The East Like You've Never Seen

Uncover the East's splendors, journeying through literary marvels from Japan to China.
Vincent Phan

Welcome to the literary East.

A world of harmony where ancient traditions meet contemporary innovation, a place that has embraced change while preserving its rich cultural heritage.

The libraries of the East, from Japan to Korea, and China, are a testimony to this harmonious blend. They stand as symbols of respect for knowledge and wisdom, illustrating the balance between aesthetic beauty and functional design.

In the small town of Yusuhara, Japan, nestled within the luscious landscapes of Kochi Prefecture, stands the humble Yusuhara Library.

The Yusuhara Library in Kochi, Japan, is sometimes referred to as the "library in the clouds" due to its architectural design and location.Nestled on a hillside and encased in glass, the library offers a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and skies, giving the feeling of being "in the clouds" as one reads.

Designed by Kengo Kuma, the architect behind the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium.
Copyright: Yusuhara Community Library, Kochi, Japan
Copyright: Yusuhara Community Library, Kochi, Japan

The library boasts a minimalist yet captivating design. The architectural design, combining the use of wood and glass, reflects the natural beauty of Yusuhara, known as the "town above the clouds" for its stunning landscapes often covered in mist. Additionally, the library's minimalist and open design gives the impression of lightness and floating, further enhancing the feeling of being in the clouds.

This peaceful and inspiring setting is perfectly suited for a library, creating a space where visitors can immerse themselves in the beauty of nature while diving into their favorite books. As such, it's a library where the love of literature and appreciation of nature come together, creating a unique atmosphere of calmness and inspiration.

Crossing over to the bustling cityscape of Seoul, we find the STARFIELD COEX Library, a remarkable architectural wonder.

This two-story high public library is a book lover's paradise amidst the city's largest underground shopping mall. Its towering shelves packed with over 50,000 books form a majestic 'Book Tunnel' that leaves visitors in awe, redefining the traditional concept of a library.

Copyright: Seoul Metropolitan Government

Copyright: Seoul Metropolitan Government

It stands as a testament to the power of the written word amidst the humdrum of modern life, reminding us of the quote by Jorge Luis Borges, "I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library."

Venturing further into the heart of China.

Our enchanting journey through the East concludes with the breathtaking Dujiangyan Zhongshuge bookstore in Chengdu, China.

Designed by Li Xiang, one of China's best-known designers and the founder of X+Living architectural firm, this bookstore is a stunning expression of modern design fused with traditional cultural elements. Its Escher-style interior is a tribute to the ethereal beauty of Sichuan's landscape and its historic heritage

Copyright: X+Living Architecture

Copyright: X+Living Architecture

The moment you step into Dujiangyan Zhongshuge, you are transported into a surreal world, where staircases lead nowhere and mirrored ceilings create the illusion of an infinite space.

The unique, maze-like design is an intentional reference to the works of the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, whose mathematically-inspired art often featured impossible constructions and explorations of infinity.

This architectural approach creates a space where one can lose themselves in the world of books, mirroring the imaginative journeys we embark on when we read.

Paying homage to its location, the bookstore incorporates elements of Dujiangyan's culture and environment. The reading area is designed to mimic the region's terraced fields, while the children's reading room is filled with panda motifs, a nod to Sichuan's status as the home of these adorable creatures.

Moreover, the dark wooden bookshelves arranged in undulating waves throughout the library echo the form of the region's famous Longmen mountains. The grand ceiling light, shaped like the Chinese character for 'book' (书), overlooks the vast ocean of books beneath it.

Indeed, Dujiangyan Zhongshuge is more than just a bookstore—it's a landscape of literature, a space where architecture and books come together to celebrate the power of human imagination.

From Yusuhara to Seoul, and Dujiangyan, these libraries showcase the unique amalgamation of the old and the new in the East. They are more than mere buildings; they are cultural artefacts, each narrating a different tale, each a tribute to the shared human quest for knowledge. If these tales of wonder have intrigued you, then the journey doesn't end here.

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