Curl up with a good book—anywhere

“Homeless intellectual” Shen Wei, the well-read Shanghai vagrant who shot to online fame in March, describes his celebrity as a wake-up call to fans. “It’s not that I’m learned,” Shen admonishes them in one video, his appearance in ragged contrast with his extensive book collection and habit of quoting the classics. “It’s simply that you read too little.”

Classical texts are replete with quotations that emphasize study as the path to social advancement—but the ancient Chinese found pleasure in reading too. The Analects of Confucius describes the sage as being so enthralled by books that he “forgets to eat.”

An older Chinese man takes a break on his three-wheeled bicycle and intently reads the daily newspaper.

Xin was inspired by watching seniors read newspapers page by page

Today’s China is home to some of the world’s biggest bookstores, or “book cities,” where readers of all ages can curl up directly on the floor with their favorite titles. Sales of e-books and e-readers are also growing. Still, 41 percent of adults did not read any books in 2018, according to the China Academy of Press and Publication.

This is subscriber exclusive content

Become a subscriber to continue reading

Text Appeal is a story from our issue, “Wild Rides.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Hatty Liu

Hatty Liu is the managing editor of The World of Chinese, and an award-winning communications researcher. Born in China, and raised in China, Canada, and the US, she leverages her cross-cultural identity to create more empathetic knowledge across national boundaries.

Related Articles