Wel­com­ing Fra­grance of Book­stores

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Li Xia, Rao Ren Edited by Scott Bray

Book­stores not only serve as a cul­tural yard­stick, they also show­case how a city val­ues that cul­ture. Look­ing into the spirit of a city’s book­stores of­fers a glimpse into its char­ac­ter. How­ever a city may de­velop, book­stores—the lights of the city—are places that are not to be missed.

As the fa­mous writer Long Ying­tai once ob­served: “A city should have a ‘pub­lic liv­ing room' to warm peo­ple's hearts...among which, book­stores are the most im­por­tant pub­lic liv­ing room.” In­deed, book­stores un­der­pin the cul­tural ex­is­tence and safe­guard the cul­tural iden­tity of a city.

Book­stores not only serve as a cul­tural yard­stick, they also show­case just how a city val­ues that cul­ture. Look­ing into the spirit of a city’s book­stores of­fers a glimpse into its char­ac­ter. How­ever a city may de­velop, book­stores—the lights of the city—are also not to be missed.

Page One, like a Work of Art

If you've never heard of an on­line book­store that's so pop­u­lar cy­ber celebri­ties are scram­bling to put up pho­tos, chances are it's your first time hear­ing about Page One.

In re­cent years, un­der the brunt of on­line book­stores, brick-and-mor­tar coun­ter­parts have been strug­gling to stay afloat. Yet even fac­ing such a lack­lus­tre sit­u­a­tion, Page One (Bei­jing Fun branch), founded within the last half year, has been win­ning the hearts of nu­mer­ous die-hard fans and com­ing out ahead of on­line stores.

“Page One” sym­bol­ises the start­ing point of read­ing. Founded in 1983 and head­quar­tered in Sin­ga­pore, Page One cur­rently has stores in Bei­jing, Hangzhou, Shen­zhen, Hong Kong, Tai­wan, Thai­land and Sin­ga­pore. There are four stores scat­tered across Bei­jing in Phase III of China World Mall, Wangjing IN­DIGO, San­l­i­tun and Bei­jing Fun. Avid read­ers are find­ing that a round-the- clock book­store is no longer the stuff of dreams.

Get­ting pop­u­lar was by no means ac­ci­den­tal for Page One. It is hard not to be im­pressed by the orig­i­nal in­te­rior de­sign, del­i­cate taste and level of com­fort the book­store has to of­fer.

Page One (Bei­jing Fun branch) is lo­cated in Lang­fang Toutiao Com­pound 13, Tower 1, Meishi Street at the south­west cor­ner of the Zhengyang Gate watch­tower. Built in 1439, the Ming Dy­nasty (1368–1644) watch­tower stands on the north end of Qian­men Street. The tallest watch­tower in Bei­jing, it's also among the most sig­nif­i­cant struc­tures on the south end of Tian'an­men. The city was es­tab­lished more than 3,000 years ago and has been China's cap­i­tal for more than 800 years, and Qian­men Street has long been a bustling place where the sto­ries of count­less peo­ple have un­folded. That draw has played no small part in billing Page One as the No. 1 book­store in the im­pe­rial city.

On the out­side, the Bei­jing Fun branch fol­lows the con­ven­tional wooden de­sign Page One is known for. In­side, the 2,500-square-me­tre (sq.m)store is equipped with mas­sive French win­dows and a land­scaped ter­race. While brows­ing the three-

storey book­store, visi­tors can catch sight of Zhengyang Gate, Tian'an­men, Dashilar Street, an­cient walls and old West­ern build­ings. Dong Gong, the store's ar­chi­tec­tural de­signer spent five months com­plet­ing the de­sign work for this branch.

That de­sign work shows— sur­prises await on each floor. The first is a “book­store within a book­store.” De­signed as a hol­low square, the first floor has an outer book wall 6 m high and 50 m long. An ar­ray of bestsellers and new books await in­ter­ested read­ers. Books on the “book wall” vary in theme each month, mak­ing the wall feel brand new each time. Fur­ther into the col­umn-shaped book area, a glance up­ward re­veals a stun­ning star light cur­tain. It is like look­ing right into a starry night sky.

The se­cond floor was de­signed with chil­dren in mind. Here, dom­i­nat­ing the books on child rear­ing, pop­u­lar science, cook­ing and hand­i­craft are the chil­dren's books, tak­ing up two thirds of the floor. At the read­ing area for chil­dren 0–5 years old, the cas­tle-shaped book­shelf is paved with cush­ions for chil­dren to climb and play on. Amid lay­ers of books, creative sta­tionery, green plants, or­na­ments, toys, board games and other items de­light par­ents and de­vel­op­ing read­ers alike.

