Bookshopping in China

You can’t miss the (mega) Xinhua Bookstore whenever you’re in any half-major Chinese city. It’s a huge bookstore chain which, as with any self-respecting communist country, is government-owned. It usually occupies several stories of a mall. 7 stories of books is somewhat unthinkable in the light of brick-and-mortar bookstore closures across the Western world.

There are two outlets of Xinhua ShuDian in Urumqi that I know of, the smaller one just off the Grand Bazaar at Erdaoqiao, the larger outlet at Youhao ShangChang.

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I usually enjoy browsing bookstores, but seeing tiny Chinese characters marching relentlessly across the pages gives me a headache. I don’t read Chinese fiction. This time though, I had a niece to shop for, and I don’t mind illustrated childrens’ books!

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The above are all translated from English. I’m sorry to say that the Chinese don’t do children’s fiction very well – rehashing stories of ancient heroes, simplified versions of the four great classics (Water Margin, Journey to the West etc), or fables and moral stories describing how an idiom came into being. The staple of Chinese lessons, even in Singapore!

(Here’s what’s worse: I heard that with Mother Tongue becoming simplified in primary schools, they’ve taken even the above out…what then do they read to learn a language huh? And the standard of Mandarin in Singapore is sliding steadily.)

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I bought some books for myself too – the SAT book for Literature has the foreword and instructions in Chinese, and practices in the original English. Hoping to learn how to set multiple choice questions for Lit!

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