In tune with lively places

  • Chi Hsu

A Bookstore Transformer | Zhongshi Guei。Shanghai



吉客鏈:英式花園社區 X 上海書香社交



A Bookstore Journey


I was in Shanghai but not anywhere in the UK. The residential area called 'Thames Town', is an England themed, high-end development of terraced houses in the suburbs of Shanghai.


(Photo Credit | Chi Hsu & Anne, Yeh Zhou)


Anne is a Shanghainese lady and she is always being my local guide in Shanghai. On 23rd April, 2016, I said I wanted to see the recently opened bookstore which called 鍾書閣(Zhongshi Guei) and shortly after we were there!


(Photo Credit | Chi Hsu)


A British Serendipity


This summer, there was a CCTV's documentary called "The Bund" filmed.


Episode 3 introduced the earliest publishing studio (to print the Bible in Chinese) in Shanghai. It was established by a British commissioner, Walter Henry Medhurst, who also founded the London Missionary Society Press (墨海書館) together with William Muirhead and Dr William Lockhart in the 1840s. (Info source from Wiki)

It made me to think differently about the British cultural influence in Shanghai.

(Source: CCTV, Youtube)



I thought about this Thames Town and the bookstore's interior which looks like a British (European) countryside's chapel. It's a British serendipitous - to watch this video on the original of Shanghai publishing.


This serendipity reminded me that British cultural influences remain in Shanghai. Perhaps the development of the Thames Town wasn't quite as surprising as it first seemed.



Beyond a store - a Gallery and also a Chapel


When you walked into the entrance, the gothic style ceiling generates a 'holy space' atmosphere. The interior design of the high ceiling and the altar hall alike seemed to set these books stored in an unattainable place.


(Photo Credit | Chi Hsu & Anne, Yeh Zhou)


Yet, the spaces are very suitable to take photographs. The books are packed over the wall, floor and ceiling, more like a gallery displayed. Anne and I could become a Vivian Maier type of photographer. We snapped each other at the bookstore as everyone will probably do. My first impression of Zhongshi Guei is that its is built as an attraction for social gatherings.


(Photo Credit | Chi Hsu & Anne, Yeh Zhou)


I have visited Shanghai from time to time, and always stayed at the guest house of historical district. Anne always met me up at my guest house and had accompanied me to see iapm shopping mall, Xintiandi, Tianzifang so I could have insightfully discovery about Shanghai's trendy and cultural spots. A local friend is always very helpful!


Meanwhile, somehow I noticed that browsing the bookstore was becoming a popular social trend. A business friend of mine told me once that the physical design of a bookstore is the critical condition to attracting people into it. I realised what he said after seen the whole amazing interior design of Zhongshi Guei. A bookstore could be an educational and cultural "destination" and Zhongshi Guei is the successful transformer.



Ancient Books and Idioms in Traditional Chinese


There is a zone of ancient books but newly reprinted where has spotlights delimit each display area. There are fewer visitors (readers) here, I had more spaces to browse books on the bookshelf, and also the idioms reflected on the floor. Very wise words about READING in traditional Chinese characters.


(Photo Credit | Chi Hsu)


Zhongshi - His daughter's name


Recently I read a book of 書店旅圖,the Korean author mentioned that the name of the Zhongshi Guei referred to his daughter. It recalled me the images of the children's book zone - a very lively zone for kids to play around with books. The owner has a 'child first' mind.

(Photo Credit | Chi Hsu)


The owner started his first bookstore in 1995 and now has 19 stores across China(5 bookstores, 1 bookcafe in Shanghai). Each branch of Zhongshi Guei has its own physical design attraction. To become an internet celebrity store is the key to attract the footfall, Anne noted additionally. People put their phones down and walk into Zhongshi Guei to enjoy the pleasant surroundings.



A Supporter of Reading


“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn,


I believe the owner of Zhongshi Guei is willing to raise his customers up above the ordinary people in both social and spiritual life.


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