The third floor is a rest­ing place cater­ing to the senses of taste, sight and sound. Sur­round­ing a cof­fee bar in part­ner­ship with a time-hon­oured Ja­panese cof­fee brand, the floor boasts 10,000 orig­i­nal de­sign books, 5,000 books in sim­pli­fied Chi­nese and 5,000 vinyl records.

These fea­tures make the book­store an ideal place to read books, lis­ten to mu­sic, taste food and take in its in­ter­est­ing de­sign. As one of the few 24-hour book­stores in Bei­jing, Page One, even well into the night hours, has no short­age of read­ers. The soft light and com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment pro­duces a night scene dear to many hearts. Some have taken that praise to re­views on­line sayng things like: “It's so beau­ti­ful I could hardly be­lieve my eyes.” An­other user wrote, “It's time to re- open a pa­per book.”

In ad­di­tion to its cur­rent ac­tiv­i­ties, such as writ­ers' sa­lons and shar­ing ses­sions, Page One (Bei­jing Fun branch) has its eyes set on 24-hour LEGO Star Wars build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, night con­certs and other night ac­tiv­i­ties along with VR ex­pe­ri­ences, live shows and Page One's mod­ern, in­ter­na­tional-styled fea­ture pro­grammes. Their ob­jec­tive is to cre­ate a “global space where time zones don't mat­ter.”

One Way Street, a Spir­i­tual Light­house

In cities dom­i­nated by com­merce, where cul­ture is the scarcest el­e­ment, there are al­ways dream­ers look­ing for “po­etry and a dis­tant place” from the hec­tic, ma­te­ri­al­is­tic world. In One Way Street, a group of such peo­ple have found their so­lace.

One Way Street was founded by me­dia pro­fes­sion­als Yu Wei, Xu Zhiyuan and pub­lisher Yang Wenx­uan. Its name comes from the ti­tle of a book by Ger­man philoso­pher Wal­ter Ben­jamin, the “last literatus in Europe.” “We read the world,” the vi­sion of the book­store, is printed in the ti­tle page of its pub­li­ca­tion.

In 2006, One Way Street opened at Yuan­mingyuan. Ever since, it has be­come known as a place to find free cul­tural sa­lons and qual­ity book rec­om­men­da­tions. It is said that back then the book­store ex­uded an air of aloof­ness. The store it­self was trans­formed from a dis­carded gallery out­side the east gate of Yuan­mingyuan Im­pe­rial Gar­den. As the old stu­dio was tucked away be­hind a bam­boo fence on a cob­bled road, many wouldbe read­ers had dif­fi­culty find­ing the book­store's ex­act lo­ca­tion. More of­ten than not, the gro­cer at the east gate of Yuan­mingyuan had to re­mind them: “One Way Street is not a street.”

One Way Street of­fers a pub­lic space for read­ers to spark their in­ter­ests, ex­change ideas and en­joy cul­tural life. Most books here are highly pro­fes­sional works on the hu­man­i­ties and so­cial sciences. As its founders are mainly in­volved in the me­dia and pub­lish­ing cir­cles, books on these sub­jects are as di­verse as they are unique. Xu Zhiyuan and his fel­low part­ners have de­vel­oped the store into a fo­cal point among cul­tural celebri­ties. By far the largest high­light is the cul­tural sa­lon. Read­ers cross paths with re­view­ers, mu­sic crit­ics, writ­ers, di­rec­tors, and drama­tists at the sa­lons. One Way Street has built an im­pres­sive list of speak­ers, such as pain­ter Chen Dan­qing; writ­ers Liang Xiaosheng, Chun Shu, Yan Gel­ing, Hao Fang and Zhang Yueran; di­rec­tors Lai Shengchuan and Wang Shuibo; art critic Fei Dawei; singers Zhang Yadong and Ding Wei; me­dia pro­fes­sional Hong Huang; ed­i­tor Wang Xiaofeng; poet Xi

Chuan and the ac­tress Tian Yuan.

