5 amazing book oases in China

5 amazing book oases in China


The Chinese New Year (aka Spring Festival) is upon us, and you know what? The year of the Fire Rooster is a pretty good year to try something new… Like travelling through China! Year of the what? Who? If this is the first time you have stumbled upon the Chinese Zodiac, you can find more information here OR you could simply read on to find some amazing places that are bound to have books that can fill you in on the topic – whilst also giving your life a dose of adventure!

Below are five book oases in China where intrepid bookworms can either buy or borrow books to their heart’s content.

  1. The perfect reading retreat

5 amazing book oases in China - Nandaihe Library - Xia Zhi  5 amazing book oases in China - Nandaihe Library - Bin He
Photo credit: Xia Zhi and Bin He

Are you finding that your life is too stressful and/or you just need a break from everything (except reading of course!)?

Then you should consider visiting this serene beachside library in Nandaihe, which is located in the north-eastern part of China.

With uninterrupted views of the Bohai Sea, the minimalistic concrete library by Vector Architects offers a beautiful centrepiece reading area with lots of natural light along with a meditation space, an activity room, a tranquil resting area and a bar. The building essentially provides everything you would need to relax and unwind with a book or 10 – all in a stunning setting!

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  1. Tranquil library wrapped in nature

5 amazing book oases in China - Liyuan Library indoor  5 amazing book oases in China - Liyuan Library
Photo credit: Li Xiaodong

Want to read books in a tranquil setting, surrounded by nature, but also with easy access to the comforts of city life?

Then this timber-covered library on the outskirts of Beijing by Li Xiaodong might be just the thing you’re looking for. Located two hours drive from Beijing, in the small village of Huairou, Liyuan Library blends into the stunning landscape through the well-considered placement of the building and a sensitive choice of materials.

The single-storey library is covered in wooden sticks over a glazed shell. The sticks temper the bright daylight whilst also spreading it through the space to ensure a cosy reading ambience.

Though the exterior might strive to become it with the surrounding landscape, the inside of the building is more expressive. A clever use of stepped platforms with integrated shelving creates distinct spaces within the library for readers to sit and enjoy a book or 20!

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  1. A mesmerising mirror tunnel filled with books

5 amazing book oases in China - Zhongshuge bookstore in Yangzhou - cave  5 amazing book oases in China - Zhongshuge bookstore in Yangzhou
Photo credit: XL MUSE Architectural Design

Next up on the list is the Zhongshuge bookstore in Yangzhou by XL Muse. Stepping into the bookstore, you are immediately surrounded by books. Dark mirror flooring and curved shelving that reaches to the ceiling create a tunnel-like space as you walk down the corridor.

The lobby is a pretty impressive space which includes a reading room and a children’s area. The design of the lobby and reading room gives the impression of an underground cave with large sculptural pillars that gently curves upward. Tones are predominantly dark which is offset by the white pillars.

As a major contrast to this intimate space, the children’s room is covered with bright coloured shelves in the shape of buildings and clouds.

This part of China is a great place for bookworms who wants a bit of everything. The lively city is surrounded by beautiful nature, and throughout history, Yangzhou has been mentioned in Chinese literature – making it even more interesting for any history-loving bookworms!

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  1. One fun(-house) bookstore for all ages

5 amazing book oases in China - Zhongshuge bookstore in Hangzhou  5 amazing book oases in China - Zhongshuge bookstore in Hangzhou - indoor
Photo credit: XL MUSE Architectural Design

If city exploring is definitely your thing, then the Zhongshuge bookstore in Hangzhou, again by XL Muse, may be what you’re looking for.

Hangzhou is another very big city in the eastern part of China, and the Zhongshuge bookstore is conveniently located inside a shopping complex, providing you with the opportunity to combine some souvenir shopping with a trip to an incredible bookstore. Perfect!

A glazed façade with text in different languages is the first thing you see. Once inside, you enter a white mirrored space with display columns arranged around the room to make the place resemble a (very futuristic) forest.

A doorway in the mirrored wall takes you through to a reading corridor. This space is darker and has a more intimate atmosphere than the mirror forest. Seats and tables are arranged along the length of the room and provides a space for a bit of relaxed reading (before you buy the book/s).

At the end of the corridor is another amazing room. The Reading Theatre displays more books in a shelf-lined oval room. The intimate atmosphere from the corridor continues into the theatre room. Seating is provided on stepped platforms which also acts as book shelves.

The final room is a colourful and fun space for children, featuring shelving shaped as a pirate ship, a merry-go-round, a roller-coaster and other imaginative forms. If I had visited such places as a child, I would have been ecstatic!

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  1. One massive eye-like library coming up!

5 amazing book oases in China - TIANJIN BINHAI LIBRARY - inside  5 amazing book oases in China - TIANJIN BINHAI LIBRARY
Photo credit: © MVRDV

If you aren’t already in the process of packing your passport and bags, you could postpone your library adventure until this 34,200m2 library by MVRDV completes in Tianjin later this year.

The Tianjin Library will feature a huge eye shaped atrium in the middle of the five-storey building. Up close it might be difficult to see the resemblance to a human eye, but when viewed from outside, the atrium transforms into the recognisable body part.

Inside, the library books are placed on shelves that are carved into the walls of the oval-shaped space.

A mirrored auditorium sits at the heart of the library, reflecting the interiors and the green landscape outside.

If you want to combine the library tour with some sightseeing, there is plenty of opportunity for that. Tianjin is China’s fourth most populous city and is particularly famous for stand-up comedy, colourful clay figurines and a mixed architecture consisting of old European buildings and modern Chinese skyscrapers. Well, there you go!

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China is, obviously, a massive country and has a lot of libraries and bookstores, so I may have missed your favourite one. However, I would love to hear about other amazing book places in China! Please share it/them below, so other bookworms with an adventurous streak and a thirst for new literature can add some more places to their bucket/wish/need-to-see list!

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