed in Gu­langyu for two months cre­at­ing art.

In­spired by the ex­hi­bi­tion, Su tapped into the is­land’s his­tory as an in­ter­na­tional set­tle­ment by invit­ing artists from the 13 coun­tries that had set up con­sulates on Gu­langyu in the mid­dle of the 19th cen­tury, to stay and cre­ate art on the is­land.

“Their sto­ries and work salute his­tory and can bring fresh blood to the cul­ture on Gu­langyu,” Su said.

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