These kinds of high-level sa­lons spon­sored by pri­vate cap­i­tal are a rare sight in China. Most lack the ac­cess to the same re­sources and of­fer more hum­ble con­tent. One Way Street's sa­lons come in the forms of po­etry read­ings, film dis­cus­sions, de­but book sales and non-profit art ex­hi­bi­tions. Some of those writ­ers and di­rec­tors that have come to One Way Street rarely make pub­lic ap­pear­ances in other cir­cum­stances. This has been es­pe­cially true for writ­ers at the cul­tural fron­tier.their fans have gone from never hear­ing of One Way Street to be­com­ing some of the store's most faith­ful con­sumers. In 2007, mes­sages about One Way Street's sa­lons were re­posted on ifindu.cn, mosh.cn, hexun. com and the on­line bul­letin boards of fa­mous uni­ver­si­ties. Ever since, cus­tomers from other parts of the coun­try, in­clud­ing as far as Hong Kong and Tai­wan, have been com­ing here in an end­less stream.

One Way Street be­gan invit­ing more cul­tural celebri­ties, cre­at­ing a pos­i­tive feed­back loop. Ac­cord­ing to a me­dia re­port, each sa­lon has around 50–100 par­tic­i­pants. Its most pop­u­lar sa­lon wel­comed nearly 200 guests.

Soon af­ter it opened, One Way Street earned great pop­u­lar­ity as a re­sult of its for­ward-look­ing, high- cal­i­bre cul­tural and aca­demic sa­lons. To­day the small book­store en­joys great pop­u­lar­ity. One Way Street has or­gan­ised many book sign­ing events, lec­tures, sem­i­nars and book re­views, fur­ther en­hanc­ing its so­cial in­flu­ence. Lit­ter­a­teurs can chat with read­ers in a spa­cious yard with open hearts. Scarcely can one find a space in an or­di­nary book­store where read­ers can ex­change ideas with fa­mous writ­ers, edi­tors, di­rec­tors and mu­si­cians. This is a com­mon scene at One Way Street. The store con­tin­ues to en­joy im­mense pop­u­lar­ity among young peo­ple for its unique cul­tural ethos and has an im­pres­sive fol­low­ing on douban.com. Thanks to its pur­suit of cul­ture, One Way Street has be­come a cul­tural land­mark in Bei­jing.

In Oc­to­ber 2009, One Way Street re­lo­cated to Solana, an emerg­ing busi­ness dis­trict on the East 3rd Ring Road. Sur­rounded by daz­zling global brands, One Way Street looks some­what out of place. In this large city, a group of young peo­ple are gath­ered here in search of a spir­i­tual habi­tat. Over the years, One Way Street has main­tained its free sa­lon tra­di­tion and now also of­fers lec­tures on its se­cond floor. As a re­sult, many cul­tural celebri­ties have be­come fre­quent guests. More of­ten than not, the cramped book­store is jam-packed, with hope­ful at­ten­dees sprawl­ing out on the stair­case. Cus­tomers are in­vari­ably ob­sessed with its unique cul­ture. When One Way Street moved to Joy City, hun­dreds of reg­u­lar cus­tomers came to say their good­byes. That night, among peo­ple search­ing for dis­counted books and oth­ers singing “The Last Night“to the tune of a gui­tar, one reg­u­lar who al­ways came for lec­tures bought the store's sofa. He said he was “used to” that sofa and so brought it to his home.

Ow­ing to the high cost of rent, One Way Street re­lo­cated to Chaoyang Joy City in 2012, un­der the name Ows­pace. Although its name has changed, the book­store re­mains un­de­terred in its goal of of­fer­ing qual­ity sa­lons and rec­om­mend­ing good books. Its warm lamp­light is like a light­house in the sea, il­lu­mi­nat­ing the way home. On week­ends, free cul­tural sa­lons are un­vary­ingly avail­able, and lovers of lit­er­a­ture, spread through­out the cor­ners of the city, go out of their way to meet here. For ob­sessed read­ers, One Way Street is more than a book­store, it is a place where they can ex­change ideas with like-minded friends. De­spite the dwin­dling “liv­ing space” in the city, that group of read­ers has only con­tin­ued to grow. Of­fer­ing a place of peace and seren­ity, many read­ers come here, buy a cup of cof­fee and read a book over the af­ter­noon. Amid the well-ar­ranged book­shelves, one al­ways finds young or mid­dle-aged read­ers sit­ting with a book in hand, in quiet con­tem­pla­tion. In to­day's fast­paced, ur­ban lifestyle fully im­mers­ing one­self in a book can be a lux­ury.

