Bookshops have become new gathering spots for certain groups of young people in Beijing. A few bookshops have become must-sees for book lovers and even popular “sightseeing” places for tourists. I visited a few of them in February 2016 just before Chinese New Year.
Shenghuo – Dushu – Xinzhi Sanlian Bookshop (literally, Life – Reading – New Knowledge Joint Bookshop. Its official English name is SDX Joint Publishing Company) is a bookshop as well as a publisher. Sanlian has a long history which dates back from 1932. You might have guessed from the name that it’s a joint bookshop and publisher of Shenghuo Bookshop, Dushu Publisher and Xinzhi Bookshop.
It opened a new 24 hour branch in Wudaokou area in Beijing, which is an area with several universities including mine.
Compared to many of the bigger and more commercial bookshops, Sanlian has a sense of scholarship, humility and simplicity. It has characteristics just like a person. The very name of the publisher is a stamp of quality and style on each book it publishes.
It’s not just me, Sanlian has long been favoured by book lovers. The first Sanlian bookshop was famous for readers sitting on its stairs reading all day long, at a time when most of the bookshops didn’t have chairs and reading without buying was not welcomed.
It was very quiet during my visit because it was early morning and it was just before Chinese New Year, so many students had gone home. It was far better with fewer people.
The individual bookcases stood like in a library, with special recommendations displayed in a more visual way. To be honest, unless I have specific books in mind, I’m not going to look through all the books in the bookcase one by one. So an interesting collection of various subjects clearly displayed is key for me.
The sun casts clear shadows through big windows. This is one thing I like about winter in Beijing, the air is chill and crisp, the sun is warm and lazy. There is no never-ending dampness. It’s cheerful and bright.
Most of the books are wrapped in “clingfilm” to keep them clean and tidy. But there is always one sample book unwrapped for readers to flick through. I confess I’m obsessed with spotless and dog-ear free books. I also confess that I do judge a book by its cover, as well as the touch and weight of the paper and look of the font type. Therefore I like this arrangement very much.
If this bookshop was here when I was in Uni, I can imagine coming here frequently with friends.
It has a coffee shop at one end of the bookshop, with a British postbox and a tree.
How to get there:
Take subway Line 15 and get off at Qinghua East Road West Crossing (the last stop). Walk south along Wangzhuang Road. It’s on your right hand side, on the ground floor of Block D, Tsinghua Tongfang Science and Technology Building.