1. October 2018. I was absolutely drained after my 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 mentally taxing. Now I was in desperate need of some chill time, if such a thing was possible during China’s Golden Week. So Jaylin and I set off for Libraire Avant-Garde, said to be China’s “most beautiful bookstore” and indeed one of the most unique bookshops in the world. All I wanted at this point was a seat, a decent cup of coffee and some wifi to put out my daily post. It took us well over an hour to reach the store and on arrival we were met by a steady flow of people pouring in and out of the entrance.
2. October 2018. Libraire Avant-Garde was opened by a local man Qian Xiaohua, who converted it from a gargantuan underground parking lot back in 1999. Before that the space was used as a bomb shelter during The Sino-Japanese War. Cleverly the store’s design incorporates the old lot’s original features, including the double yellow lines. The entire place is decorated in a stylish blend of modern pop art and classical paintings. Gaze up at the ceiling to see a giant canvas of The Strokes, while a sculpture of Rodin’s The Thinker, hand on chin, holds court over a row of bookshelves. The large cross on the far wall is a somewhat cheeky addition, with store manager Zhang Xing explaining that “reading is our religion”.
3. October 2018. Libraire Avant-Garde was teeming with people that afternoon, though it has to be said most of the masses were here purely for taking selfies and getting in my way. The store is also famous for being welcoming to students who simply want to come here and study, with no pressure at all to buy anything.
4. October 2018. 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 to keep up with my daily posting schedule, especially when I’m on the road, but Libraire Avant Garde’s café was the perfect spot that day to deal with LL duties. The coffee is pricy but the manager was really friendly and helpful in getting me onto the private office wifi for lightning fast speed.
5. October 2018. Libraire 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 actually quite 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!
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.