TAO revives centuries-old academy in china's weishan ancient town with concrete bookstore

TAO revives centuries-old academy in china's weishan ancient town with concrete bookstore

ancient chongzheng academy revived


The Weishan Chongzheng Academy Bookstore of Librairie Avant-Garde, located in Yunnan Province’s Weishan Ancient Town, is an expansive intervention by Trace Architecture Office (TAO). Weishan, with its history of over 600 years, has a preserved urban layout dating back to China‘s Ming and Qing dynasties. Built during the Hongzhi period of the Ming Dynasty, Chongzheng Academy has a rich history spanning over 500 years.


Invited by the local government and Librairie Avant-Garde, TAO took on the task of repairing and renovating this historic academy in 2021, and has transformed it into a multipurpose bookstore that also serves as an exhibition space, small theater, and café. The design revives the academy’s former prosperity and vitality, creating a new lifestyle destination that encourages public participation and contributes to the revival of the old town.

TAO chongzheng bookstoreimages © Arch-Exist



tao learns from the urban fabric of weishan


With the unveiling of its bookstore intervention, the architects at TAO note that Chongzheng Academy has long held a special place in the hearts of locals, many of whom spent their childhoods around its colossal 330-year-old Banyan tree. The site also includes a relatively newer, abandoned iron factory building from the 1960s, which is well-preserved. Situated between the ancient town and the new town, the location offers convenient transportation and comprehensive surrounding facilities, making it an ideal spot to introduce new business forms and activate the area.


TAO’s design aims to create a vibrant urban community by introducing diversified spaces such as cultural innovation centers, cafés, bars, public art installations, and open markets. The team maintains and revitalizes the key elements of the site: Chongzheng Academy, the iron factory, and the ancient tree. A new tree pond and an outdoor sunken courtyard are created to enhance interaction between people and the tree.


The city square, with the Banyan tree as its visual center, connects the east and west sides of the streets, encouraging public activities and providing diverse outdoor urban life options. The continuously folded sloping roof of the new structures grows from the original factory roof, extending the urban texture and architectural image of Weishan ancient town while meeting the spatial needs of both traditional and new business formats.

TAO chongzheng bookstore
Weishan Chongzheng Academy Bookstore, in Weishan Ancient Town, has a history spanning over 600 years



the contemporary bookstore intervention


According to TAO, Chongzheng Academy and Librairie Avant-Garde are united by their commitment to books, as the academy once held the largest collection of books in the region, while the Librairie Avant-Garde bookstore aims to continue this tradition.


Two floating Book Galleries are introduced along the east-west axis to connect the academy’s functional areas, creating rhythmic transitions between internal and external spaces. An outdoor theater and recreation courtyard, enclosed by grandstands and trees, provide spaces for reading, communication, and cultural activities. The new addition on the easternmost side features an interactive book display window facing the city streets, presenting a dynamic cultural and spiritual outlook for the academy.


The Book Gallery is designed to celebrate books, with two 29 meter (95 foot)-long steel-framed corridors on either side of the central courtyard. These galleries enhance the sense of perspective and depth, creating a ‘spiritual tunnel’ for visitors. The stepped volume at the outer side of the Book Gallery serves as cultural and creative exhibition stands and grandstands for the courtyard. The outdoor theater, defined by the grandstands, provides a space for cultural activities and offers unique views of the academy.

TAO chongzheng bookstore
Trace Architecture Office (TAO) transforms the 500-year-old building into a bookstore and cultural space



The new addition on the easternmost side of the academy is both the end of the spatial sequence and the beginning of the connection to the city. This addition establishes an extroverted space that showcases and attracts tourists. The space is divided into upper and lower parts, with an indoor theater on the upper level and a semi-sunken display area for books on the lower level. The glass facades of the sunken area allow for visual interaction between the building and the city, drawing attention to the bookstore’s vibrant interior.


The addition employs a ‘pavilion within a pavilion’ design concept, with an inner pavilion for the theater and an external pavilion with a traditional herringbone pitched roof. This dual form creates unique in-between spaces and enriches the visual relationship and spatial tension inside the building. The floating gabbled roof, supported by wood-grained concrete walls and steel beams, harmonizes with the architectural style of the historic building.

TAO chongzheng bookstore
the design introduces diversified spaces, such as cafés, bars, and public art installations TAO chongzheng bookstore
TAO preserves the original historical walls and wooden structures while integrating modern elements


two steel-framed book corridors enhance perspective and depth, creating a unique ‘spiritual tunnel’ for visitors

TAO chongzheng bookstore
an interactive book display window connects the building with the city streets


an outdoor theater, enclosed by grandstands and trees, offers spaces for reading and cultural activities



project info:


project title: Weishan Chongzheng Academy Bookstore of Librairie Avant-Garde

architecture: Trace Architecture Office (TAO) | @taoarchitects

location: Weishan, Dali, Yunnan Province, China

program: bookstore, exhibition, visitor center 

floor area: 1,384 square meters

completion: December 2023

photography: © Arch-Exist | @archexist


client: Librairie Avant-Garde, Weishan Culture and Tourism Bureau

principal architect: Hua Li, TAO (Trace Architecture Office)

design team: Hua Li, Zhong Sheng, Zhang Peng, Wang Langhuan, Zhang Weili, He Yuanxi, Yang Huiru
structural engineer: Ma Zhigang, Zhao Xiaolei, Liao Yubiao, Ma Yujie

MEP engineer: LV Jianjun and Kcalin design group, Sun Jing, Li Xin

construction team: Yunnan Xizhou Construction and Engineering Co., Ltd., Weishan Hongji Construction and Installation Co., Ltd.

suscribe on designboom
- see sample
- see sample
suscribe on designboom

happening now! croatian furniture company prostoria stands as an example of a different and more traditional approach based on the evolution from the local factuality of all actors involved in the production process. explore prostoria on designboom! 

architecture in china (1786)

bookstores (46)

renovation architecture and design (765)

TAO trace architecture office (18)


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

designboom will always be there for you

milan, new york, beijing, tokyo,  since 1999