Nine years af­ter its in­cep­tion, One Way Street has be­come a cul­ture and tech­nol­ogy com­pany–bei­jing Dandu Tech­nol­ogy Com­pany (“Dandu Com­pany”). Its phys­i­cal book­store and sa­lons are still present, but Dandu's op­er­a­tions have en­tered an era of omni-me­dia. As the in­ter­net has be­come uni­ver­sally avail­able, the book­store posts no­tices on Weibo and Douban (Chi­nese me­dia so­cial sites) for each sa­lon. Its cul­tural prod­ucts are di­verse and in­clude reg­u­lar themed ban­quets, pe­ri­od­i­cals, apps and

orig­i­nal brands. Each of­fer­ing has its own spe­cial high­lights and a siz­able col­lec­tion of fol­low­ers.

To­day, while safe­guard­ing the seren­ity and cul­tural spirit it has cul­ti­vated, One Way Street is also in­te­grat­ing it­self into the lives of its reg­u­lars, in­spir­ing deep thought and wis­dom through read­ing.

Za Shu Guan, Con­nect­ing Past and Fu­ture

Za Shu Guan, with its col­lec­tion span­ning some 3,000 sq.m, is among Bei­jing's most fa­mous li­braries. Its founder, di­rec­tor and mu­si­cian Gao Xiaosong, is a well-known scholar.

Many read­ers who orig­i­nally came to the li­brary own­ing to its renowned founder have been deeply cap­ti­vated by its at­mos­phere and have be­come its faith­ful fans.

Seven kilo­me­tres from Wangjing, Za Shu Guan is a pri­vate, non-profit li­brary housed within the Hongchang De­sign Creative In­dus­trial Park in Cuigezhuang. Con­sist­ing of a Chi­nese cul­ture li­brary and a new book li­brary, Za Shu Guan houses nearly one mil­lion vol­umes of books and pa­per doc­u­ments. Its Chi­nese cul­ture li­brary pre­serves books pub­lished be­fore 1949 and ac­counts for the ma­jor­ity of Za Shu Guan's col­lec­tion. The li­brary con­serves more than 200,000 thread­bound doc­u­ments from the Ming and Qing dy­nas­ties (1644–1911), over 200,000 pe­ri­od­i­cals and books from the Re­pub­lic of China (1912–1949) pe­riod, over 50,000 West­ern books, some 100,000 new books and around 200,000 let­ters, manuscripts and ar­chives by prom­i­nent fig­ures. Books housed in its new book li­brary were all pub­lished af­ter 1949, though they make up a small per­cent­age of Za Shu Guan's books.

Tak­ing its large col­lec­tion into con­sid­er­a­tion, the Chi­nese cul­ture li­brary was di­vided into eight sub­li­braries. The first floor in­cludes the new book li­brary, Si­nol­ogy li­brary in for­eign lan­guages and its let­ter and man­u­script ar­chive cen­tre (I). The se­cond floor fea­tures an an­cient thread-bound book li­brary, an­cient folk cus­toms li­brary and the let­ter and man­u­script ar­chives cen­tre (II). The third floor in­cludes pe­ri­od­i­cals from late Qing Dy­nasty and the Re­pub­lic of China pe­riod next to the wing ded­i­cated to books and doc­u­ments from the Re­pub­lic of China. This wealth of re­sources leaves most read­ers in awe. Walk­ing among the shelves, one can find many pre­cious books, like the five vol­umes of Se­lected Works of Mao Ze­dong pub­lished by

Jin Cha Ji Daily in May 1944, the first ver­sion of the Com­plete Works of Lu Xun (1938) and nearly 14,000 kinds of pe­ri­od­i­cals printed dur­ing the late Qing Dy­nasty and the Re­pub­lic of China pe­riod. The an­cient folk cus­tom li­brary houses some 100,000 books on tanci (a kind of talk­ing-and-singing mu­sic), drum songs and scripts for bal­lad-singers. In the new book li­brary, read­ers can find Con­fu­cian clas­sics, clas­sic Chi­nese nov­els, the col­lected works of celebri­ties from mod­ern China, lit­er­a­ture in mod­ern China, his­tory books, phi­los­o­phy books, for­eign lit­er­a­ture and chil­dren's books,

all pub­lished af­ter 1949. To help read­ers nes­tle in, the li­brary of­fers fruit, cof­fee, hot tea and a cosy, quiet en­vi­ron­ment, sooth­ing their minds as they en­ter this vast world of books.

Hard-work­ing staff can be found all over Za Shu Guan. Ow­ing to its lim­ited ca­pac­ity and a de­sire to pro­tect its an­cient texts, Za Shu Guan lim­its the num­ber of visi­tors. To stream­line the process, read­ers can make an ap­point­ment via Wechat, by web­site or by phone. As a rule, the Chi­nese cul­ture li­brary re­ceives 100 visi­tors each day, and the new book li­brary can han­dle 200. In the new book li­brary, read­ers are free to read as they like. In the Chi­nese cul­ture li­brary, how­ever, read­ers must give the staff a bor­rower's slip to have a book re­trieved. Bor­rowed books have to be read one at a time and are taken to a des­ig­nated read­ing area for pe­rusal.

