Taiwan’s first Chinese-language bookstore gets fresh lease of life

The bookstore will receive more than NT$3 million in funds from the Ministry of Culture

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Tzu Li Bookstore (Source: Keelung City Cultural Affairs Bureau/ CNA)

Tzu Li Bookstore (Source: Keelung City Cultural Affairs Bureau/ CNA)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — More than seven decades after opening, the first bookstore in Taiwan to sell Chinese books, Tzu Li (自立) Bookstore, will be renovated with funds provided by the Ministry of Culture (MOC).

“This is a wonderful program,” said a family member of bookstore founder Chen Shang-hui (陳上惠), referring to the MOC program that provides financial assistance to restore old assets that have a historical, cultural, or artistic value.

With the MOC grant of nearly NT$3.6 million (US$115,000), the Chen family can renovate the bookstore, reported Central News Agency. Chen moved to Taiwan in 1945 with the Kuomintang (KMT) and settled in Keelung, a port city near Taipei.

At that time bookstores only sold Japanese books, due to Japanese colonization from 1895-1945. Chen started his bookstore in 1947 and specialized in Chinese-language books.

Currently managed by the second generation of the Chen family, Tzu Li Bookstore is also a cultural space and community hub. It is used as a space for community development and artistic activities such as shadow puppetry, reported United Daily News.

As for Chen, now a centenarian, he can still be seen playing the musical saw in the bookstore from time to time.