Explore Beijing's rich literary history with our tour of landmarks that no self-respecting bookworm should miss out on, including the former home of our city's best satirist Lao She, the Lu Xun Museum and the mammoth National Library of China. Read on for our full list of literary hotspots.
National Library of China
The mother of all Beijing literary landmarks (at least in terms of sheer size), the National Library lies just off Line 4.
With over 30 million volumes, it’s certainly a sight to see and tops out as the largest collection in Asia. Remember to bring your passport to get access to the reading rooms. If old dusty books are more your thing, you'll find the Ancient Books Library at 7 Wenjin Jie right next to the south entrance of Beihai Park.
Lu Xun Museum
This museum, buried in the hutongs near Baitaisi, pays homage to Lu Xun’s life as a writer, ideologue and revolutionary, and includes some 21,842 items of interest as well as the famed scroll known as the 'Self-Mockery Poem'.
Julia Lovell has done a great new translation of his stories, The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China
, which topped out as number one on Time Out
's list of best Chinese fiction books
from the last century. He’s certainly a man to know more about.
Lu Xun Museum 19 Gongmenkou Ertiao, off Fuchengmen Nei Dajie, Xicheng district
Grand View Garden
Located in the southwest crook of the Second Ring Road, Grand View Garden (Daguan Yuan) is a real-life reproduction of the fictional garden setting in Cao Xueqin's Dream of the Red Chamber.
Dream of the Red Chamber
is considered one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels
and has its own line of study, called Redology, devoted to it. This full-sized replica was built in 1984 and features all the buildings and elements found in its literary inspiration.
Cao Xueqin's Memorial
Just outside the Fifth Ring Road, the Beijing Botanical Garden is tucked next to the Fragrant Hills Park in Haidian. Besides being gorgeous in its own right, the garden contains Qing Dynasty writer Cao Xueqin’s memorial, which features his former courtyard residence and the study where he wrote in his later years. A collection of exhibition rooms also detail Cao’s life and works.
Cao Xueqin’s Memorial 39 Zhengbaiqi Cun, Beijing Botanical Garden, Wofosi Lu, Xiangshan, Haidian district
A former hangout for Beijing literati in the Qing Dynasty, this is where authors living in the south side of the city would congregate and write.
Formally established as a park in the mid-20th century, Taoran Pavillon was built long before in the late 17th century. Republican-era author Yu Pingbo wrote the famous poem ‘Snow of Taoranting’.
Mao Dun's Former Residence
This small, modest house once belonged to Mao Dun – pen name of Shen Dehong, the celebrated 20th-century novelist, critic and former minister of culture famous for writing modern Chinese classics.
The courtyard features his former living quarters as well as a museum featuring some of Mao's original manuscripts and writing tools.
Lao She Museum
This small museum is located in a well-preserved hutong to the east of the Forbidden City, where the author of classics like Cat Country
(number seven on our top fiction list
) and Rickshaw Boy
penned several of his last works.
This small museum contains Lao She’s library and living quarters, including a writing desk with his daily calendar, still open on the date of his disappearance in October 1966. It’s believed he committed suicide by jumping in Taiping Lake.
Midnight in Peking walking tour
A whole afternoon in itself, this audio guided walk gives the grand tour of all the major scenes in Paul French’s 2012 mystery Midnight in Peking.
Set in 1937, French’s book (number three on our top non-fiction list
) tells the true story of the murder of a young Englishwoman during the last days of old Peking. You’ll start your walk at the scene of the crime, Beijing Railway Station, before following the trail to other key locations from the story and finishing at the Foreign Legation Quarter.
Bespoke Beijing's Midnight in Peking walking tour takes place on the last Saturday of every month and is priced at 388RMB per person. Visit their site for more information.
Prolific 20th-century author Zhang Henshui wrote about the daily life and activities of people frequenting this park (and Beihai Park as well) in his first major long work An Unofficial History of Beijing (Chunming Waishi, 春明外史; 1929). The park is right alongside the Forbidden City and in its western part is Lai Jin Yu Xuan restaurant – the site where the first modern Chinese literary studies group was founded in 1921.
The restaurant remains today and is known for its Red Mansion banquet that’s based on dishes featured in Cao Xueqin’s classic, Dream of the Red Chamber.
7 Shihu Hutong
Leading modernist poet Xu Zhimo lived at what is now 33 Xiao Shihu Hutong in the first half of the 20th century.
Xu is said to have led quite the passionate life, with reported dalliances with figures including Pearl S Buck (number eight on Time Out
's top Chinese fiction list
). Xu opened a salon here to discuss poetry with his friends, and inspired by the tranquility and idyll of the location, he wrote a poem called '7 Shihu Hutong’.
7 Shihu Hutong 33 Xiao Shihu Hutong, Xicheng district
Thanks to Professor Li Jianqing at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences and Mengfei Chen and the team at Penguin Books China for their help compiling this list.