De­spite its ad­mis­sion limit, the li­brary is over­whelmed by a large num­ber of visi­tors. Many ne­ti­zens leave mes­sages like the fol­low­ing on on­line plat­forms: “Ba­si­cally it takes sev­eral days for you to make an ap­point­ment.”

This boom­ing scene makes peo­ple re­alise the charm of books and read­ing. Gao Xiaosong put it well when speak­ing about his orig­i­nal vi­sion: “Za Shu Guan is a non-profit li­brary where like-minded read­ers meet each other. We do not stress the col­lec­tion value of these books and doc­u­ments. Rather, we hope that more read­ers can open and read these books.”

Liyuan Li­brary, A Serene Place

Liyuan Li­brary is known as “a par­adise in a moun­tain.” For ur­ban­ites look­ing for a place for serene re­lax­ation, the dream­like Liyuan Li­brary is a per­fect choice.

South­ern Song (1127–1279) poet Yang Wanli once de­scribed an idyl­lic scene of fences, trees, fallen flow­ers and chil­dren chas­ing but­ter­flies in a poem. Read­ers to­day are lucky if they have ac­cess to a li­brary lo­cated in that kind of po­etic scenery.

Un­like other book­stores, Liyuan Li­brary sits in Zhi­hui Val­ley, Jiao­jiehe Vil­lage, Huairou Dis­trict. Sur­rounded by moun­tains and rivers, the li­brary fea­tures a steel struc­ture and glass win­dows that are cov­ered by tens of thou­sands of wooden sticks. These sticks let sun­shine in, while re­duc­ing over­all ex­po­sure. To en­ter the li­brary, visi­tors have to walk across a bridge.

As has been re­ported, in or­der to blend the build­ing into the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment, its de­signer Li Xiaodong used 45,000 wooden sticks do­nated by lo­cal vil­lagers and made them into fences be­hind a glass cur­tain. The steel- glass struc­ture al­lows for both good light­ing and sturdy con­struc­tion, while its outer wall was made of branches and trunks of trees like lo­cust trees and mul­berry. Ex­pertly placed, the wood pro­duces bal­anced light­ing and a cul­tural at­mos­phere.

The build­ing looks more like a work of art work em­braced by the nat­u­ral land­scape than a li­brary. Walk­ing across the wooden bridge, visi­tors will catch

sight of a door­way op­po­site a pear tree in the back­yard. Pass­ing through the door­way, a cob­bled plaza with wooden steps leads down­ward. De­scend­ing those steps, one fi­nally comes to the en­trance of the li­brary.

Walk­ing on the wooden floor with bare feet helps one feel in con­tact with na­ture. The well- ar­ranged space lends an ex­tra plea­sure to read­ing. Read­ers can en­joy a book while bathing in the sun. In this li­brary sur­rounded by wa­ter, tres­tle roads, cob­ble­stones and fallen leaves, the soul is steeped in the fra­grance of na­ture and books.

This na­ture-themed li­brary fol­lows the day's nat­u­ral rhythm. With no tap wa­ter or elec­tric­ity, the li­brary closes be­fore sun­set. The li­brary is only open 9–11:30 a.m. and 1:30–4:40 p.m. dur­ing week­ends from April to Oc­to­ber each year. Would-be read­ers who miss that win­dow have to wait un­til next year.

There are clas­sics and mod­ern works from his­tory to ro­mance. Pa­trons can read and do­nate books to the li­brary. Staff mem­bers record in­for­ma­tion about do­nated books and their donors, and put said books on shelves for shared read­ing.” With no mod­ern search tools, read­ers must choose books they like at ran­dom. Whether adults or chil­dren, all read­ers speak in hushed tones to main­tain a quiet at­mos­phere.

Liyuan Li­brary of­fers books to read and a com­mu­ni­ca­tion space free of charge to tourists and vil­lagers. Peo­ple can do­nate three books to the li­brary and take one book home. This prac­tice helps en­rich the col­lec­tion and boosts in­ter­per­sonal com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The re­mote lo­ca­tion has never lim­ited the scope of the li­brary. Both the lo­cal com­mu­nity and peo­ple in Cen­tral Bei­jing come here to en­joy a tran­quil mo­ment.

