A rural success story

By Yang Yang | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-12-05 08:15
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Solid, steel window shutters overlook utensils inside the Panli Building in Liyuan Garden. [PHOTO BY YANG YANG/CHINA DAILY]

Twenty-seven years ago, Qian opened the first Librairie Avant-Garde in Nanjing. About 10 years ago, as an increasing number of bookstores closed due to the fast expansion of online shopping platforms and their discounted prices, Qian looked to the countryside for opportunities. This strategy also acted as a way of revitalizing the emptying villages, where young people were leaving to find higher-income work in big cities, leaving only children and the elderly behind.

"We believe that Chinese culture is rooted in the rural areas. To rejuvenate Chinese culture, we first need to vitalize the rural areas. So, for us, opening bookstores in the countryside is more valuable and meaningful than doing so in the cities," says Zhang Ruifeng, rotating chairman of Librairie Avant-Garde.

With several successful examples already in operation, especially the bookstores at Chenjiapu village in Zhejiang province and Beilong village of Shaxi ancient town in Yunnan province, Qian aims to set up more bookstores in remote rural areas.

"For many local governments, they can use our bookstores to leverage other cultural and tourist resources," Zhang says.

Five years after the bookstore was opened in 2018, Chenjiapu has become a national model village for rural vitalization, with many high-end hotels and cultural creative workshops emerging in the surrounding areas.

The Shaxi Bookstore is located in a remote village on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, but in the past three years, 55,000 books have been sold. The rents in the surrounding villages have also grown exponentially.

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