Singer-songwriter Gao Xiaosong (right), writer Ye Zhaoyan (middle) and designer Demos Chiang speak at the opening ceremony of the second Xiaosong Library in Nanjing on Nov 11.[Photo provided to China Daily]
Following the success of his first nonprofit library in Hangzhou, singer-songwriter Gao Xiaosong is opening a second reading room in Nanjing, Cheng Yuezhu reports.
Nanjing in Jiangsu province, a city with a history dating back more than 2,000 years and the ancient capital of six dynasties, was named a City of Literature by UNESCO at the end of last month-the first city in China to be awarded the title.
On Nov 11, a new library opened at the foot of Nanjing's Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) city walls that have witnessed the passing of centuries.
Xiaosong Library is the second nonprofit reading room set up and curated by singer-songwriter and talk show host Gao Xiaosong. Like the first library opened last year in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, the Nanjing outlet and its collection of 40,000 books are free to the public. To ensure a peaceful reading experience, 500 admissions are allowed each day via online appointment.
The first Xiaosong Library in Hangzhou's Liangzhu Center of Arts, which was designed by renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando, has been a runaway success that often saw appointments booked out weeks in advance.
At the opening ceremony for the Nanjing library, Gao says while he only plans to open around six Xiaosong libraries nationwide, opening one in the city was a must: "It is not that Nanjing needs me or the library, but I need Nanjing. I need the library. It's my dream.
"Just like growing vegetables, you need to plant them in a piece of fertile soil suitable for farming. Libraries should be established where many scholars reside. Nanjing is this kind of city, with its humanistic outlook and artistic temperament."
The library was transformed from a former printworks by designer Demos Chiang, who incorporated elements from the city walls into his design: "The city walls were built up layer by layer over time, just like history, culture, philosophy, art, music and film."
Walking around the library, visitors can see glass pillars featuring brick-shaped patterns, and arch-shaped bookshelves that resemble the city wall gates. The library is sectioned into spaces with varied functions, including a picture book space for children and a "cultural square" area for readers to sit alongside each other.
"I hope that Nanjing's Xiaosong Library will be not only a static library, but also a center for cultural exchange, and a community for art and literature enthusiasts to exchange views," Gao says.
Ye Zhaoyan, a writer born and raised in Nanjing, says at the opening ceremony that Nanjing is a city that values books, so it is fitting that Xiaosong Library has been set up in this newly developed urban area.
"In the past, in the era of material scarcity, there was always a Xinhua Bookstore in the city center ... But now that the economy is prospering, this area is no longer lacking in cafes or teahouses, but it really does need a library. So, Xiaosong Library really has come along at the right moment," Ye says.
Ye and Chiang are now both members of the library's "reading companion" program that invites celebrity writers, scholars, artists and scientists to join the public welfare platform and promote reading. Sharing sessions from the reading program-the first one presented by Gao himself-will continue to be hosted regularly at the libraries.
Before he set up the two branches of the library, Gao had been the curator of Beijing's Za Library since 2015, which boasts a vast collection of precious books, periodicals and manuscripts.
Earlier this year, Za Library was invited by Harvard University to showcase some of its most treasured items at an exhibition at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies in conjunction with the Harvard-Yenching Library.
Some of these exhibits are currently on display at the Nanjing Xiaosong Library, with a focus on folklore material that helps to chart China's modern history and the changes to people's daily lives.
Running through Feb 10, Nanjing is the first stop on the exhibition's national tour before it moves on to Xiaosong Library in Hangzhou.