The library. For me it was where I spent a good part of my childhood, browsing, reading, discovering. Like with many others the fascination has stuck with me, and when travelling I always look up local libraries to get a taste of what everyday life would be like if I lived there. What books are in the shelves, what kind of carpet on the floors, plants. How are the reading spaces arranged, the architecture, the colours. How do people use it.
At the moment I’m living in Beijing and yesterday I had time to revisit Beida (北京大学Beijing University) and its enormous and spectacular library.
It’s grey, intertwining stairways and buildings combine contemporary aesthetic simplicity with traditional Chinese roof tiles. I won’t go as far as calling it beautiful, but the structure does posses a certain lightness and organic feeling which is curious and uplifting for such a huge concrete construction.
Compared to the atmosphere created by long haired lazy cats under the shading ginkgo trees, and students sitting reading in the walk ways, the cold, tiled inside of the library is a little disappointing. However, it’s very popular among the students, who all live in dorms on campus and rely on the quieter space of the library for reading and studying.
My new header picture is inspired by Liu Sola‘s short story 最后一只蜘蛛 (The last spider) from 1987, in which a too intelligent spider is chosen to drink the dewdrop of eternal life.
The spider is born in a prison yard, and as it is too clever to build its net on the high walls where it will be swept away and out of the yard by the wind, it is literally trapped by its own intelligence. Scooped up by an old inmate of the prison, it moves into his cell and they form a silent friendship, keeping each other company but unable to communicate with each other.
Being the last by definition involves being the loneliest, and what increases the spider’s loneliness is the inherent conflict between its Araneaen physical nature and its high level of intelligence comparable to that of a human.
There is an obvious parallel between the spider and the old man in the cell, a former cadre who has lost the favour of the party. Both are separated from their natural environment, and from socialising with their own kind, by the heaviness of their thoughts, no longer fitting with the normative reality.
I took the picture in 2009 at Beijing University campus, and I think it is a kind of jumping spider. The picture shows it crawling over my practise sheets for Chinese characters, maybe it was trying to tell me something…