Although most countries put a heavy emphasis on the economy coming first, Taiwan stands out as a privileged place where culture and education occupy a central place. The level of knowledge displayed even by young children is impressive and the fact that this largely results from a national policy is visible from various angles. It is a private enterprise but let me begin with the remarkable example of the bookstore called Eslite (Chéngpǐn 誠品), which is open twenty-four hours a day and attracts flocks of people of all ages. Many of them enjoy reading in a cosy atmosphere, sustained by refined classical music.

Here is an exterior view of the building:

The twenty-four hour bookstore called Eslite (Chéngpǐn 誠品)

Now, as an example of public policy, it is rather surprising to find a branch of the Taipei Public Library in the subway mall, appropriately called “Intelligent Library” (Dōngqū Dìxiàjiē Zhìhuì Túshūguǎn 東區地下街智慧圖書館). This type of intelligence, however, also refers to the insight cultivated in the Buddhist tradition (prajñā). In any case, encouraging people to read books with the explicit aim to help them expand their knowledge and their wisdom is inspiring. The Chinese verb used for “to study” is niànshū 念書, which also has the meaning of “reading books” (kànshū 看書). A government pushing its citizens to become more educated or even literate deserves to be praised. Maybe the American policy-makers could learn something from Asia!

A section of the Taipei Public Library in the subway mall

Here is a picture with a better definition.