Tag Archives: bookshops

Autumn Holidays

Grey, damp, cool.

It was another National Day yesterday when the new emperor stepped up to the microphone and apologised to the crowd for the delay, but he was going to have to move his Audi A6, which was blocking the entrance to Zhongshan Park. (The next day it was reported as ‘Grateful nation gives Emperor Audi A6’.)

When I did venture out, the day, which seemed to have been dry, turned damp, and when I did a similar journey at lunchtime today, the same thing happened, and we’re now enjoying steady light rain.

I finished reading A Brief History of the Future, which I reviewed on my LJ blog (link). Overall, I was disappointed because once again, Clarke has shown that when he strays away from France, his skill as an entertaining writer desert him. This had the feel of a book which got initially got no further than a first draft, got revised once, and then published. I don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but I assume the publishers were hoping for people like me, who had enjoyed Clarke’s Merde series to buy this book without considering that it might be, well, a bit naff.

The problem for me is that I’m generally unaware of what has appeared in print until I go to Swindon Books or Page One in Hong Kong, or I might be in some civilised country where books in English are more than just 19th century prose fiction. In Hong Kong, I don’t have the luxury of noting titles and then toddling off to the Internet to peruse the reviews, which will be one of the reasons why I’m intending to buy one of those notebook things next year to take with me on my travels. Unlike real bookshops, Amazon isn’t so easy to browse because only a few of the titles have that Look Inside option. Besides, I want that 3D thing in my hands.


The Irony Awards

“And the award for Most Ironic Book Purchase goes to…”

With the sports days starting this afternoon, I thought I’d use the free time to go DVD shopping. Actually, I was only shopping for one DVD, but because I only had ¥100 notes on me,[1] I bought several besides.

I also went to the Foreign Languages Bookshop at the north end of 科华北路 [in Chengdu] because I was trying to find an English dictionary of the normal variety. I know I can use English dictionaries online. Firefox comes with a link to Chambers, but I’m not always online or necessarily in a pos­i­t­ion to go there. Perhaps I’m just being nostalgic for the days when my copy of the Concise Oxford was handy on the bookshelf for those occasions when I’d forgotten how to spell a word. Yes, such occasions exist in my world.

But I didn’t find a suitable dictionary. Those which are of the common or garden variety are usually learner’s dictionaries of a sort – beginner; inter­mediate; advanced. There are, after that, few choices for native speakers, and having surveyed the dictionaries, I went and had a look through the IELTS section where I spotted Mark Morgan’s Writing Skills for the IELTS Test.

When I first started teaching IELTS about four years ago, I had his IELTS reading book, which was definitely the best book of its kind I had. But his writing book was out of print, and in spite of periodic searches, I’ve never seen it in all this time – until today. I bought it because I may have a use for it in the future, but I probably won’t during the course of this academic year; hence, the purchase was ironic if, as it seems, I’m not going to be working for the programme beyond June next year. Also ironic was the absence of Morgan’s IELTS reading book from the shelves. I bet it’s out of print.

I also went to the other Foreign Languages Bookshop, but their selection of dictionaries was even more limited than the first place. I did buy The Collected Short Stories of Saki by H.H. Munro as some light relief from all the horror I’ve read recently, and I continue to note the inflated prices of some of the Wordsworth Classics volumes. ¥60 (£5.45) for a volume as thin as Thomas More’s Utopia is utterly ridiculous at a time when the exchange rate is just below ¥11 to £1.


1. That hasn’t happened to me in a while, but it’s annoying when it does. You either have ¥100 notes or mere 角 and nothing in between for minor purchases.

The clock says it’s 6am

But my body says it’s 1pm.

I woke up at 6am this morning, which being 1pm China time meant that I was tired enough to roll over and go back to sleep. Instead, I went online and watched the final episode of the fourth series of Dr Who before having breakfast. I’ll watch the rest while I’m here. It was very much an episode in which things got rounded off. Rose got a Doctor of a sort (which would make the girls in Class 6 go “Aaah!”); Donna got to be a Time Lord and kind of saved the day, but had her mind wiped; and the Doctor departed on his own. The Christmas ep. is going to be about the Cybermen. Will it be the traditional Christmas turkey?

Did some shopping after breakfast. Bought the paper. The Observer is now £1.90. I wonder how much The Guardian costs these days. 70p or 80p? Anyway, it’s nice to be able to buy an actual 3D newspaper for once.

After six years in China and in spite of numerous visits to Hong Kong, I’m looking all directions when I cross the road because I’m not quite sure where traffic might be coming from. I’d also forgotten that in the UK drivers actually stop at pedestrian crossings. It took me a moment to realise that one motorist wasn’t going to sail through the crossing, which is what they do in China, and actually let me cross.

