Born out of the confluence of the Yellow and Yangtze river region cultures 2,500 years ago, Nanjing is home to a nearly two millennia-long literary tradition that still thrives today. As a major cultural hub in China and, more broadly, Asia, Nanjing has long served as a critical site for the development of the writing, publishing and collection of books. Some of China's most exceptional printed works were produced in Nanjing, such as the expansive Yongle Encyclopaedia and the literary classic, Dream of the Red Chamber.
The capital of Jiangsu Province and situated mere 300 km from China's largest city, Shanghai, Nanjing has a population of 8.23 million, an enormous proportion of which are regular readers and, an impressive proportion still, voracious readers. Since the founding of China's first literary academy in 438CE, study and research programs have abounded through all levels of education in this “university city”, with special emphasis on youth engagement in literature. 800,000 higher education students and 20,000 international students from over 80 countries attend the 53 higher education institutions and along with other residents, benefit from the city’s more than 1000 libraries that offer a diverse range of services. College, community and children's libraries plus less traditional but equally important 24-hour self-service libraries, subway libraries and libraries for the blind and migrant workers ensure equal access to reading citywide. 5 major literature prizes are hosted in Nanjing as well as countless literary salons, readings, book clubs, book launches, literature-themed lectures and other events that take place in the city’s hundreds of bookshops. Librairie Avant-Garde, the city’s largest independent bookstore, has been described as the most beautiful in China by international media agencies BBC, CNN and National Geographic.
Some of China’s largest and most productive publishing companies, such as Phoenix Publishing & Media Group and Yilin Press, are located in Nanjing along with presses like Nanjing Amity Printing Co., winner of the Premier Print Award. In 2018, cultural and creative industries made up 6.1% of Nanjing's USD 189.2 billion GDP and the city plans to increase that proportion by transforming a deserted industrial zone into a “literary publishing town” which is envisaged to host international Chinese writing programs and offer reading spots for nearly 500 grassroots reading groups.
Away from literature, Nanjing is one of China's key hubs for air, land and water transportation. Lukou International Airport services 60 domestic and 32 international destinations while the Nanjing Metro extends to a total length of 347 km (the 4th longest in China and 7th longest in the world). Among the first group of cities to be endorsed as the "Top Tourist Cities in China", Nanjing has 1 recognized world heritage site, 2 tentative world heritage sites, 49 national level protected cultural artefacts and over 100 hotels receiving 122 million domestic and international guests annually.
In 2014, while hosting the 2nd World Youth Olympic Games, Nanjing teamed up with UNESCO to organize the “World Youth Forum on Sport, Culture and Peace”, a partnership which has produced follow-up forums biennially. Since 2004, Nanjing’s “World Historical & Cultural Cities Expo” has welcomed mayors from 254 cities in 62 countries with UNESCO joining the exposition as co-organizer from 2014 onward. Other regular events include book fairs, rights trade fairs and literature forums.