Why Chinese Celebs Are Leaving Free Books on the Metro

By Tristin Zhang, November 16, 2016

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In the coming days, if you find an unattended book sitting next to you on the metro, in a Didi cab, on a plane or a bench at the mall, you are free to take it and enjoy. The stray novels are there for the purpose of “raising reading habits and propelling the exchange of mind among citizens,” according to Xinshixiang Library, the organizer of what they call the “tossing books campaign” (丢书大作战).

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The campaign was inspired by Harry Potter star Emma Watson who, as a UN Goodwill Ambassador, started to leave free copies of author and poet Maya Angelou's memoir Mom&Me&Mom at different locations on the London's underground earlier in November. The books were left with a note that asked commuters to “take special care” of the book and “when you’re finished please leave it on the tube for someone else to find.” 

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In concert with dozens of local movie stars (such as Huang Xiaoming and Xu Jinglei), famous authors, Didi, Hainan Airlines and prominent publishers like Chinese National Geography, the campaign kicked off at 8am yesterday on public transportation in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, according to Xinshixiang’s Weibo. A total of 10,000 books that carry the campaign’s sticker, a reader’s note and a QR code (scan it and a message from the person who left it will be shown) were expected to be 'tossed.'

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Literally anyone can join the campaign by following Xinshixiang’s official WeChat account (ID: thefair2), where you can check where to find books, where to get stickers and how to properly 'toss' a book. 

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In Beijing, expect to find a book on MTR lines 2, 4, 6, 10 and 13, as well as at Sanlitun, Xidan and Wangfujing. Shanghai residents might encounter a novel on lines 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 13, as well as at Zhongshan Park, Xintiandi and The Bund. Folks in Guangzhou, keep an eye out for books on lines 1, 3 and 5, as well as as at TaiKoo Hui, Grandview Mall and Zhujiang New Town. 

[Pictures via BBC and Xinshixiang]

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