The Juicheng Bookstore has been in business for nearly 100 years, during which its three generations of owners — all from very different backgrounds — have been part of a success story that is both moving and inspiring.
The store first opened its doors in 1912 and its first owners displayed a strong nationalistic ideology. The store was later taken over by a second generation that was heavily in debt, before being handed to a third generation, who continue to adhere to the vision of the shop’s founder, which was for a bookstore run by individuals with professional expertise in different areas.
The store is preparing to celebrate its 100th year next year.
Photo: Tseng Hong-ju, Taipei Times
Established at the No. 1 market in Taichung by Hsu Ko-sui (許克綏), the store sold mainly Chinese-language books because Hsu stubbornly refused to learn Japanese. However, to avoid trouble with the Japanese colonial authorities, he was careful to select Buddhist texts and educational works such as the San Zi Jing (三字經), or books on folklore.
The Treaty of Shimonoseki, in which the Qing dynasty ceded Taiwan to Japan in 1895 following its defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War, was not abrogated until after World War II.
Since the bookstore provided a meager income, Hsu diversified and became a hotelier and opened a seed store. With the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, Hsu’s access to Chinese-language texts was curtailed, so he started to print and sell books himself.
Photo: Tseng Hong-ju, Taipei Times
The father of five sons, Hsu handed over the bookstore to his fourth son, Hsu Tsuan-yuan (許鑽源). However, soon after the younger Hsu took over, the store had its worst disaster in its history — the market was destroyed by a fire in 1978 and all the books went up in flames.
According to Hsu Tsuan-yuan’s eldest son and current Juicheng Bookstore chairman, Hsu Chin-chung (許欽鐘), the losses caused by the fire almost put Juicheng out of business for good.
However, Hsu Tsuan-yuan embraced the diversification strategy begun by Hsu Ko-sui and his investments in real estate were a major success, offering the bookstore a lifeline.
Relaunching Juicheng from scratch, Hsu Tsuan-yuan succeeded in restoring the store to its former glory and soon after handed management of the shop over to his four sons.
Although none of Hsu Tsuan-yuan’s sons had taken any courses on bookstore management or sales — the eldest, Hsu Chin-chung, majored in geology, the second-eldest, Hsu Ching-hsun (許欽熏), majored in corporate management, the third, Hsu Chin-fu (許欽福), majored in mechanical engineering and the youngest, Hsu Chin-ching (許欽靜), majored in hydraulic engineering — they all accepted the challenge of running the family business.
Hsu Chin-chung said he was especially moved when Hsu Chin-fu returned to help manage the bookstore. Eventhough his workshop was doing very well, Hsu Chin-chung said that when their father asked them to take over the family bookstore, Hsu Chin-fu immediately turned over the management of the workshop to his partner.
In accordance with their father’s wishes, the four third-generation Hsu brothers have not considered dividing up the bookstore.
For to the store’s centennial, the brothers are filming a documentary about its history.
Hsu Chin-fu found a tape of his grandfather’s lectures on the San Zi Jing and Xi Shi Xian Wen (昔時賢文) in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), as well as a commemorative handkerchief made for the bookstore’s 60th anniversary.
It was a very heart-moving discovery, he said.
Their grandfather stubbornly refused to learn Japanese during the Japanese colonial era, as well as Mandarin when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) came to Taiwan, Hsu Chin-fu said, adding that when he heard the very “local” Taiwanese spoken by his grandfather, he was moved to tears.
“It’s a treasure,” he said, adding that he planned to make the tape into a CD.
Based on the determination and drive of three generations of the Hsu family, Hsu Ching-fu said he was confident the Juicheng Bookstore would still be going strong 100 years from now.
Translated by Jake Chung, staff writer
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