A glimpse of Shenzhen’s cultural creativity from its Reading Month event

Travel is the movement of people between distant geographical locations. Travel can be done by foot, bicycle, automobile, train, boat, bus, airplane, ship or other means, with or without luggage, and can be one way or round trip.[1] Travel can also include relatively short stays between successive movements, as in the case of tourism.
The origin of the word “travel” is most likely lost to history. The term “travel” may originate from the Old French word travail, which means ‘work’.[2] According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the first known use of the word travel was in the 14th century. It also states that the word comes from Middle English travailen, travelen (which means to torment, labor, strive, journey) and earlier from Old French travailler (which means to work strenuously, toil).

In English, people still occasionally use the words travail, which means struggle. According to Simon Winchester in his book The Best Travelers’ Tales (2004), the words travel and travail both share an even more ancient root: a Roman instrument of torture called the tripalium (in Latin it means “three stakes”, as in to impale). This link may reflect the extreme difficulty of travel in ancient times. Travel in modern times may or may not be much easier depending upon the destination. Travel to Mount Everest, the Amazon rainforest, extreme tourism, and adventure travel are more difficult forms of travel. Travel can also be more difficult depending on the method of travel, such as by bus, cruise ship, or even by bullock cart.[3]

SHENZHEN, China, Nov. 25, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Two Chinese cities recognized by the UNESCO Creative Cities Network met and melted in a recent interdisciplinary exchange. The event themed “When Design City Meets City of Literature: Cross-Cultural Dialogue Between Shenzhen and Nanjing“, a flagship activity on the sidelines of the 22nd Shenzhen Reading Month, demonstrates how Chinese cities have stayed committed to driving social development through innovation.

Shenzhen Reading Month has been an annual event held in November since 2000, making it one of Shenzhen’s ten shining cultural brand names and shaping an enabling climate for reading, according to the Organizing Committee of Shenzhen Reading Month. In 2013, UNESCO named Shenzhen a global model for the promotion of reading. As of 2020, Shenzhen had led the country in the annual number of books purchased per capita for 30 consecutive years, according to media reports.

Shenzhen, a young city of immigrants though, is cultivating its distinctive resources of culture and literature, said Bi Feiyu, writer and professor at Nanjing University.

While developing its distinct cultural identities, Shenzhen embarks on a journey of discovery that excitingly invites fine traditions from across the globe, given its lack of cultural legacies compared with historic cities. Among Shenzhen Urban Culture Menu activities that the metropolis has rolled out since 2017, two-thirds have global influence. On top of learning about and from overseas cultures, the city has also enriched itself by inaugurating the National Book Release Center, an inspiration of Shenzhen Publishing Group. Furthermore, the publisher has integrated promotion and marketing resources and brought together prime publishing elements, seeing blockbuster books first released in Shenzhen in a way that practically breaks the pattern dominated by Beijing and Shanghai.

The National Book Release Center has forged strategic cooperation relationships with the Publishers Association of China, 30 plus Chinese publishing agencies, and over 20 brick-and-mortar bookstores in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao, as well as influential new media platforms, noted Qiu Gan, vice general manager of Shenzhen Publishing Group, adding that the best new books will be selected for release and promotion.

Empowered by cultural vitality extracted from a dynamic market, the design city, China’s first recognized by UNESCO, is moving toward a more creative hub for innovation and startups. Its graphic and packaging design and decoration sectors, inspired by the counterparts in Hong Kong at the beginning of the reform and opening-up, have thrived along with the city’s economic boom. And it is market forces that constantly drive the transition.

In 2020, Shenzhen’s GDP stood at RMB 2.76 trillion, with its per capita disposable income surpassing RMB 64,000. Such a massive consumer market, along with the demands created therefrom, has helped energize and upgrade the cultural sector. On the sidelines of this year’s Reading Month event is an overcrowding Shenzhen Book Fair, which exemplifies the critical impact of urban culture on innovation and creativity.

Speaking of feelings about the cross-cultural dialogue, Feng Changhong, president of the Shenzhen Industrial Design Profession Association, believed that observations of and love for real life are a springboard for creativity and inspiration, and literature is about people resorting to written language as a way of expressing their real life and emotions, while design means concretizing these feelings with stunning color combinations and sophisticated techniques. That being said, a competent designer can be inspired to produce a sketch just by an image of literature, a testimony to how literature and design can be a great source of inspiration for each other, Feng added.

Shenzhen is fostering a literary and artistic atmosphere for the general public with the beauty of design. That means the immersive cultural experience is no longer a privilege for the elegant sitting in an opera house. Instead, the society-wide cultural campaign has enabled ordinary people to feel a sense of arts and literature from buildings of various styles, such as urban parks, sculptures on street corners, and themed cafes. What impressed Bi most, in his words, was that Shenzhen is growing more attractive. “The well-designed city as a whole always puts people first, as evidenced by user-friendly designs seen everywhere. This shows aesthetic features it has to offer and embodies a spirit of humanity,” said the Nanjing writer.

Design, in the view of Feng, reveals a city’s fundamental culture and develops its unique character over time. Only when its design is deeply intertwined with economy, culture, and the urban landscape can the design city be deserved.

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