I went into town after lunch to do a very quick recon of the bookshops up Charing Cross Road and Oxford Street. I’ll return to them in earnest when I get my Switch card, but I may do most of my shopping via Amazon UK. I did notice that more than one bookshop had displays of books specifically about China. Blackwells seemed to be promoting one on human rights that seems to have been published after that little squabble in the province next door to Sichuan. Probably the content of the book is the usual thing and says nothing we haven’t heard before.

The Observer actually has a double-page spread about life in modern Yan’an where Mao set up shop after the Long March.

Catherine Bennett displays a whole article of reasons why amateurs should leave observations on language to the professionals. It’s not even worth the effort of a detailed dissection. Besides, I’m on holiday and feeling indolent.

Actually, I’m feeling fat. The enticements of salt and vinegar crisps and cheese were too much for me today and I succumbed. When I get home, I’m going to need to go on my adventures every day to see off the indulgences of the next couple of weeks.

0-60 bookshops

In two months.

Yes, that’s the official rate of acceleration in Chengdu.

Glen, Quincy and I decided to head to Computer City to see what DVD we could get. The outcome of that tale was that we were taken up to the roof of the building to a DVD shop hidden away. There wasn’t much on offer and we dropped in on one of the DVD shops I first visited. That was a sorry sight. Most of its shelves were empty. I’ve still to find anything like the electronics market in Tongzhou for sheer range, but perhaps those days have passed. I bought a few DVDs, but in spite of needing some new material, I felt rather indifferent about what was on offer. I could do with some more TV series, especially The Sopranos.

When, finally, we managed to get a taxi, we went south down 南大街 where I spotted another large bookshop, the 新知图店 which is almost on my doorstep. After I got back home, I went there. The bookshop seems very, very new. There were a few people sitting around on chairs reading books (there seems to be a thin line between “bookshop” and “library” in this country), but otherwise the place was quiet. Admittedly, I did go there at about 5.30pm, which is not a time of the day when everyone’s out buying books. There is a foreign languages section, but, as I expected, it caters more to a Chinese market unless you want to read saccharine English classics; although the section with English translations of Chinese works might be worth checking out again. The plastic bag I was given reveals that it’s a Yunnan-based chain with outlying shops here and in Guizhou.

Weather still miserable, and Class 6 have now started behaving exactly as I thought they might. Sigh.

Insense [sic!] of directions

When 西南 is in the east.

I asked the kids in Class 6 where the 西南书店 is. It turns out that it’s east of Tianfu Square, and I’ve been past it a few times. Unlike the massive book market on 梨华街, the sign outside the shop lacks prominence. In fact it’s rather small and rather faded. Also, they insist on using 書, which I recognise, but it takes me a couple of moments to convert to the simplified character in my mind.

The shop has a wide selection of art books, but not the one I’m after – again. I did buy a couple of calligraphy books, but found when I got home that 隶 is the simplified form of the character, and I need to be looking for 隷 and 隸. I was wondering where all the 隶书 calligraphy books had got to.

I really ought to try my hand at calligraphy using a brush. One of the girls in the IELTS class in Fuzhou gave me a brush, ink stone and some ink, but I feel disinclined to mess around and probably make a complete mess of the whole thing. Perhaps I should buy a box of paints and dabble without destroying a perfectly good calligraphy brush.

The school took us out last night to a local restaurant for the welcome dinner. We’ve also got the Teacher Appreciation Day dinner on Monday. No classes on Monday afternoon, either. Instead, there will be a concert at which we’re going to give a short performance. It’ll baffle the locals, but that’s kind of the idea.

In fact, I don’t have any teaching this afternoon either because Glen, Row and I are being dragged off to the police station to help police with their inquiries in connection with our foreign resident’s permits. I don’t know why exactly, and I’m trying to recall whether we did the same in Fuzhou.

Mr Bamboo needs

Eight eyes.

I was having a look at my map of Chengdu for bookshops to see whether I could track down the one art book that I’d seen in Zhuhai, but was unable to find at the bookshop on the corner of the 1st Ring Road. “Huh?” I said to myself. “There’s a bookshop on 梨华街?” I’ve been along there quite a few times. Perhaps not every day, but most of the ones that end in -y and even some that don’t. “I’ve never seen a bookshop on 梨华街.” 

There’s quite a good reason why I probably haven’t seen this particular emporium. 梨华街 is narrow-ish and on one side there’s parking for cars. You don’t have time to muck round gawping left and right as you hurtle down there. It’s forward deflectors on max and all that sort of stuff. As I approach the place where the bookshop is, I slow to a crawl and see that set back off the street is a big sign which says 书店.

The place is like a book market rather than just a shop. They seemed to be restocking or something because there was a lot of activity and things didn’t seem to be geared up for customers. Some sections of the shop seemed to have been cordoned off, and everywhere there were heaps of books either wrapped up or tied up in bundles. People were pushing trolleys around and truckloads of books were being delivered. The shop will probably be worth a visit some time in the future when things have settled down.

