Reading Booths at West Bund Rekindles Your Passion for Literature


Young member of Longhua Youth League taking a group photo 

Photograph by Feng Lianqing


From March 24 to 30, CCTV’s featured TV talk show Readers held its 5th campaign at Linjiang Square of Long Museum, West Bund Shanghai, where it set up a reading booth that attracted, as of submission of the news, 510 visitors to read aloud poems and excerpts of their favorite articles.


At about 7 a.m. of March 24, Ms. Wang Lina, winner of the first prize of the Chinese Language Competition of Shanghai Citizens Art Festival, arrived at the booth. Nicknamed Jiangnan Dushuke (literally: a reader in Jiangnan) on the Internet, she is a huge fan of traditional Chinese poems. In childhood, she lived in Zhuji and went to school in Shanghai; during train rides to school with her father, they would kill time by playing the rock-paper-scissors, and the loser was supposed to recite a poem. When the game went on for over an hour, other passengers began to stand in awe of their poem pools, which is something warm and memorable in childhood for Wang. Now, as her infant daughter is beginning to mumbling words, Wang is also trying to enlighten her with traditional poems. At the reading booth in Xuhui Riverside, she was to read aloud Chun Xiao, the first poem she learned, and Hua Tang Chun Yong Du Shu Le Yu Chi (literally: On Joy and Attraction of Reading), a poem she wrote herself. She said that when she heard her daughter reciting Ye Lai Feng Yu Sheng (literally: the sound of wind and rain came in the night), a stanza of Chun Xiao, she felt poetry was in the gene of her family, which was titled a National Book Loving Family.


Ms. Lu, who is in her 60s and was among the sent-down youth, came to the reading booth for a second time, the first time being on March 4, when the booth was set up at Shanghai library. She waited 6 hours in the queue to read aloud a poem called Pupils.


“When I was little, I loved to watch the pupils of my mother, where there was the face of a child, of me. When I was young, I loved to watch the pupils of my lover, where there was the face of a young man, of me. The child in my mother’s pupils was always laughing, which was a bit silly. The young man in my lover’s pupils was also always laughing, which was a bit silly…” In the queue in front of the reading booth at Linjiang Square, Ms. Lu again was reciting this poem that sighs for the passing of time and the longing for companion from the family. Before retirement, Ms. Lu worked in the statistics area, and now she is taking a reading aloud class at Shanghai University for the Elderly. She revealed that they had little options as to what to read, and the TV program has brought her right back to her youth, when people was so fond of reading and literature.


Since this March, the crew of the program has extended the TV show to streets of Shanghai at reading booths. The reading aloud has awakened people’s pursuit to humanity. The touching words, read aloud by very passionate voice, have formed a unique literature experience with rich ritualism. As the featured opening event of this year's Xuhui event of Shanghai Citizens Art Festival, the Xuhui government joined hands with the Readers to hold this New Waterside·Sincere Sharing.


Ms. Wu Min, a visually impaired girl who is also member of the Star Light Reading Club, was also present. An avid reader and good writer, she persevered in her dream and won third prize of a writing competition of CNR. Currently, she works as a copy writer at a technology company to make a living. At about 9, accompanied by Zhu Wenqing, Director at Xuhui Blind People's Association, Wu Min came to the event to read aloud an article titled My Teacher Annie, to express gratitude to those who have accompanied and supported her.


This reading booth at the Riverside region was best available for students at nearby schools. On the morning of March 24, students from Nanyang Junior High School, Longyuan Middle School and Longhua Middle School (affiliated to the Affiliated Middle School of Shanghai Normal University) arrived at the booth. Zhou Xiaojuan, a guiding teacher, said, “It is totally different to read aloud materials in here than at school.” She also remarked that her school holds an annual reading campaign. Students from 3 nearby school came on March 24, who would be followed soon by those in the other 7 in the region.


So what does it really feel like reading aloud things in that booth? Our reporter gave it a try: to qualify the entrance, one needs to prepare words of about 3-minute-length, as well as why and to whom the words are for. Working staff will tell you to adjust your mic and when the door is closed, it’s your world now. The facilities are highly sound-proof and of top-quality, in which one may totally immerse themselves.


As summed up by Ms. Lu, it’s “two totally different worlds inside and outside.”