The next time you happen to be in Asia…

The next time you happen to be in Asia you won’t want to miss the Zhongshuge Bookstores in China. Some have called them the most beautiful in the world.

Owner/publisher Jin Hao quit his teaching job more than 20 years ago to open his first bricks-and-mortar bookshop. Today there are four. Designed by Shanghai-based architect Li Xiang of X+Living the stores are at once coldly futuristic and warmly inviting. The location I visited, on 1601 Nanjing W Road, JingAnSi, Jingan Qu, in Shanghai’s Reel shopping centre, is furnished with mirrored ceilings which give the impression of more space and more books.

 

While there aren’t as many curves here as in some of his other stores, many of the shelves at least are rounded at the row ends. I saw some interesting authors translated into Chinese, included Duchamp and Walter Benjamin. Unfortunately I’m not familiar with many Chinese authors, so I really have little idea of the breadth of subject matter covered by the selection.  One thing I can say however, is that although there are a ton of titles (including Bob Dylan’s Lyrics! ) you wont find Animal Farm or 1984 among them. They cut too close to the bone, so the Chinese government has banned them.

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Moving along to Seoul, it’s worth visiting the huge Kyobo Bookstore at 1, Jong-ro, Jongno-gu located under a tall office building. We were here during lunch hour. Every seat was taken up by a serious looking

Korean reader…

although I did see a few asleep.

I saw a sign outside the store that spoke of a book design festival…turns out this was an ad for a sale they were having on books about design. The store has a decent foreign/English language section. At the time of my visit there were tables featuring Ishiguro and Julian Barnes.

Apparently the surrounding neighbourhood is famous for its “delicious food”. We walked through a passageway lined with small vendors. Had a pretty good dish of clam-infested noodles for $6 and later an icecream cone for a mere $2.

The Chungjin-dong haejang-guk (broth to relieve hangover) street and the Mukyo-dong octopus restaurants nearby are also famous. The Kyobo bookstore in an easy walk away from Buchon Village, the old town of Seoul, where you’ll see a lot of young ladies getting their photographs taken in traditional dress, like this

Apparently you can rent them for about $10. I demurred.

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