As for the book I’m after, they didn’t have it.

When depth becomes inverted

Chengdu, city of substance.

I went in search of a bookshop with a decent selection of art books. The shop that’s on the corner of 玉林路 and the 1st Ring Road is really for school children. The foreign languages bookshop up on the corner of 科华北路 doesn’t have any art books as far as I could see, although I thought it did.

I cruised into town, but saw nothing apart from small local bookshops, which are of no interest. I did a search via Baidu and found that someone had asked the same question (in Chinese). I find that there’s somewhere on 武侯祠大街, which I’ll go and visit in a moment. Whether it’s any more useful than any of the other bookshops I’ve visited so far, I’ll find out. There are several shops to investigate on the list I got from Baidu.

But the matter still remains. Everywhere else I’ve been, there’s always a branch of the Xinhua Bookshop with a huge supply of art books. There’s always a Xinhua Bookshop or two. Fuzhou had several branches of Xinhua. Chengdu has, er, the clothes district.

And that protest I thought I saw the other day – not only was it not a protest, it was, in fact, advertising. When I was out near the university I saw bunches of kids carrying placards advertising broadband and mobile phones, and there were more of them in town chanting away.

We have a winner. His name’s Barry, and he’s a first-time caller from Cherry Hinton. It turns out that the bookshop on 武侯祠大街 sits on top of the KFC that’s on the corner of the 1st Ring Road. It was only when I looked at the sign more closely that I realised the character for “book” was written in its traditional form (書) and there, above the door, was a large window where you could see people browsing the shelves. This is a proper-sized bookshop.

Anyway, as I’m heading through the checkout, I spot a copy of 成都地图册 (Chéngdū Dìtúcè). At last, a decent-sized map of the place. The two maps that I have are, as I think I’ve said, more about advertising than they are about the city. Since the map has been divided into sections, the names of the streets are all much easier to read. But I note that the same naming error of that street out in 石人湾小区 is made in the book. All the maps say one thing, but the street signs are saying another.

Picture post

Exotic locales; urban decay.
Fuzhou with the River Min in the background.

As you can see, I’ve now uploaded some of the pictures I’ve taken over the past few days. [07.08.14. Added some pictures. The originals seem to have van­ish­ed.]

I found the Foreign Languages Bookshop without any problems. In fact, you can act­ual­ly see the entrance to the mall where the shop is from Jiefang Bridge. Unfortunately, it lacks the range I was hoping to find. From what I could see, it didn’t actually have a section for imported books. What it did have in English was the usual round of books which Nanny considers worthy and uplifting (i.e., just about anything published in the 19th century). There were also the usual translations of Chinese classics, but even they were tucked away in a corner.

A shanty in FuzhouMostly, it was books for school children and university students. In fact, I think the name of the shop is a bit of a misnoma.

What antique is this?

I tried doing some washing today. I have no idea exactly how the washing machine is meant to operate. There seems to be a tub for washing and one for spin drying. The operation of the former appears to lack automation altogether, and the latter merely spins the clothes round, causing the machine to walk around on the balcony. In the end, I had to squeeze everything out by hand.

Colonial style houseThe hosepipe connect­ing the water supply to the machine leaks at both ends, and the outlet also leaks.

This has to be the world’s worst washing machine, and is another reason not to remain in that flat any longer than I can possibly avoid. I may as well go down to the river and beat my clothes on a rock.

It took me four days

And how many years were you here?

Before I came to Fuzhou, I asked Alan, who had been here for three years until he was elevated to the ranks of Central Command, about Fuzhou. Among the questions was one about whether Fuzhou had a foreign languages bookshop, an omission I felt sorely in Changzhou. He said that he wasn’t aware of one.

Yesterday I went to the Allovertheocean Bookshop which is not far from the Shangri La Hotel. I thought that with a name like that, it might have a decent foreign languages section. It didn’t seem to, but the place was huge. The plaque at the entrance said it was 13,000m2 and had 100,000 volumes. I could well have missed the English language section, but I got the impression that probably the only English language books were for school children or university students. I did find that sudoku has reached the Mainland.

(As a tangential note, when I was waiting at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, some guy happened to sit next to me while I was doing a sudoku puzzle out of a book. I knew that he was watching me, but what I didn’t realise until I got up was that he’d copied one of the puzzles and was doing it himself.)

Anyway, I went back to the stop to wait for the bus, but when the number 20 turned up, it was so packed that I decided to take a taxi home instead. The driver didn’t head down to Jiefang Bridge as I thought he might, but took a slightly different route and ended up crossing Minjiang Bridge which is the next bridge to the east. As we approached the river I saw the something publishing house foreign languages bookshop. I think I know roughly where to go to get back there again.

The irony is that I’m here for four days and I find the place (OK, it was by chance), while previous encumbents never found it.

Anyway, I thought that once I was done here, I’d pay the place a little visit – so long as I can find it again.