Yan Ji You, Multi-faceted Book­store

In­noway, lo­cated in the core area of Zhong­guan­cun, is where one can find the most in­ten­sive in­no­va­tion and startup re­sources. Dur­ing the day, tech de­vel­op­ers come to­gether to brain­storm the fu­ture. In this hitech world, a 24-hour book­store has opened, adding some cul­tural flavour to this bustling cen­tre of ex­cel­lence.

Its name, Yan Ji You, comes from the rad­i­cals for the tra­di­tional char­ac­ter she (mean­ing “de­sign”): “Yan” means ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion, “ji” stands for in­di­vid­ual dif­fer­ence and “you” sym­bol­ises mul­ti­ple pos­si­bil­i­ties. One part book­store, cof­fee bar, ac­tiv­ity space and art gallery, Yan Ji You is more than just the sum of its parts. Each month, it of­fers cul­tural sa­lons, startup lec­tures and youth art shows. The multi-faceted book­store is at once a de­sign space, hot spot for fash­ion brands and gath­er­ing place for artis­tic youths. Yan Ji You has two stores in Bei­jing, one in Zhong­guan­cun and an­other in Dax­ing's LI­VAT.

“A book in each cor­ner” is

an­other brand ob­jec­tive at Yan Ji You and the core el­e­ment of its de­sign. Books dom­i­nate its 3,600 sq. m. No less than 100,000 books are stacked within the book­store's two storeys. To cater to the aes­thet­ics and de­sires of a younger crowd, the book­store is dec­o­rated in a fac­tory- themed style that draws the eyes with the first step through the doors.

The first floor con­sists of a book bar, a cof­fee bar and an ac­tiv­ity space. One of the first things peo­ple no­tice here is the spi­ral stair­case con­nect­ing the first and se­cond floors, with el­e­gant yet sim­ple wooden steps and the filled wooden book­shelves that act as handrails. Fur­ther in­side is the cof­fee bar, which is also a “book wall” more than 10 me­tres long. Even the cof­fee ta­bles are packed with books, part of Yan Ji You's vi­sion to have “a book in each cor­ner.” Day or night, the cof­fee bar is a crowd favourite, brim­ming with cus­tomers. Noth­ing chases away fa­tigue like a serene mo­ment be­tween a cup of cof­fee and a good book.

More spa­cious and sim­ple, the se­cond floor is the em­bod­i­ment of an ex­hi­bi­tion hall. Shelves full of books stand along the four walls, sur­round­ing Yan Ji You's logo in the mid­dle. A true feel­ing of re­lax­ation per­vades the open space.

In this area, the book­store co­op­er­ates with DIY, pot­ted plant, flori­cul­ture and home de­sign brands. It has set up three small class­rooms in the chil­dren's book area as well. In co­op­er­a­tion with preschool cen­tres and kinder­gartens, these class­rooms are used to en­gage chil­dren in pic­ture book read­ing as well as in­ter­ac­tive, recre­ational and in­struc­tive ac­tiv­i­ties. Ser­vices in­clude par­ent- child ac­tiv­i­ties and cour­ses in English, art, mu­sic and paint­ing. In ad­di­tion, a chil­dren's creative art cen­tre also pro­vides colour­ful ac­tiv­i­ties for both chil­dren and adults.

Aside from this thought­ful plan­ning, other in­ter­est­ing fea­tures await visi­tors. The Muzen Lit­tle Prince ra­dio is an “au­di­ble cul­tural pur­suit.” Here one can find a trum­pet-shaped pen­dant lamp, a work of both form and func­tion. The lamp and other de­tails ex­ude a mod­ern style within the sim­ple space.

At night, as Zhong­guan­cun's de­vel­op­ers bring their high- gear work to a close, the warm light of the book­store is a way to the mind. Im­mersed in a fast-paced work­ing sched­ule, de­vel­op­ers of­ten find Yan Ji You's read­ing space a re­fresh­ing change of pace.

The Book­worm, a Most Beau­ti­ful Book­store

When it comes to ap­pre­ci­at­ing the cul­tural land­scape of a city, a trav­eller can hardly do bet­ter than a li­brary. The Book­worm, a book bar on San­l­i­tun South Road, has long been called a must-visit book­store for trav­ellers to Bei­jing.

The book bar, with its logo of a lit­tle book­worm read­ing a book, is

op­er­ated by for­eign­ers and of­fers food, drinks, and a good read. Its ex­otic de­sign is a much-talked-about topic among for­eign­ers and Chi­nese read­ers alike. The Book­worm sits on the se­cond floor of an old build­ing in the San­l­i­tun Area. Though de­cid­edly unim­pres­sive on the out­side, the book bar has an in­ter­est­ing “soul.”

