René Schilling
Bookwalks - Buchführung - Litteratours

 

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Beijing, China   

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(written April 2007, updated: July 2009)

Hel-loh, you are (stranded?) in one of the biggest (greatest?) cities of the world and, as everywhere, looking for maths books. Not a bad place to be, indeed. I agree that the language here is a bit difficult to handle... And with (y)our trailing Chinese "bodyguards" a real bookwalk is not so much fun (although they keep smiling :-) it IS clear that bookmaniacs like us make a hard time for them).

Before we start our walk, a few hints how to simplify your life. To get around, take a taxi. A ride is really cheap, the drivers are friendly and honest (no, you do not end up cruising around Tian'an'men square seven times until you get where you want to go). Their crash course to learn English in the run-up of the 2008 Olympic games is now over and they definitely have forgotten all the useful phrases. (In 2007 I could watch them reading in a booklet: Olympic English while driving.) Still the best thing is to write where you want to go, but do it in Chinese. Altavista's babelfish will help to translate some simple phrases which you can print out and show. The program is also very good at translating webpages. (Use the "English to simplified Chinese" option.) Below I try to give as often as possible the Chinese characters for the addresses.

Let's start at one of the shopping miles of Beijing: Wangfujing street. At the south end of the street is the Oriental Plaza and the north corner of this huge shopping mall is the home of Wangfujing Bookstore ( 王府井 书 店; Address 218 Wangfujing Dajie, Dongcheng District 东城区王府井大街218 号) which is open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is a rather large place and the maths section is on the third floor (Chinese = US counting of floors). Take a U-turn to the right when getting off the escalator. About 20m to your left there are some tables with imported English-language books and on the shelves left of the tables there is the shop's science ("natural science") section of the shop.The english-language mathematics and physics books are situated around a pillar. The selection is not enormous (for Beijing standards) but you will find quite a lot (Chinese reprints of) Springer, Elsevier, World Scientific etc. books along with few home-made Chinese maths book in English, mostly Science Press hardcovers. No imported math books. All major western credit cards are accepted. The whole shop is but an appetizer for

the Beijing Book Building ( 北京 图书大 厦 ) a.k.a. Xinhua Book Store which is more or less above the Xidan underground station (17 Xichang'an Jie, Xicheng District 西城区西 长安大街 17 号 open daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.). One of the exits from the underground (2B or 3B, if I remember correctly) leads you directly in front of the building. This is probably Beijing's largest bookshop and it is really impressive. In the basement there is a good (though eclectic) selection of English novels and other imported books. The order of the books is - as fas as I can tell - by title and not by author. Academic books are in the top floor (4th floor) and mathematics is at one of the outer walls. The English-language maths section is a little separated from the Chinese books and fills a front of bookcases of about 5-6 m with 5 shelves each. Very good selection of Chinese reprints and Chinese original publications. No imported maths books. I was there on a sunday and the shop was really crowded; nevertheless I found myself queuing up with a veritable pile of books on my arms. All major western credit cards are accepted.

There are other book-places in the city centre, e.g. the foreign languages bookshop in Wangfujing street at the north end of the pedestrianized area of Wangfujing (there is a huge sign on the left=western side, you can't miss it) and a little further down (=north) the Wangfujing the (former official) bookshop of the Chinese foreign language press to your right (next to the Crowne Plaza) but both are disappointing, not only from a maths point of view, but also in general.

It is best to take a cab and get to the university area of Beijing which is in the Haidian / Zhongguancun area of the city. The ride will cost about 50-60 Yuan . Zhongguancun is also a huge shopping area with at least three interesting bookshops close to Haidian Dajie. In my opinion the best one is the

ZGC or ZhongGuanCun Bookstore ( 中 关 村 图书大 厦 ) at 68 Beisihuan Xilu, Haidian District 海淀区北四 环西路 68 号 ; open every day 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is even marked as ZGC Bookstore on the official Beijing tourist map, section C4, close to the Haidian park and the adjacent Summer Palace and at least an attraction as the palace itself. The shop is just off the northern end of Suzhou Jie, on the left when facing the 4th ringroad in a modern high-rise building almost directly at the ringroad. The builiding itself is called "leftbank community" (which reminded me of the rive gauche in Paris, sorry), You enter from the back, where you see a red sign saying "Xinhua bookstore" and "Haidian book city". Do not be irritated by the first-floor DVD and CD displays, you are in a bookshop. Go to the 4th floor where the sciences are located and roughly in the middle of the shop to your left there is a whole section devoted to ... mathematics! English-language mathematics. This is the most comprehensive selection of books I've seen in Beijing; locals showed me a "better one" which, alas, turned out to be not as good. The books are ordered by Chinese publisher's series. Springer reprints greet you in yellows, World Scientific are as colourful as ever and China Machine Press publishes various imprints of Pearson in a green and a blue series, often with Chinese-only spines but English interior. There are also many Chinese original publications written in English from various University presses and Chinese publishers. Myteriously, I got roughly 20% off the publishers' prices - but I did not figure out why.

