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Poetry Store Opens in a Russian Orthodox Church, Designed by Some Guy

Jan 10, 2020 | 15:08 Fri
Photos: Brandon McGhee

A new little bookstore has opened on Gaolan Lu — inside a Russian Orthodox church. Sinan Books, in the 85-year-old St. Nicolas Orthodox Church, is only a stone’s throw away from its sister Sinan Books on Fuxing Zhong Lu. It was designed by architect Yuting, whose most famous work is the city’s highest bookstore, Duoyun Bookstore 52 floors up Shanghai Tower. "Consider it my New Year’s gift to Shanghai," said the architect. Preservationists in the city have not been pleased.

Gaolan Lu was previously called Rue Corneille, named after the French poet and dramatist Pierre Corneille. "It’s only fitting that this is a poetry-themed store for poetry," an employee told me. The main hall, elegant, sleek and beautiful, is entirely dedicated to poetry both in Chinese and English (maybe 20% of the stock). Most books are around 100rmb.

The church itself — er “former” church according to an article on the Shanghai government website — was built in the early 1930s to serve the White Russian community and was consecrated in honor of St Nicholas, the patron saint of former deposed Tsar Nicholas II. After 1949, it became a washing machine factory and then a laundry. This is far from the first time it’s been used for commercial purposes. Even after being named city-level heritage architecture in 1994, it was leased out to French and Spanish restaurants.

Children’s books and illustrated books are on the right wing of the church, and a rather small seating area of two benches. In the left wing, there’s a gift shop. Adjoining to it is a café serving interesting stuff like flavored fermented rice drinks and cold brew coffee.

Sinan Books, 16 Gaolan Lu, near Sinan Lu. Click here for more details.

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