A platform for culture


Renowned Taiwanese filmmaker and actress Sylvia Chang’s latest play “Why We Chat” was inspired by the classic Chinese literary collection Liaozhai Zhiyi. The play, directed by Edward Lam and also starring David Wang, is a depiction of “modern relationships and ghost stories.” When the actress spoke publicly in Hong Kong about the play recently, she drew a crowd of fans and cultural enthusiasts. It was one of eslite’s more popular events.

eslite’s cultural events underpin a community of creatives in Hong Kong, allowing them to broaden their minds by offering more than the books on their shelves. Bookstores are the cornerstones of a neighbourhood; they offer cosiness and solace, a place to immerse yourself in stories of adventure, romance, suspense or heartbreak and to share that with fellow book lovers. Taiwanese bookstore eslite opened its doors in Hong Kong in 2012, nestling into three storeys at Hysan Place.

Designer Tricia Ling, who works in Causeway Bay, recalls an immersive concert experience at eslite: “The event was about Taiwanese culture and we sat in a room filled with books, with music playing. The idea that a bookstore is just a place doesn’t exist at eslite, it’s a space where people can come together to learn and experience new things.”

“Through curating life and space, we hope to provide our readers a more cosy experience…”

Since its first opening in Taipei nearly 30 years ago, eslite has taken the notion of a typical bookstore and transformed it; offering visitors an all-inclusive cultural experience. “We have always been more than a bookstore. Through curating life and space, we hope to provide our readers a more cosy experience, whether they are reading, browsing, listening to music, or enjoying a cup of coffee — they can indulge in a moment of their own,” says Lynn Chang, company director of eslite.

Though a moment of peace may seem few and far between in bustling Causeway Bay, eslite cultivated a peaceful yet convivial environment that includes Taiwanese bubble tea chain Ten Ren’s Tea, cafes, a large area with children’s books and toys, and sells stationery, accessories, homeware, and locally sourced F&B items.

“Hong Kong is a busy city where people are tense, and suffering a great deal from work stress,” says Lynn. “People come here wanting to experience the atmosphere, or to initiate children into the world of reading. We want to offer respite for people, so their mind and body can relax.”

“Digital technology will change how we read, but machines cannot replace our emotions – interaction with people still moves us…”

In addition to choosing from over 200,000 English and Chinese titles, visitors can also attend exhibitions and events. “It’s a full house every time we organise events for our Causeway Bay store,” she says. “During parent-child events, you can tell that parents are willing to invest in their children’s education and in cultivating their taste in life. We see people look for a life with these humanistic and artistic qualities, for example photography or travel. To live well – this is what we expect people will increasingly pursue.”

Though Causeway Bay storefronts have recently been dominated by luxury brands, Lynn sees hope for Hong Kong’s creative side to shine. “Other establishments such as PMQ and Tai Kwun have locals more engaged in creativity. People are gradually embracing new things and ideas like handicraft, art, and independent bookstores. We are always looking for more people to collaborate with, to let the colourful side of Hong Kong be seen to all,” she says.

eslite’s significance as a cultural hub and community space is especially important after the demise of Hong Kong bookstores Page One and Dymock’s and technology’s increasing role in our lives. For Lynn, technology may be prevalent but some experiences are irreplaceable: “Digital technology will change how we read, but machines cannot replace our emotions – interaction with people still moves us, for example handicraft, or reading a book, or enjoying a cup of coffee. Such experiences are not replaceable by technology.”