E-mail to Your Friend(s)Print Friendly

A Mountain of Books Atop a Hill—Homecoming Book Festival 2013

Volunteers collect Xiao Si's donation from her home
Flash mob publicity stunt
Volunteers and Prof. Joseph J.Y. Sung, Vice-Chancellor
Bei Dao (photo by Joseph M. Chan)
Poems and music were originally one and the same (photo by Joseph M. Chan)
Lin Xi (photo by Joseph M. Chan)
Lyricists love books, that's no surprise (photo by Joseph M. Chan)
(Photo by Joseph M. Chan)

Book lovers are lucky at CUHK. The University sits on a hill and there are books aplenty, allowing CUHK members to enjoy great scenery and great works, not to mention great friendships. The Homecoming Book Festival organized by the University's I‧CARE Programme, which closed on 6 November, was a small miracle. Within days, 20,000 used books found new homes. Talks by poet Bei Dao and lyricist Lin Xi were so zealously received and the number of participants far exceeded the organizer's expectations. The passion for books, literature and the connections between alumni and students were overwhelming.

Dedicated Volunteers

The commitment of some 40 volunteers contributed much to the success of the festival. Among them were 20 who had registered under the I‧CARE Leadership Programme; they had been the core coordinators of the event since July and August, in charge of event publicity, like the flash mob held at the Piazza of the University MTR Station, and other tasks such as cleaning old books, sticking labels on the inside cover of each book, packing, and taking up roster duty at the exhibition venue.

The Right Setting

From 30 October to 6 November, the lobby of Sir Run Run Shaw Hall turned into a graceful study where classical music filled the air. Flanking long tables, students from mainland China, Hong Kong and overseas were busy browsing books on a vast range of subjects spanned several thousand years. This year, there were 130 donors, who included graduates from the 1970s to recent years. The biggest donations came from alumni who graduated in the 1970s.

Nearly 5,000 people took books home within the one-week period. Initially, each person was entitled to take five books for free, but the quota was later raised to eight. Twenty thousand old books are now in new hands. Many of them once belonged to famous figures such as Cheung Man-yee, Xiao Si, Lee Ou-fan, Man Si-wai, Jasminia Kristine Cheung, Chow Shek-fai, To Yiu-ming, Tse Kwan-choi, Lavender Cheung and Wong Yiu-chung, etc. Passing on the books and the knowledge—this was the wish of every teacher and alumnus or alumna supporting this event.

Bei Dao and Lin Xi

Apart from book matters, the festival featured a poetry night. Without prior registration, 730 staff and students gathered inside Sir Run Run Shaw Hall at 7 pm for 'Time of Roses—Bei Dao Poetry Night'. Volunteers of the I‧CARE Leadership Programme jointly recited Bei Dao's poems with students from the Music Department and members of Tolopoem. Each line and word uttered resonated perfectly with the music, touching all present.

Renowned lyricist Lin Xi's talk was titled 'Lyricist's Booklist'. This was possibly the first time he was invited by a University to share his own reading experience, rather than lyric writing. Around 1,300 showed up at Sir Run Run Shaw Hall, the majority local students—an unprecedented record for I‧CARE events. That night, over two hours, Lin Xi told students about what and how he reads. While he does not have a 'reading list' as he likes all kinds of topics, history is a favourite subject. He advised students to read different kinds of books because one day the knowledge gained may come in handy. Students were enthusiastic in raising questions to which Lin Xi gave enthusiastic responses.

A Success

The Homecoming Book Festival 2013 was memorable for all. According to the organizer, one of its revolutionary ideas was that it did not have a fixed objective. Planners and helpers simply carried out each task to the best of their abilities, and everything eventually fell into place.