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Book Market
Shanghai was once the center of the book industry in China. Statistics show that there were over 500 bookshops of various sizes in the city in 1948, not including the news-stands, of which there were over a thousand. Nearly all the influential bookshops in China were concentrated in Fuzhou Road and thereabouts. Like Liuli Chang in Beijing, Fuzhou Road also enjoyed the reputation of being a "Culture Street". But in the early period, Fuzhou Road was once the red-light district of the city, where brothels existed by the dozen, and which earned for it the ironical name of "Decency Street".

"Culture Street" of former days

Wangping Street (now Shandong Road), where newspaper sellers obtained their daily wares
The name "Culture Street", however, refers only to the middle section of Fuzhou Road, an area not exceeding 500 square meters, bordered by Henan Road in the east, Fujian Road in the west, Hankou Road in the north and Guangdong Road in the south. Within its confines were more than a hundred bookshops and newspaper offices, the sheer number of which turned the place into a kind of market which was accordingly dubbed "Shanghai's Book Market".
In the half century before 1949, "Culture Street" underwent innumerable changes, but its status as the country's prime book market never declined. A stroll along "Culture Street" starting from its east end would have brought the visitor in no time opposite two four-storeyed buildings that used to house the well-known giants of the book industry: the Commercial Press and the Zhonghua Bookstore. When he commercial press was first launched in 1897, it operated with only two printing presses. But it soon turned into a going concern. It built the building in 1912, and set up its head office in Baoshan Road, in which were situated its editing and translation departments, printing house, school and the Eastern Library. With a staff of over three thousand, the firm had no equal in the country. In 1931, the head office of the Commercial Press was destroyed in a bombing raid by the Japanese. The Zhonghua Bookstore was founded and opened to business in 1912. By way of competition, it also erected a four-storeyed building north of the Commercial Press building. These two bookshops were well-staffed with scholars and distinguished experts as editors, who made outstanding contributions to the editing and publication of books, periodicals, book series, dictionaries and text-books, and to the translation of world-famous works. Other old books congregated on Hennan Road. Bookshops such as Huiwen Tang had as its chief business the publishing of legal works and ancient fiction. There were of course the Hukaiwan and Zhonhuchen Brush and Ink Shops which dealt in Chinese writing paper, brushes, ink and ink-stones, as well as Rong Baozhai, which sold stone rubbings, calligraphic scrolls and model, paintings, seals and red-ink paste. Among the bookshops that lined Fuzhou Road were: the Kaiming Bookshop, which edited and published works and books for children and young people, the Beixin Book shop, which had moved here from Beijing and published some of Lu Xun's works; the Shanghai Magazine Company and the China Book and Magazine Company, which opened in 1921, did a brisk business in editing and publishing primers and English text-books, thus forming a sort of tri-partite consortium together with the Commercial Press and Zhonghua Bookstore. The Shenghua and Xinzi Bookshops and the Readers Publishing House were newcomers, but they were extraordinary nevertheless for the influence they exerted on the youth. Among the books they published were "Das Kapital", "Anti-Duhring", " On Imperialism" and other Marxist and Leninist classics. Apart from bookshops, more than ten newspaper firms ad their offices in Shandong Road (Central) which was also known as " Newspaper Street" and ran across the northern section of Fuzhou Road. Every day at dawn and around two o'clock in the afternoon, the place swarmed with newspaper sellers, both man and boys, waiting to pick up their wares.
In 1937, many bookshops in Shanghai moved inland on account of the war, which left "Culture Street" a dreary and desolate place, but it revived and prospered when the bookshops came back in 1945. With liberation in 1949, the state-owned Xinhua Bookstore was founded and branched out to all parts of the city. New changes took place in the book market, and " Culture Street" became virtually extinct. The bookshops of former days have been re-organized according to their specialty into science and technology, foreign languages, classics, second-hand and other kinds of bookshops. The former site of the Commercial Press and the Zhonghua Bookstore have become what is today the biggest Science and Technology Bookstore in Shanghai.

Book counters at the Shanghai Science and Technology Bookstore

The bookshops in Shanghai are playing a significant role in the modernization of our country.



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