Reading has long remained the favorite hobby of Xi Jinping, throughout various stages of his life — his years of youth in the Loess Plateau, his years of primary-level tenures in localities, and now his years of dedication as China’s top leader.
“I have many hobbies. I love reading the most. Reading has become a way of life for me,” said President Xi during a press interview in 2013.During his childhood, the patriotic spirit of Yue Fei, a Song Dynasty (960-1279) national hero, struck a chord with Xi while he was listening to Yue’s story as told in an illustrated booklet.From childhood to his adult life, books have continued to be a good companion for Xi.In 1969, when Xi arrived at the village of Liangjiahe in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province as an “educated youth,” he was hauling heavy suitcases full of books.There, Xi immersed himself in the literary classics of the world, not only those in his personal collection but also those he borrowed. Xi was so passionate about reading that he would read during meals, under the light of a kerosene lamp at night, and even during breaks from farm work in the fields.
Xi’s passion for reading continued as he served in various posts across China. In the coastal city of Xiamen in Fujian Province and the rural county of Zhengding in Hebei Province, he had in-depth discussions with local friends on books such as “Das Kapital” and Russian literature.During his tenure as the Party chief of Zhejiang Province in the early 2000s, Xi carried on with the habit. A cornucopia of quotes from classics such as “The Book of Rites,” “The Records of the Grand Historian,” and “The Book of Mencius” were featured in his articles for a local newspaper column and in his public speeches.Xi had developed an interest in reading ancient county gazettes while working in various localities. On fact-finding research and study trips, he would often read ancient county gazettes first to gain a deeper understanding of a place’s history in order to make better development plans.His literati friend in Zhengding, writer Jia Dashan recalled, “Although he hasn’t been here for long, he’s already capable of engaging in in-depth discussions regarding the history and cultural facts of Zhengding. Some of the local intellectuals were surprised by his extensive reading and remarkable ability to acquire new knowledge.””Reading invigorates my mind, gives me inspiration and cultivates my moral force,” Xi revealed in another press interview in 2014.He once cited “The Communist Manifesto” as a rich theoretical treasure-house that “we can constantly draw spiritual nourishment from through our repeated and in-depth study.”
While quoting verses of Rabindranath Tagore’s poems when he visited India, Xi said these beautiful lines full of philosophical wisdom have greatly inspired him.When delivering a speech in London in 2015, Xi listed works from William Shakespeare that he had read and expressed his fondness for the intriguing plots, vivid characters, and emotional sentiment in Shakespeare’s books.He also praised French writer Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Miserables” and Russian writer Mikhail Lermontov’s novel “A Hero of Our Time,” among other literary gems.In his congratulatory letter to the First National Conference on Reading in 2022, Xi said: “Reading is an important avenue for humans to acquire knowledge, expand wisdom and cultivate virtues. It enlightens us and helps us aim high and stand upright.”Since ancient times, the Chinese people have advocated reading and stressed the acquisition of knowledge through studying the nature of things and rectification of the mind through thinking with sincerity, Xi said.Reading helps the Chinese people to carry on the traditional spirit of perseverance and shape their character of self-confidence and self-reliance, he noted.”I call on Party members and officials to take the lead in reading and learning, foster virtues and ideals and improve abilities. I hope that all our children will have a habit of reading, enjoy reading and grow up in a healthy way. I wish all of our people are engaged in reading and contribute to an atmosphere where everyone loves reading, has good books to read and knows how to gain from reading,” said Xi.