The Tower of Reading


The Tower of Reading series in China Heritage was launched on 10 February 2024, the First Day of the First Month of the Jiachen Year of the Dragon 甲辰龍年正月初一. We also created a new masthead for our site featuring a photograph made at The Temple, Shatan, Beijing, by Lois Conner. See:


China Heritage marked the Mid-Autumn and National Day holiday season of 2023, officially dubbed ‘the dual festivities’ 雙節, with an essay from The Tower of Reading 唸樓 translated by Duncan Campbell.

We will continue to publish a series of similar notes in the lead up to the official launch of The Tower of Reading, a project devoted to the work of Zhong Shuhe (鍾叔河, 1931-), writer, editor, publisher and an old friend. The project focusses on Shuhe’s collection 念樓學短 — ‘Studying Short Works of Classical Chinese Prose in the Tower of Reading’.

Starting in 1989, Zhong Shuhe, whose literary name is 念樓 niàn lóu, ‘The Tower of Reading’, published over 500 columns in newspapers around China. Each featured an excerpt from a classical text, the earliest dating from the Warring States era (fifth to third centuries BCE). Drawing from thinkers, histories, famous collections of anecdotes and including a range of literary genres the excerpts were all 100 Chinese characters in length. These selections were followed by 念樓讀 niàn lóu dú: a translation of the text into modern Chinese, and 念樓曰 niàn lóu yuē: a commentary by Zhong Shuhe written in the style of a ‘casual essay’ 小品文.

The result body of work, published in various editions over the past two decades, is a unique contemporary contribution to an age-old literary tradition. Studying Short Classical Chinese Texts with The Master of The Tower of Reading, or The Tower of Reading for short, chimes with our advocacy of New Sinology and complements our work on The Other China.


Material related to the life and times of Zhong Shuhe:

For filmed interviews with Zhong Shuhe, see:

See also,

And, a series of YouTube lectures based on Zhong Shuhe’s work:


念/ 唸 niàn, to recite, read, study, in the hand of Cai Xiang (蔡襄, 1012-1067)


Studying Short Classical Chinese Texts with
The Master of The Tower of Reading



Prefatory Material


Introductory Material


Chapters from Zhong Shuhe’s Reading Short Classical Texts

  • Analects 論語

Between Master & Student
‘Everything flows like this’
‘That which cannot be taken away’

  • Mencius 孟子
  • Zhuangzi 莊子

Am I a Butterfly?
‘I’ll drag my tail in the mud’
The Use of the Useless

  • New Tales of the World 世說新語

‘If this is what becomes of trees …’
On the Spur of the Moment
(and Inspiration & Taste — considering ‘On the Spur of the Moment’)

  • Zhang Dai 張岱

The Obsessions of Zhang Dai


Intersections with Eternity

A mini-anthology of literary works, past and present, that are part of the unbroken stream of human awareness and poetic self-reflection.

  • Perfect Happiness 至樂, Zhuangzi 莊子
  • The Bones of Zhuangzi 骷髏賦, Zhang Heng 張衡
  • The Orchid Pavilion 蘭亭集序, Wang Xizhi 王羲之
  • Tower of the Yellow Crane 黃鶴樓, Cui Hao 崔顥
  • On the Red Cliffs 赤壁, Su Dongpo 蘇東坡
  • Out of Range 彀外, Zhao Hang 趙珩
  • Impressionism in an Unimpressionable Age 亂世寫大意, Lao Shu 老樹
  • Presented to a Gentleman in Retirement 贈衛八處士, Zhou Yunpeng 周雲蓬
  • A Cat’s Yawn 轉世, Wang Lixiong 王力雄


‘A single line running through it’ 一以貫之 , from The Analects, 4.15 《論語‧里仁》, in the hand of Tong Yang-Tze 董陽孜

Note: The Master said, “Shen, my doctrine has one single thread running through it.” Master Zeng Shen replied: “Indeed.”

The Master left. The other disciple asked: “What did he mean?” Master Zeng said: “The doctrine of the Master is: Loyalty and reciprocity, and that’s all.”


From The Analects, 4.15 《論語.里仁》, translated by Simon Leys.


《念樓學短》in the hand of Zhong Shuhe 鍾叔河