For visitors wandering around the bustling souvenir stores and restaurants on the scenic Nanluoguxiang Lane in downtown Beijing, a quiet bookstore nestled in the corner of an ancient building is a pocket of serenity among the chaos of the street.
The newest, 24-hour branch of state-owned Cathay Bookshop opened on Monday night just 2 kilometers away from the Forbidden City in Yanchi tower, an ancient garrison dating back to 1420.
While local officials hope the project will help make the ancient street "affluent with book culture", for most it is simply a pleasant change of pace while visiting the buzzing downtown area.
"It's nice to take a rest reading books in a historical space after walking for a long time in the hectic area," one visitor, surnamed Yuan, said.
From the outside, the two-story hip-and-gable-roofed building, complete with blazing yellow roof tiles, reflects the building's history.
Inside the shop sits an array of contemporary best-sellers and Chinese classics. Seniors and children were sitting on the ground reading when Xinhua reporters visited the shop on Monday night. On the second floor, an exhibition on ancient Chinese books drew a small crowd of bookworms.
"The round-the-clock book shop offers not only antique books, but popular novels and children's books," said manager Yu Huagang. "It's a new cultural landmark in the city center."
The idea of the ancient bookstore came in May, when local officials in Xicheng launched a campaign to bring more book culture to the area.
The Chinese government is keen to promote reading nationwide. Favorable taxation policies and funding supports have been implemented to help the country's bookstores following the 2014 and 2015 government work reports.
Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping, have also emphasized the importance of reading.
With state policy and financial support, enthusiasm for the printed word has picked up among the public in recent years. Sanlian Taofen Bookstore (STB) opened its first 24-hour bookstore in Beijing in April 2014. It ended up seeing a 58-percent increase in sales and a 111-percent increase in profits last year.
Zhang Yiwu, a professor with Peking University, said the 24-hour store is a good way to spread culture to Chinese people, particularly the young, many of whom are night owls.
"Many people looking for entertainment at night have little choice other than bars or nightclubs," Zhang said. "The service not only allows young urbanites to indulge their passion for books around the clock, but also provides a platform for them to socialize and relax."
Sun Jinsong, director with the district culture commission, said the store is a smart way to spread the Chinese culture.
"Opening a bookstore in the ancient building helps liven up the Yanchi Tower, which embodies Chinese history and culture," Sun said. "It also enriches people's cultural lives."