Walk­ing up the creaky wooden stair­way, visi­tors are greeted with the names of fa­mous writ­ers and their works: Jour­ney to the West by Ming Dy­nasty novelist Wu Cheng'en, Mao Cheng Ji by mod­ern writer Lao She, 1984 by English novelist Ge­orge Or­well and To The Light­house by Vir­ginia Woolf. At the top of the stairs, the shop's glass door can be found; the en­trance to an­other world.

Most read­ers here are for­eign­ers. Amid the soft lamp­light and fra­grance of cof­fee and cock­tails, visi­tors from dif­fer­ent coun­tries chat about books and life while sit­ting around ta­bles. Ev­ery­one works to keep their voices down to main­tain a quiet at­mos­phere.

Por­traits of Chi­nese and for­eign writ­ers line the walls, such as Mo Yan (a Chi­nese writer born in 1955) and Gil­lian Mccain. These kinds of de­tails, while mi­nor, en­hance the style of the book bar. The bar is stuffed with 16,000 books, packed in book­shelves that touch the ceil­ing. Pa­trons have to use a lad­der to reach the higher books. The shop spans sev­eral hun­dred square me­tres. Read­ers may take any book off the shelves. As most of its read­ers are for­eign­ers, Chi­nese books only take up a small part of the shop. The ma­jor­ity of the books are for­eign works. Even the cat­e­gory la­bels for the book­cases are writ­ten in English. There are books about Chi­nese cul­ture writ­ten by for­eign au­thors, such as travel guides in English and mag­a­zines such as Na­tional Geo­graphic and Busi­ness Week.

With its low-key, re­served style, The Book­worm has cre­ated a spe­cial at­mos­phere, at­tract­ing hordes of read­ers from far and wide.

The Book­worm is di­vided into three spa­ces. The main book shop is in the back. Here, one can catch sight of a black­board with the words “The Se­cret Rooftop Gar­den” writ­ten in chalk, high­light­ing the fea­tures of the bar, events space and store. The bar's counter is packed with del­i­cate wine bot­tles. There are sev­eral black­boards en­tic­ing pa­trons with cof­fee, Ti­betan milk, pas­tries, and the bar's spe­cials—and things like Ital­ian dumplings with mush­room and spinach fill­ing—while hand­some wait­ers greet and serve cus­tomers. As the most dy­namic, for­eign book­store in Bei­jing, The Book­worm is a place where read­ers can be them­selves with more than just the writ­ten word. In its other two ar­eas, the li­brary and re­lax­ation area, pa­trons can read, en­joy mu­sic or try a cup of tea. In­su­lated world from the fre­netic out­side world, read­ing here can help slow things down to a more en­joy­able pace.

Books on pol­i­tics, phi­los­o­phy and even chil­dren's pic­ture books are well-placed in a nat­u­ral, or­gan­ised man­ner. Pa­trons can buy books, ap­ply for a li­brary card or read books in the bar. As a spir­i­tual crys­talli­sa­tion of writ­ers and a com­mu­ni­ca­tion plat­form, the book bar brings to­gether stu­dents, re­porters, writ­ers and artists.

In truth, as with many other book­stores, book sales alone bring in lit­tle profit. Most rev­enue comes from its ac­tiv­i­ties; The Book­worm's most vis­i­ble call­ing card. Op­tions in­clude reg­u­lar lit­er­ary events, book sign­ings, cock­tail par­ties, clas­si­cal mu­sic ap­pre­ci­a­tion gath­er­ings and more. Their an­nual Book­worm In­ter­na­tional Book Fes­ti­val has been so suc­cess­ful that it has been in­cluded in the World Book Fes­ti­val Al­liance. Fre­quently invit­ing scores of for­eign and Chi­nese writ­ers as guests, The Book­worm is a cul­tural place where peo­ple can en­joy food, meet friends, read books and ex­change ideas.

With all of these of­fer­ings, The Book­worm is more than just a book bar. The Lonely Planet se­ries of travel guide­books listed The Book­worm (Bei­jing San­l­i­tun) as the only Asian book­store in its list of the 10 best book­stores in the world. It states: ” The Book­worm does more than what a good book­store should do. That is why The Book­worm has been rated by the me­dia as one of the most beau­ti­ful book­stores world­wide.”

