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Central Bookstore

  • Date:2024-02-16
Central Bookstore

Chinese Name: 中央書局

Address: No.235, Sec. 1, Taiwan Blvd., Central Dist., Taichung City

Established: 1927

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Did You Know That…?

The Central Bookstore was the largest Chinese-language bookstore in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial rule period and the center of the New Cultural Movement (新文化運動) in Taiwan. It was founded by Chuang Chui-sheng (莊垂勝) with the support of prominent cultural figures in Taiwan such as Lin Hsien-tang (林獻堂), Lin Yu-chun (林幼春), and Lai Ho (賴和).



The Central Bookstore was established in 1927 by Chuang Chui-sheng. Chuang was a member of the Taiwanese Cultural Association (文化協會), a cultural organization that gathers Taiwanese intellectuals. Supported by the local gentry families, the Zhangs of Daya (大雅張家) and the Lins of Wufeng (霧峰林家), the bookstore became an important meeting point for the association members in Taichung. The Taiwanese Cultural Association was founded with two objectives: first, to advocate the Chinese language, which had been suppressed by the Japanese government; and second, to echo the new, progressive, and modern ideals that emerged after the May Fourth Movement (五四運動) in China at that time.


Chuang’s overseas experience in Japan generated his passionate interest in Western culture. He collected forty thousand yen and founded the Central Club (株式會社中央俱樂部), with the plan to open a bookstore, a Western restaurant, and a modern hotel. However, he was only able to set up the bookstore due to the Japanese government’s bureaucracy and the split of the association members. Forty thousand yen was equal to the funds used to establish the Changhua Bank during the Japanese rule period, which is a telling clue that Chuang and his friends had great ambitions in mind. 


For over 71 years, the Central Bookstore was a cultural stronghold in Taichung. It was patronized by almost every literati who lived in Taichung during that period. It also served as an importer of books from Mainland China, aiding the spread of modern Chinese literature. Intellectuals who resided in Taichung such as author Yang Kui (楊逵) and philosopher Chang Shen-chieh (張深切) also visited the bookstore regularly. Noted poet Chen Chien-wu (陳千武) spent a significant amount of time in the bookstore when he was a teenager and initiated his literary journey there. 


In addition to becoming a breeding ground for intellectuals, the bookstore also contributed to several historic events. For example, around the February 28 incident, activists like Xie Xue-hong (謝雪紅) and Gu Rui-yun (古瑞雲) secretly hid and circulated letters on the second floor of the bookstore to drive a revolution against the Nationalist government. Additionally, Richard Nixon visited the bookstore during his trip to Taiwan in 1953 as the vice president of the U.S. 


Even though the bookstore appeared to be majestic and glamorous on the outside, the management had a lot to deal with, leading to the change in the 1960s and 1970s. Besides selling stationery and books, the bookstore also tried to be involved in publishing, especially the publication of junior high school reference books. However, it took a turn for the worse in the 1980s, because major bookstores in Taiwan began to merge and operate as retail chains while independent bookstores were out-competed. Unable to cope with the yearly losses, the last Chairman of the bookstore Chang Yao-chi (張耀錡) convened a board meeting and closed down the business in 1998.  


The bookstore started as a gathering place for idealists, went through foreign rule, and survived the White Terror, yet could not escape the stranglehold of capitalism. It created a sense of grief among the art and cultural community. Over the next 17 years, the building was rented out for several businesses, including a convenience shop, a wedding gown company, a dance studio, as well as a safety helmet vendor.


In March 2015, the Hsin Yi Foundation (信誼基金會) and the Shang Shan Human Culture Foundation (上善人文基金會) jointly rented the former building of the Central Bookstore. In June 2016, they acquired the ownership of the building. On Nov. 1, 2019, they commenced a trial run on the reopening of the Central Bookstore, and then officially reopened in January 2020. It is the third successfully restored historical building in Taichung, after the Miyahara Eye Clinic (宮原眼科) and the Fourth Credit Cooperative building (第四信用合作社).