China Focus: Popular e-commerce livestreamer inspires enthusiasm for reading

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BEIJING, April 23 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of thousands of bookworms tuned in to Xinhua's livestream interview with teacher-turned-influencer Dong Yuhui on the eve of World Reading Day.

Dong, known for his engaging talks, encyclopedic knowledge and witty ad-libs, shared his personal story and thoughts on reading.

"Inside books, we can find the most intense feelings, the most profound wisdom, the loftiest moral sentiments and the highest aspiration of human beings," said Dong during the show.

The quote quickly circulated online and featured in media headlines.

The 31-year-old influencer, who was born in rural Shaanxi Province, is now very popular on China's video-sharing platform Douyin. He serves as a senior partner of New Oriental's e-commerce unit East Buy.

As an enthusiastic book-lover since childhood, Dong has always peppered his livestream sessions with anecdotes and quotes from renowned figures in human history, ranging from Confucius to William Shakespeare, from ancient Chinese poet Du Fu to Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

"I am reading with teacher Dong right now. So thankful that you inspire me to read paper books once again," one netizen from Guangdong Province wrote in the interview's comment section on Weibo.

Two years ago, Dong was still an ordinary livestreamer pitching agricultural products to online consumers on East Buy's Douyin channel, which was grappling with a lukewarm market response and stagnating subscriber numbers.

During a show in early June 2022, Dong cited German philosophers Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and shared with the audience British philosopher Bertrand Russel's famous quote -- "Three passions, simply but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind."

Over 10,000 viewers watched that show, catapulting Dong to unexpected stardom. Within half a month, the tally of subscribers to the channel surpassed 10 million, boosted by Dong's popular shows. According to a report of East Buy, its net profit in fiscal year 2023 reached 971 million yuan (about 136.64 million U.S. dollars), with 10 billion yuan of gross merchandise volume.

"Put down the mobile phone and enjoy the fragrance of books. In the past two years, my biggest takeaway from Dong Yuhui's livestream channel is to fall in love with books and awaken my love of reading," said a viewer from Sichuan.

In January, New Oriental launched a new Douyin channel for Dong, which currently has over 18 million subscribers. Books and magazines are a major category on the new channel's window display. Thanks to Dong's recommendation in various shows, "The Last Quarter of the Moon," written by Chinese novelist Chi Zijian, has sold nearly 3 million copies through the channel.

In the interview on April 22, Dong also weighed in on the question of how books can change a person's life.

"The life that we refer to here cannot be merely defined by results -- what kind of job you can get, whether it is decent and well-paid or not, or how much profit you can get from reading. That is too narrow a definition. In our life, we read to enlighten ourselves." Enditem

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