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Suzhou Special: Taiwan's renowned Eslite bookstore set for Suzhou

Suzhou Special: Taiwan

The Suzhou Culture and Art Center along the shores of Jinji Lake. Photos Provided to China Daily

 

 

 Suzhou Special: Taiwan

Wu Ching-yu

 

 

Soon reading enthusiasts on the mainland won't have to travel to Taiwan to enjoy the vast offerings of the Eslite bookstore. 

The 14-year-old cultural landmark that now attracts Chinese people from around the world will open its first mainland branch in the East China city of Suzhou in 2014. 

With a total planned investment of 720 million yuan ($113.8 million), construction on the Suzhou Eslite is scheduled to start in May at the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP). 

Covering 50,000 square meters, the complex will retain the characteristics that have made Eslite renowned - not just a bookstore, but an intellectual sanctuary. 

When completed, the complex will also have a shopping mall, restaurants and coffee bars, art galleries, multimedia showrooms and a theater for experimental modern drama. 

"Eslite chose Suzhou due to its historical background and sound cultural base, as well as international potential," said Wu Ching-yu, president and founder of the Eslite Co. 

From its first bookstore open in Taiwan to the mainland venture, Eslite lost money for its first decade because most of its books were either deep tomes or imports from foreign countries. Both had limited appeal in Taiwan. 

So Wu expanded the range of titles and opened more outlets from the seaside to downtown and even in a hospital. 

Eslite - ancient French for elite - is no longer confined to a select, high-brow clients, but has reached many and become a lifestyle. 

"What I am doing is not just opening bookstores, but promoting reading," Wu said. 

Eslite is now a 24-hour cultural venue where people can read their favorite books, attend lectures, watch films or tour an art gallery. 

Eslite's pursuit matches other efforts underway at the SIP. It is already home to the Suzhou Culture and Art Center, which has drawn a number of creative icons since it opened in 2007. 

To date, it has held 450 performances and attracted world-class artists including conductor Zubin Mehta, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and pianist Li Yundi.

Source: China Daily
2012. Jan. 5


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