t’s a dark day for many in Beijing with the announcement of the sudden closure of one of the city’s top cultural institutions.
After more than a decade of serving as Beijing’s most influential hub for literary and cultural events, The Bookworm announced through its website and WeChat account on Tuesday that it will most likely close its doors next Monday (November 11).
According to the store, the move is not a business decision but one brought on by local authorities carrying out a cleanup campaign in the Sanlitun area where the bookshop has resided for the past 14 years.
“Despite our best efforts, we appear to have fallen prey to the ongoing cleanup of ‘illegal structures,’ and we have not been able to secure an extension of our lease,” The Bookworm said. “This is particularly disappointing given that, despite many challenges, at this time The Bookworm remains a thriving business with stronger, more diverse links to the wider Beijing community than ever before.”
The statement went on to thank all those who have helped turn The Bookworm into what it has become:
A HUGE shout out to the countless authors, public intellectuals, policy makers, musicians, poets, performers, comedians, business leaders, embassies, international and domestic organizations and ad hoc community groups who we played host to over the years!!! You have our undying gratitude for the knowledge and insights so generously shared with the audiences which gathered under (and occasionally on top of) our roof. Your continued contributions and support have been and will remain essential in creating the uniquely vibrant, interesting and fun space we have enjoyed together.
However, this may not be goodbye as The Bookworm says it’s searching for a new location in Beijing. In the meantime, all of its books will be heavily discounted.
Starting from humble beginnings as a small lending library featuring English-language books that otherwise would be difficult to obtain in Beijing, The Bookworm was able to grow into much more than a simple bookstore, serving as host to countless literary and cultural festivals, events, and talks that featured thousands of authors and experts, many coming from overseas.
Some of these authors even spoke on topics that are sensitive in China, leading to speculation that such events are what eventually led to the shop being shut down.
Either way, the closure has come as a heavy blow to many with the China Twittersphere stepping forward to eulogize The Bookworm and cultural life in Beijing.
So sad. The Bookworm is among the best institutions promoting literature & writers from around the world to Beijingers, not to mention it was a fantastic place to hang out. Thanks to Peter Goff for making it this far in a society Orwell would recognize more & more these days. https://t.co/5qqqrlZUrf
— Rob Schmitz 史明智 (@rob_schmitz) November 5, 2019
Absolutely devastating. I left Beijing last year in part because the cultural space was shrinking, and the cleanup campaign had taken away so many of the vibrant small businesses that made the city so exciting. The loss of the Bookworm feels like the final straw. RIP. https://t.co/AnVX76sonv
— Alec Ash (@alecash) November 5, 2019
I've been very sad before when bars or cafés closed down in Beijing. But never felt as sad as when hearing that the Bookworm would close its doors at its current location. It's always been a beating heart of cultural exchange, a Beijing home base to learn, talk, read,..
— Manya Koetse (@manyapan) November 5, 2019
Looking forward to this but sad to participate in the final event in an incredible space. Words cannot express the debt of gratitude owe The Bookworm team past and present for persisting in the face of often unmentioned headwinds to keep a little bit of culture alive in Beijing. https://t.co/apzhSWM6ea
— Jeremiah Jenne (@JeremiahJenne) November 5, 2019
Everyone who has the luxury of choosing to live in Beijing, especially expats, has to admit to a degree of masochism. What a cold, technocratic, overcrowded, increasingly uninspired global capital.
— Tanner Brown (@luoshanji) November 5, 2019