Cruising China’s Centre

Lifestyle

Dear Reader,

In my previous column, I wrote about meeting strangers: how to do it, why you should do it, where you should do it. This week, I took my own advice. Where could I meet strangers in the intellectual village that is Oxford? For all you post-grads out there: where could I meet strangers *for free* in the intellectual village that is Oxford?

The library.

Oxford boasts the largest university library system in the United Kingdom, yet each library is a novel space. Each space could even be described by some as a delicate ecosystem teeming with activity. What do Oxford’s libraries offer? Which café has the widest range of food? Do you need to bring a heater or can you wear a T-shirt?  What do you need to ‘get in’? (For those of you who are familiar with American Greek Life terminology: do you have to know a brother?)

Oxford boasts the largest university library system in the United Kingdom, yet each library is a novel space.

Join me, lend me yours ears (or in this case, yours eyes), as we explore…

The Bodleian KB Chen China Centre Library

Location: Dickson Poon Building, Canterbury Rd, Oxford OX2 6LU

Hours: 09:00-19:00 (Mon-Fri), 11:00-14:00 (Sat), closed on Sundays

Vibe

With all the windows and natural light, this library is the perfect place to work for those seeking Vitamin D on a sunny day. I must admit, however, that watching the rain is also amazingly therapeutic. All in all, this environment is definitely a must for Oxfordians who want to soak in the outdoors without actual being outdoors. Greenery can be seen from all the rooms facing inward, which brings a sense of peace and tranquility. The library’s vibe brings a sense of calm, or maybe that’s simply the soft echoes of the piano when a musician is at work. The secluded location, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, no doubt adds to the ‘cool’ vibe.

Food

The Elizabeth Wordsworth Tea Room is open 10:00-16:00. You can purchase hot and cold drinks as well as cold sandwiches throughout the day. Be sure to check out the lunchtime Asian fusion meals, which are served from 14:15 onwards.

The library’s vibe brings a sense of calm, or maybe that’s simply the soft echoes of the piano when a musician is at work

Expectations and rules

No food or drink is permitted except for bottled water. You should not take bags into the library given the nature of some rare Chinese collections and 60,000 volumes. There are clear bags available at the front desk should you need them. Lockers at the entrance of the library are super convenient. These ‘officially’ cost £1 to gain key access, but if you cannot spare the change feel free to leave your belongings in a locker. Gotta love the Oxford honor code! Be aware that some of the working spaces require key access after 17:00, so take a friend who is a veteran of the China Centre.

Fun facts

  • The centre is considered Europe’s leading centre for the study of China.
  • HRM the Duke of Cambridge formally opened the China Centre in 2014. For those fangirls (and fanboys) out there, you might consider walking on the same floor that William did.
  • It was announced that HRM the Duchess of Cambridge was pregnant with a second child on the same day as the China Centre was opened.
  • The library boasts works on China and the Chinese diaspora (except art and archaeology) in all languages.

Remember To…

  • Check out the couches and lounges on the upper floors. You can work anywhere in the building.
  • Take a stroll through the central courtyard: a ‘quiet zone’ for fresh air and some contemplation during a study break.
  • Access overnight storage in the basement locker rooms as needed.
  • Try out the piano in the Tea Room. For you keen, musical Oxfordians the piano can be played at any time and is tuned regularly.
  • Check out the large, rustic art feature in the courtyard. I cannot read Chinese so poetic significance is open to interpretation, although the plaque certainly brings the space together.
  • Get a (generous) slice of cake and coffee in the Tea Room for only £2.60.

History

Officially opened in September 2014, this library is part of the Dickson Poon China Centre. The library boasts cosy study spaces and new-age technology for scanning and printing books; a testament to the £10 million donated by its most notable benefactor Mr. Dickson Poon CBE – Hong Kong philanthropist. Perhaps he also had a hand in picking the modern couches, tables and chairs…

Association

The China Centre is officially owned by St Hugh’s College, yet the centre is open to all Oxfordians. The centre combines interdisciplinary research and teaching – within Chinese Culture.

The library boasts cosy study spaces and new-age technology for scanning and printing books

Architecture

The Centre was designed by David Morley Architects. The building features numerous wall-to-ceiling glass windows, and modern architecture. Ancient Chinese relics and scripts covering most walls bring a sense of calm to the space. A square green space can be found at the building’s core.

I hope you meet some strangers while cruising China’s centre. Happy exploring !

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