Travel Report: Librairie Avant-Garde – Nanjing, China.
October 2018. I was absolutely drained after our manic morning at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial. Battling the queues had been physically exhausting, while the horrific story told within the museum itself had been no less taxing. Now I was in desperate need of some chill time, if such a thing existed during China’s Golden Week. Consequently, Jaylin and I set off for Librairie Avant-Garde, China’s “most beautiful bookstore”. All I wanted at this point was a seat, a decent cup of coffee and some wifi to publish my daily travel report. It took us well over an hour to reach the store! On arrival all we could do was exchange tired looks as streams of people poured in and out of the main entrance.
Libraire Avant-Garde was the brainchild of a local man, Qian Xiaohua, who converted it from a huge underground parking lot back in 1999. Before that the space was a bomb shelter during The Sino-Japanese War. Cleverly, the store’s design incorporates the old lot’s original features, including double yellow lines. The interior also channels a stylish blend of modern pop art and classical paintings! Gaze up at the ceiling to see a giant canvas of The Strokes. The large cross on the far wall is in reference to the store’s motto: “reading is our religion”.
Elsewhere, look out for a sculpture of Rodin’s The Thinker, which holds court over a row of bookshelves.
Librairie Avant-Garde, Nanjing.
Librairie Avant-Garde was teeming with people that afternoon. Although it has to be said most of them were simply taking selfies and getting in my way. The store is also famous for giving local students a place to study, with no pressure whatsoever to purchase anything.
Jaylin and I wasted no time in heading for the store café where, lo and behold, there was a free table! It can be quite challenging keeping up with my posting schedule, especially when I’m on the road. However, Librairie Avant Garde’s café was the perfect spot that day to deal with LT duties. And while the coffee is certainly pricy, the manager was really friendly and even logged me onto the store’s private office wifi!
Librairie Avant Garde is actually a chain, with eight stores scattered around Nanjing. This is the mother ship, located at 173 Guangzhou Lu next to Wutaishan Stadium. It’s open daily from 10:00-19:00. Considering its huge size and amazing selection of books, the range of English language titles on offer is really disappointing. Rather, this is a place to simply see and hang out for a bit. Come here with that mindset and you won’t be disappointed! For more on this amazing bookstore, check out its Wikipedia page.
Like these? Check out my many other pieces from around Nanjing.
Want to delve further afield? Why not tap into my stacks of articles from across China.
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