While it’s easier than ever to buy and read books without ever touching a piece of paper, there’s a certain romance that comes with wandering among the stacks and flipping through a crisp, new edition.
At the Zhongshuge Bookstores China, owner and publisher Jin Hao has pushed that belief to the extreme, with every last corner of his stores worthy of a work of fiction. He opened his first store after quitting his teaching job more than 20 years ago, and he still believes there’s value in selling books out of bricks-and-mortar stores.
The newest addition to the chain is located in Chengdu, China, on the fourth floor of the Yintai Centre shopping mall, and is the fourth concept store in Hao’s repertoire – there are stores in Shanghai and Hangzhou.
Designed by Shanghai-based architect Li Xiang of X+Living, the stores are simultaneously whimsical and futuristic, each with their own style and character. In Chengdu, wide, open spaces are packed with asymmetrical shelves, every nook and cranny stuffed with brightly coloured and meticulously arranged books. Psychedelic, larger-than-life mushrooms loom over displays while mirrors reflect the whole fantastical scene back from the ceiling.
It’s located at Jinhui E Street, Quhou Qu, Chengdu.
In Huangzhou, visitors pass through a “forest gallery” to a striking central circular reading room while pillars of books seemingly stretch to the sky. There’s a theatre purpose-built for readings and plays, and a “book playground” with a merry-go-round, rollercoaster, hot air balloons and shelves made to look like pirate ships, all sprawling over 930 square metres.
It’s located at 930 Lane 900, Sanxin Road North, Hangzhou.
The Shanghai store is all clean, white lines and zebra crossing-inspired gradients. It’s been dubbed a “City of Books” where shelves are made from retractable tubes and the city’s hustle-bustle is replaced by soothing quiet.
It’s located at 1601 Nanjing W Road, JingAnSi, Jingan Qu, Shanghai.
While the stores are beautiful to look at, the best part is that visitors are encouraged to stay and read. English editions are reasonably limited, but are carried at the stores.
(All images: Shao Feng for X+Living)
Kristen Amiet is a previous AWOL editor, bona fide travel addict, sometimes whisky drinker and full-time breakfast food enthusiast.