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Bookstores tell a story of resilience amid holiday resurgence

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-02-22 08:21
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A girl reads a book at a Zhongshuge branch bookstore in Beijing's Xicheng district on Feb 15.[Photo provided to China Daily]

A toddler sits beside a bookshelf at Beijing Book Building in downtown Beijing, listening as his mother reads a picture book to him, one word at a time.

"We go to bookstores every week or two," says Wang Bin, the mother. "Kids love reading."

Wang and her child are among the growing number of people in China who are drawn to physical bookstores, the appeal of which has endured despite the growth of digital reading. For many, bookstores are a place to hang out, a venue for relaxation, entertainment and cultural enrichment.

Zhao Xianghan, a 20-year-old college student, browses the books on display at a PageOne bookstore in the Qianmen area of central Beijing. He didn't come to buy anything in particular, but to see what is on offer and find inner peace in preparation for a new semester.

"Bookstores used to simply sell books, but now they have more functions," says Zhao. "For example, when selling books, they may sell some peripherals, cultural and creative products, stationery. They also increasingly have coffee shops connected to them."

Moreover, today's bookstores usually arrange books in sections and decorate them in distinctive ways, says the college student, who is a frequenter of bookstores and libraries.

"This has created a more friendly environment, which is why I prefer killing time by visiting bookstores," he says.

More than just stores

During the 2023 Spring Festival holiday, more than 160 bookstores remained open in Beijing, attracting plenty of visitors, according to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Press and Publication. They presented themed reading events, held lectures and exhibitions, and organized traditional cultural activities.

At a bookstore in Shunyi district, children gave a concert in celebration of Spring Festival. Meanwhile, at a bookstore in Shougang Park, a cultural and sports complex refurbished from a former steel plant, audiences attended an exhibition of typewriters, marveling at the exquisite designs.

Bookstores also ran programs featuring intangible cultural heritage. At Zhongguancun Book Building, masters of folk art showed young readers how to make miniature rabbit figurines with dough, to mark the arrival of the Year of the Rabbit. Other bookstores provided lectures and interactive experiences on paper-cutting, velvet bird-making and other handicrafts.

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