Literally pleasing: A new chapter in bookselling in China

Sanlian Taofen, a 24-hour bookstore that opened in Beijing's Sanlitun neighbourhood last April, draws a steady late-night crowd through the week. Its attractions include an unusual layout of elevated walkways and two-storey bookshelves, as well as a
Sanlian Taofen, a 24-hour bookstore that opened in Beijing's Sanlitun neighbourhood last April, draws a steady late-night crowd through the week. Its attractions include an unusual layout of elevated walkways and two-storey bookshelves, as well as a cafe and sitting space.ST PHOTOS: LIM YAN LIANG
The Bookworm in Beijing opens till midnight daily, hosts regular writers' talks and groups, as well as a long-running annual literary festival.
The Bookworm in Beijing opens till midnight daily, hosts regular writers' talks and groups, as well as a long-running annual literary festival.

Physical bookshops making a rapid comeback in China, thanks partly to state support

It is 10pm on a Thursday, and the couture shops of ultra-fashionable Sanlitun neighbourhood in downtown Beijing have wound down, but one area remains a hive of activity.

Just a year ago, that would have been the raucous bars of what the locals called Zhangjie - or dirty bar street - but today that space has been cleaned up, replaced by Sanlian Taofen bookstore, a 24-hour paean to the physical book.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 24, 2019, with the headline 'Literally pleasing: A new chapter in bookselling'. Print Edition | Subscribe