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Opening a door to a timeless world

By ZHAO XU in Suzhou | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-05-30 07:44

Jiang Chengbo, 97, spends about six hours every day in his store that sells valuable ancient books. The store is tucked away inside a small alley in Suzhou's Pingjiang Historic District. CHINA DAILY

"Throughout my life, I have felt like a book boat," wrote Jiang Chengbo in the preface of his 2022 memoir.

The man will be turning 98 this June. Yet, age alone has done little to change his decadeslong habit: every day, he will spend about six hours sitting by the glass door of his store, tucked away inside a small alleyway known as the Niujia Lane, on the southwestern part of Suzhou's Pingjiang Historic District, selling antique books.

Having inherited the store from his publisher grandfather, who founded it in 1899, Jiang moved it to its current location in 2006, before turning it into something of an attraction. People come here as much for a sighting of the man himself as for the books. His very presence assures them that there's something unchanging about this part of the town.

One day in April, a woman in her early 40s came in and asked for a specific selection of operatic music scores compiled under the aegis of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Emperor Qianlong in the mid-18th century. She was not to be disappointed. And, as she carefully leafed through the scores, paused at one page and started to sing, the small crowd filling this shoebox of a store fell silent.

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