When you are ready, leave the building via the rear entrance (the you entered, not leading to the ringroad) and stroll back along Suzhou Jie. At the first major crossing (about 200m, it is T-shaped, to your right is a high-rise glass-covered building housing one of the inevitable Starbucks coffee shops), turn left into Haidian Dajie. On the right side of the street there is one of 90+ Beijing McDonald's outlets. If you look to your left there is a white modernist building in the background, with the sign `Christian Church' on top; ugly as it is, it is a distinctive landmark. In the foreground you see a brownish concrete complex of moderate height boasting two towers (one of them with a huge clock) and a small shopping street with a (probably, it was under construction) colourful Chinese entrance arch. Enter the building at the corner. Your are now in

Haidian Book City ( 海淀 图书 城 ), 36 Haidian Xidajie, Haidian District
海淀区海淀西大街36 号
, open 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. This is a once-thriving book market with stalls of many specialized book dealers, some of them having antiquarian and second-hand (non-maths) books, most of them empty. Do continue, though. The shop you want to see is at the rear of the building on the second (!) floor (Chinese/US counting, use the second staircase!). There are two rooms: when you enter there is a large room with economics, business and finance books. At the back is a room full of maths books. Three bookcases with about 6 shelves each are reserved for English-language maths literature. The selection is pretty good since they do not stock every book tenfold (like the other shops). If you buy enought, they also give a 10% discount on the anyway cheap prices.

Go back to the McDonald's `restaurant', further down Haidian Dajie to the point where a large street branches off to the left (direction ring-road). About 100m northwards (direction ringroad) you see a dark-grey glossy-glassy tower standing more or less at the motorway and bearing the name creative zone. This is a large shopping mall and on floors 5-8 there is the

Disanji Bookstore ( 第三极 书 局 ), 66 Beisihuan Lu (opposite the south gate of Peking University), Haidian District, 海淀区北四 环西路 66 号, open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. On Floor 6 (yes, Humanities, not Sciences), section 6G (6G3099 etc.) you find a relatively small collection of English maths books. To get there, make a U-turn to the left when you arrive in the sixth floor and head for the opposite wall. There is a row of maths books parallel to the outer wall, where English and Chinese books are jumbled together. Having been at the other places, there was no urgent need to buy something here...

Back to Haidian Dajie, turn left and walk down Haidian Dajie for about 50m. Looking down the next street to your right you'll see a bridge-like construction spanning the street. On the left side right under this bridge is the entrance to the Zhongguancun Plaza Shopping Centre. Big but not really interesting. If you are hungry, search for the entrance to `Fresh Plus International Buffet' next to the shopping mall entrance, also under the bridge. This is mostly Asian cuisine. Great value for money (about 100 Yüan for eat-and-drink-as-much-as-you-want) and really good stuff.

Continue on Haidian Dajie which is the north border of Zhongguancun Place. The shopping mall I mentioned above is pretty much underneath the Place. Roughly in the middle of the east side of Zhongguancun Place, between two pedestrian bridges, Zhongguancun Jie leads eastwards. Go down this street, it is lined with small shops on either side, for about 2000m (two blocks) until you reach a big two-to-three lane road. This is Zhongguancun Beidajie. On this street you'll find the Mathematics department of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Turn left and go up (north) Zhongguancun Beidajie until you are almost at the 4th ring-road. On your left is a rather big oddly-shaped grey-tiled building, this is No. 55 East Road, Zhongguancun, Beijing 100080 ( 中 关村东路 55 号(原中 关村南四街甲一号)思源楼 9-10 层, 北京 2734 信箱 ) which is home to the Maths department. The place is easy to find: opposite there is a triplet of high-rise glass buildings and the highest of the three has the neon advertisement Great Wall on top and at the entrance gate is a guard post. Enter the courtyard and follow the street to the end, passing a rather old building labelled `dining hall'. Maths is in a high 15-floor building which is a bit oddly-shaped (it has an obtuse kink in the middle) and boasts grey tiles. The entrance to CAS is on your right. Go straight for the elevators, up to second floor (Chinese/US counting), turn left (through a door) and go along a rather long, in the middle sligthly kinked aisle. This leads to the library of CAS phone: 010-62631848 and 62551966. Do not enter, but turn left and follow the winding aisle. The third door to your right you find a small room (Room 220) devoted to maths books only. The door's open during business hours: 9 a.m. - noon and 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. Unfortunately, the opening hours are not as regular as one would wish - so you might have to wait. You find a very good selection of mostly English maths books. New titles are featured on a table. The `book-keeper' is very kind, does not understand a single word of English but a little sign-language helps. Only cash is accepted.

Other useful links: Beijing book stores by thatsbj.com