Human library shares dreams

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, December 25, 2011
Adjust font size:

Since a child, Li Xingning has always dreamed of being a librarian. This Christmas, her dream has come true, only that her books are real people.

Guangzhou's first human library [File photo]

Beijing's first human library opened Saturday night, with dozens of readers and six "living books" exchanging their life stories and ideas.

In a human library, also called living library, readers borrow and return books as they do in a normal one. But books in a human library are real people who engage readers in a direct dialogue. Also, readers can't take a living book out of the library.

"From here we get to know people who have interesting life stories to share, and also to understand who they are and the way they live," said Li Xingning, owner of the human library in Beijing.

The 28-year-old architect from Tsinghua University hoped her library to serve as an interactive platform to promote mutual understanding among people who otherwise have no opportunity to meet and talk in real life.

"Think about a street singer you always wonder about or an animal protection advocator that you have never met. Here you can borrow such living books and talk with them," she said.

The human library concept originated in Denmark in 2000, and the idea has since spread around the world to over 45 countries. In China, such library has also sprouted in Shanghai and Guangzhou. It aims to reduce prejudices and promote tolerance and understanding via dialogue.

A living book is a person that has chosen to be a representative of a certain group. Here in this library, Li Xingning prefers people of action other than only of words.

"Our living books here not only have a creative idea about what to do in life, but more importantly they put their ideas into action," she said.

Inside the 120-square-meter library, Li and her colleagues painted one side of the wall into exquisite bookshelves filled with books. Yu Shi, one of the six volunteer "living books", was playing guitar, singing John Lennon's "Imagine."

"Imagine all the people sharing all the world," the 24-year-old said this line in the song echoes with his reason to join the library. "If there were more people willing to share their stories, there might be fewer misunderstandings," he said.

Yu has been living a vagabond life for nine months, traveling from southwest China's Yunnan Province all the way to Beijing, with little budget but a guitar.

He earned a living by singing in the street, and sold the postcards printed from the photos he took during his journey. On one wall of the library hung his postcards, on each of which, he wrote a few lines of prose.

"I led a vagabond life, but it doesn't mean I'm a beggar. I sang in the street to give good music to others, sharing the stories behind it," he said.

Under his tight travel budget, he still volunteered to teach music in a village school in Yunnan for a month.

Yet before his travel, he had worked as a technician in an IT company, living a life" that was too stable and changeless for me to go on," according to him.

"I shared my stories not to encourage others to quit their jobs like me," Yu Shi said. "I just want to tell them that once outside our comfort zone, we may find the beauty of life that we've never imagined before."

During his trip, he made a friend who later turned out to be the owner of a large company and a millionaire.

"She told me she envied my freedom," Yu Shi said with a smile. "It feels exceptional to be envied by a millionaire."

Despite Yu, Li Xingning, a housewife doing charities, a campus folk singer, an architect who studies Tibetan architecture and a bisexual all shared their stories.

Li Xingning said the "living books" are chosen because they are practitioners of their ideas. Every day, at least one human book will be available in the library, she said.

The library also has an online version, where people outside Beijing can share their stories.



Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from