Coffee shops are effectively an extension of my office workspace. It sounds weird, but I feel like the sounds of coffee grinding, jazzy tunes, and indistinct chatter stimulate my inner creativity that makes me somehow write faster and efficiently. There’s a lot of coffee houses in the business districts or tourist areas of Beijing, usually filled with people… many of whom only stay there for the free wifi, or just to charge their smartphones!
Just recently, a colleague told us that there’s a new “magazine cafe” somewhere on the tourist street of Qianmen, a few minutes’ walk south of Tian’anmen Square. In the photos posted in the 大众点评 (Dazhong Dianping) app, 春风习习 (Chunfeng Xixi, literally “Gentle Spring Breeze”) is basically a magazine library with a cafe. In fact, most of the top comments in the app just showed the fascinating design of the cafe.
To see it for myself, I traveled from my Shuangjing bubble to Qianmen…
If you’re a hutong veteran, you will find the way to the magazine cafe rather artificial, though it still retains an “old” feel. Even so, once you reach the cafe you need to ready your camera. It’s quaint, especially against a blue-sky background. Its exterior is a fusion of traditional hutong architecture and a modernized workshop. However, it’s not as impressive as the other “Instagrammable” library in the faraway Huairou district. Inside, they have hundreds of recent magazines, but not enough to say it’s a proper magazine library.
But before I was able to take a seat, the waitress told me there’s a RMB 75 “all-day experience” fee. When I asked what was that for, they explained the library is a “member-only” area, for which one needs to pay RMB 399 for full-year access and reservation of your preferred seat, and 10 percent discount for selected drinks and items. To be honest, it felt like a rip-off, and more than a little weird. They explained the “all-day experience” fee is to basically limit the number of people using the library, especially as a lot of local tourists visit it at the weekend.
At least that fee includes a cup of coffee (not the best I’ve had). And I wanted to make the most of that, so I continued my work at the library.
I was in the process of visualizing layouts for our upcoming April issue and it helped that I was in front of hundreds of colorful magazines. While I thought I wouldn’t be distracted by an influx of people, I found myself eye-rolling when almost every customer posed in the most millennial way possible. And at the time of writing this blog, a couple on my left side were using a magazine as a prop for their selfies. Making the most of the “all-day” (selfie and Instagram) fee, I guess!
Anyway, without the pesky selfie-takers, I thought the library is a fine replacement for a dull office setting for freelancers or working parents, or if you want a peaceful spot after a stroll through the tourist center of Beijing. Their magazine catalog is not as impressive as you might expect, but they have several for music, fashion and design, and arts.
On the downside, they don’t sell anything but coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, as well as some of the magazines in the catalog. And there’s no toilet inside the library; you need to walk 200m to the nearest public toilet. If you want to make full use of the “all-day” (selfie and Instagram) fee, the library is open from noon to 9pm every day.
Chunfeng Xixi Magazine Library 春风习习杂志图书馆
Open Mon-Sun noon-9pm. Changxiang 5th Alley No.19 Block 3 F1 Dongcheng District. 北京市东城区长巷五条19号3幢1层
Photos: Andy Penafuerte