China Book­store Yanchi Build­ing, an An­tique Book­store

In the cen­tury- old Yanchi Tower, a book­store is ablaze with lights all night. China Book­store's first 24-hour book­store, it was also the first of its kind un­der the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

Dur­ing the Ming and Qing dy­nas­ties, Di'an­men served as the north im­pe­rial gate. It meets Jing­shan Hill to the south and the Drum Tower to the north and faces Tianan­men, the south im­pe­rial gate. Taken lit­er­ally, di’an­men im­plies world peace and har­vest. Yanchi Tower, which looks like the ex­tended wings of a wild goose from a dis­tance, is on the left and right sides of Di'an­men.

Near the end of July and the be­gin­ning of Au­gust in 2015, China Book­store opened its 24hour branch, sell­ing an­cient books at Yanchi Tower. In do­ing so, the cul­tural relic was re­stored, re­turn­ing some el­e­gance to the in­creas­ingly bustling city.

Sit­u­ated in an an­cient struc­ture with pro­found his­tor­i­cal charm, the book­store it­self has an an­tique ap­peal. As one walks to­wards Yanchi Tower, two boards in­scribed with the char­ac­ters for China Book­store greet read­ers. Step­ping into the book­store, sev­eral milky columns stand­ing in the first floor catch one's eyes. This floor is for reg­u­lar read­ing and sales. His­tor­i­cally, the Yanchi

Build­ing had a width of 15 rooms, although when it was ren­o­vated in 2013, it was re­stored to 10 rooms in the west and four rooms in the east, due to geo­graph­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions. All the rooms are in­ter­con­nected; no room stands alone. The columns stand­ing at an in­ter­val of three or 4 me­tres de­mark the rooms. Wooden book­shelves, desks and chairs are orderly placed in these rooms. Though one may think a 24-hour book­store is merely con­ve­nient, it also houses a large num­ber of an­cient texts along­side books on his­tory and cul­ture. Many col­lec­tors of an­cient books have been at­tracted to the book­store to hunt for trea­sures. The se­cond floor fea­tures ar­eas for read­ing, aca­demic sa­lons and book sign­ings. The se­cond floor is sup­ported by hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal columns and has smaller area and a lower height. Tall read­ers should take care as it is easy to bump one's head.

There are a wide va­ri­ety of books in Yanchi. Tak­ing a new ap­proach, books are ar­ranged ac­cord­ing to the needs of dif­fer­ent groups of cus­tomers that come in dur­ing the morn­ing, af­ter­noon and evening. In this way, there are books on main­tain­ing health, cal­lig­ra­phy and paint­ing for the el­derly; books on Bei­jing's his­tory and cul­ture for tourists; and books on fash­ion, lit­er­a­ture and art for white col­lar work­ers.

The city is rau­cous and alive dur­ing the day. Among the throngs of peo­ple, one finds tourists rest­ing their feet and book­worms hunt­ing for books in the book­store. As night be­gins to fall, the city grad­u­ally be­comes quiet. How­ever, for the Yanchi China Book­store and its read­ers, it is just the be­gin­ning of their book-themed nightlife.

A ray of sun­light shines on the book­store's logo, pro­ject­ing its sil­hou­ette on flag­stones out­side. In front of the en­trance, nearby res­i­dents come to re­lax and while away idle hours, as the el­derly chit chat and chil­dren ride scoot­ers while laugh­ing and chas­ing each other. Yet only a heart­beat away, an­other world can be found in­side the book­store. Step­ping into the 24- hour branch, si­lence soothes the mind. Books on a va­ri­ety of sub­jects are placed on the shelves in the dis­play area on the north side. These books in­clude an­cient texts along­side works of lit­er­a­ture, his­tory, the art, and tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture. The shelves of­fer books that suit a reader's tastes, while four wooden desks and 16 chairs pro­vide a com­fort­able place for read­ing. Be­fore 10 p. m., it is al­ready crowded with read­ers.

Sum­mer is the best sea­son for night read­ing. Dur­ing this time, the 24-hour book­store peaks be­tween 9 p.m. and 12 p.m. Af­ter mid­night, read­ers grad­u­ally be­gin to leave, and the book­store goes through its silent mo­ments of the day. When it gets to be 5 a.m. or 6 a.m., some of the peo­ple who plan to at­tend the Tian'an­men flag-rais­ing cer­e­mony come in­side the book­store, rest­ing their feet while do­ing some read­ing.

Page One, Bei­jing Fun branch

Ows­pace, for­merly known as One Way Street Book­store

Za Shu Guan

Liyuan Li­brary

Yan Ji You Book­store

The Book­worm, one of the most beau­ti­ful book bars in the world

China Book­store Yanchi Build­ing

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