For the past 60-plus years, books from China have been distributed in more than 180 countries and regions, and more than 1.4 billion people combined in those countries and regions have read about China and Chinese culture in various languages. For a person who manages an overseas Chinese bookstore, the shop is more than just a business; it is what makes life meaningful.
In 1967, Deng Jiaxiang, then a full-time chef at a Chinese restaurant and a part-time bookseller, used to sell Chinese books at Hyde Park, in London, capital of the United Kingdom, during weekends. Four years later, Deng established Guanghwa Bookshop, in Chinatown, in London.
The bookshop, as the only Chinese bookstore in the UK, has played a significant role in spreading Chinese culture in the UK, and in promoting cultural exchanges between China and the UK.
According to Frances Wood, who was head of the Chinese Department of the British Library from 1977 to 2013, some 90 percent of the library's Chinese books collected during the 1970s and the 1980s were acquired from the bookstore. During that period, the bookstore also sold books to other libraries and universities in the UK. Professors, experts and Sinologists in the UK bought books from the bookstore, and they used the books to conduct research into Chinese culture and history. Nowadays, the bookstore keeps providing a wide range of books to libraries and people who conduct research into Chinese culture and history.
On December 6, 2016, the bookshop held a celebration to mark the 45th anniversary of its establishment. Xiang Xiaowei, cultural counselor with the Chinese Embassy in the UK, attended the celebration. He praised the bookstore for its important role in helping overseas Chinese and British people understand China.
Vivian Ni, manager of the bookstore, says the shop's target customers are overseas Chinese, their offspring and British people who have an interest in Chinese culture and language.
"Guanghwa Bookshop is more than just a store that sells books. It is like a cultural salon, where people can enjoy reading and learning, and where people can listen to and chat with each other. We regularly hold painting and calligraphy classes and workshops, as well as various reading activities, including activities for children. We also organize book-signing events for writers to meet readers," Ni says.
"In addition to such activities organized in our bookstore, we also have social media accounts on WeChat (China's most popular cross-platform, instant-messaging service), Twitter and Facebook to communicate with our customers. Our sister company, Cypress Books, provides support in terms of storage, logistics and e-commerce business. Customers can buy books on our website," she adds.
"Research shows that, compared with digital reading, reading print books makes people feel more pleasure … We believe that print books will always have steadfast readers. Those who love reading print books are also our target customers," Ni says.
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