Take the road to public welfare from holding reading activities

Li Jin, Founder of SSCLF - Hezhong Public Welfare Fund


One day three years ago, I took my daughter on way home from kindergarten and unwittingly entered the Hezhong Building at no. 746 Changle Road, an old house built in the 1930 s, also an old site of famous private library. On the first floor was Gu Tinglong memorial hall. It is the first time for me to know the old man who dedicated his life to the collection of books. After the July 7th Incident, Gu Tinglong couldn’t bear the fact that cultural relics south of Yangtze River wantonly plundered by Japanese invaders, he joined hands with cultural celebrities Ye Jingkui, Chen Taoyi and Zhang Yuanji to establish Hezhong Private Library, so as to keep literature, ancient books and records which were on the brink of destruction by years of war. Then Gu Tinglong acted as director-general of the library. After liberation, he donated nearly 300,000 volumes of precious ancient and modern Chinese and foreign literature to the nation, making it an important part of collection in the Shanghai Library. Ever since I knew the story of the Gu Tinglong and the Hezhong Building, I pick up my daughter at kindergarten and often dropped by the memorial hall to take a seat, turn over a few pages of book. Gradually going to Gu Tinglong memorial hall to read books became part of my life, I also know that it was where Mr. Qian Zhongshu once worked and Mr Hu Shi also had been here.




I am fond of making friends. There are a lot of good friends around me, all good ladies in a wide range of professions, with happy families and stable careers, all of them love reading, and often get together.  With my own understanding of the history of the Hezhong building, I really hope that my good friends also can understand Gu Tinglong and can get close to the Hezhong building. It would be nice if we could always talk about reading, talk about life here.


After communication with the Shanghai library, competent organization of Gu Tinglong memorial hall, my thoughts of organizing reading activities in the Gu Tinglong memorial hall received strong support from the Shanghai Library. On International Woman Day in 2015, I planned the first Hezhong female reading activity in the Gu Tinglong memorial hall.  East China Normal University professor Chen Zishan explained his new works “Zhang Ailing’s life and her creation criticism and interpretation” I invited 30 of my best friends that day, who were interested in Zhang Ailing too. In the end, many friends said that such reading activities were very meaningful and they encouraged me to organize more reading activities. In this way, reading activities were held one after another. Actually at the beginning, my idea is very simple, it is meaningful to held reading activities in this building with a long history.  With more than two years passing, we have organized more than 80 reading activities, and the Hezhong reading club has gradually become a brand.


We have a variety of forms of reading, including expert lectures, reading and sharing, and regular children's reading sessions. The content extends from literature, history to music, and footprint stretches from domestic to abroad. In October 2015, we were invited by Milan World Expo China Enterprises Pavilion to hold “Sino-Italy Women Culture Roundtable”.  In 2016, Britain Edinburgh international festival organizers and Hezhong reading club jointly held “Chinese and British Elite Female Reading Forum”. Edinburgh Mayor and Chinese Consul in Edinburgh attended the event.



The main participants in the reading activities are women and children. As the crowd of the platform growing, we often participate in public welfare activities within our capacity. For the past two years, we have insisted on doing public welfare for autistic children angel bosom friend salon, volunteering at the city concert for autistic children, donating money for students in old revolutionary areas and providing books for elementary school students in poverty-stricken areas. At the end of 2016, Hezhong Reading Club’s event in Edinburgh festival was loaded into in “Shanghai Culture Yearbook 2016”.  So far, more than 20 media, including CCTV, reported public welfare activities held by Hezhong Reading Club.


Some persons often asked me why you spend your time and money to hold this unrequited reading activities. What on earth is the reason? At first, I replied it’s because I liked it; I found the reason is not to be understood, I replied I don't want to give up halfway. Every time I have difficulties, I said to myself, you are lucky enough to do what you like. Don't take it too seriously, in fact, I also have no time to care about. As Tang's Monk said to the Monkey King, Disciple, hurry on your journey! That means looking ahead and thinking about the long term.


Fortunately, my family has always been supportive of me, I have also received help from a lot of teachers and friends. Recommended by my friends, in 2016 we established Hezhong Public Welfare Fund in Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation. With the public welfare platform, we can conduct various public welfare activities. Since April this year, the Hezhog Public Welfare Fund has promoted “Literary Family” reading and sharing activities in Shanghai communities. The fund has successively held reading and sharing activities in a dozen of street communities in Yangpu, Putuo and Chongming districts, sending books to white-haired elderly, and telling stories of academicians for the children.


“Literary Family” reading and sharing activity caused warm responses in the communities that persuaded me to have a new idea to further promote public reading project. In October, 1946, Soong Ching Ling created the first children's reading room at the Jinyuan Primary School in West Shanghai, a relatively centralized area resided by poor citizen. The children's reading room invited famous children's educators Chen Heqin as director of the reading room, causing quite a stir in Shanghai at that time. Next year, on the basis of the children's reading room, Soong Ching Ling built three children welfare stations to hold literacy classes for poor children who cannot go to school, and more than five thousand children took part in the literacy class and various cultural activities. Thanks to the promotion and appeal of Soong Ching Ling, children welfare programs developed gradually.  I think we can use the forms of the children's reading room and hold reading activities for the children in the poor areas. After a period of study, I learned that although the Chinese compulsory education system has covered all regions, but the problems with admission and loss of schooling has still existed. Some children, even they are enrolled in compulsory education, but extracurricular materials, knowledge books, interesting readings are still quite scarce, the teachers who guide children to read are also seriously inadequate. I consulted a teacher who had worked in Qinghai province for many years, and he gave me a detailed description of the children's desire for extracurricular reading in Qinghai minority areas, and he hope I can do something for the children in Yushu, Qinghai province.


In this way, we start with creating new public welfare project – Hezhong Soong Ching Ling Children's Reading Room.  The early goal is to donate a children’s reading room respectively in Yushu, Qinghai province and an old revolutionary areas in Hebei province. The children’s reading room will provides abundant books for local children, training on reading for local teachers, holding summer reading camp and so on.



Yushu, Qinghai province is the region with the highest proportion of principal nationality in thirty ethnic autonomous prefectures and the source of the three great rivers - Yellow River, Huang River and Lancang River. We let the first Hezhong Soong Ching Ling Children's Reading Room set sail from Yushu, hoping to have a good start, and then provide a steady stream of spiritual sustenance for more children in need.


Now we are organizing a charity party, with aim to raise money for the public welfare project of “Hezhong Soong Ching Ling Children's Reading Room”, in hope of more friends participating the charity party, raising more money to help more children in need of help.


(From SSCLF’s Quarterly “Change” Sixth issue in September, 2017)