I love books. In my childhood in Taiwan, I loved going to bookstores, libraries, etc. and spending hours reading books without paying for them. So far in Shanghai, I’ve been surprised at the lack of bookstores. In Taiwan, they are kind of like Starbucks – all over the place. I suppose the whole culture revolution might have something to do with this.
It took a bit of digging around to find out where the bookstores are in Shanghai. As it turns out, they are all concentrated around one street – 福州路 (Fuzhou Road). It’s a street near People’s Square, and is also filled with a lot of English learning places. It’s a pretty crazy area filled with students, and businesses that cater to students (food, drinks, knick-knack shops, etc.).
On a Wednesday afternoon, I was on a mission to do some research on the travel industry in China, for a project that I’m working on. I went to 上海书城 (Shanghai City of Books) first. This is the largest bookstore in Shanghai, 5 or 6 stories tall. It’s rather overwhelming. After I got the info I need, I decided to hit up another bookstore for some second opinion. And then, I stumbled upon 大众书局 (Dazo).
Shanghai is a loud city. It’s hard to be in a public place and to have a bit of piece and quiet. People are usually either talking loudly, eating loudly, walking loudly, or the cars are honking loudly, the babies are crying loudly. Basically, a lot of loudness, compounded by just the sheer number of people in this city, well, you can do the imagining.
I was thus very pleasantly surprised to walk into this beautifully designed bookstore, hidden away from all the frantic activities outside. It was peaceful, and the only noise was the quiet music playing in the background. There are indirect lighting, comfortable seats, and simply a sense of warmth. It’s a place I can sit for hours.
As I was perusing through the travel section for my research, I came across the book that partly inspired my move to Shanghai. I had translated this book for a new friend back in September, who is working so hard to learn Chinese. It made me realize how completely I take my Chinese skills for granted. Et voilà, life comes to a bit of full circle as I pick up that book again.
And so goes another day of life in Shanghai. Always discovering, always learning, and always fascinating.