Understanding Xi through his book list
"My biggest hobby is reading. Reading has become part of my lifestyle."
- Xi Jinping
President Xi Jinping is known as an avid reader. On World Book and Copyright Day, let's review some of the books Xi has read and drawn inspirations from during his years, beginning as a youth and growing into the country's top leader.
The first edition of Das Kapital volume 1 published in 1867. [Photo from the internet]
In the late 1960s, Xi spent seven years of his youth in a small village in Northwest China's Shaanxi province. Though his formal education was disrupted at the time, Xi's hunger for knowledge drove him to keep reading by himself.
One of Xi's favorite books at the time was Das Kapital by Carl Marx. Xi said he read through the book for three times and has written many books of notes in response.
Xi has on many occasions urged Party officials to master the tenets of Marxism by reading the original works, including Das Kapital.
"Some think the political economics of Marxism is outdated, and Das Kapital is outdated, which is a rash judgment and is incorrect," Xi said in a group study of the Communist Party of China's top leadership in 2015.
Xi also has a passion for western literature. One of the books that left a deep impression on Xi is Les Miserables by French writer Victor Hugo.
"My heart was shaking when I read the part where Bishop Myriel redeemed Jean Valiean from his sin," Xi said. "Great works have such a power to move readers."
Xi said he eagerly searched for books of William Shakespeare during his years as a youth. Over the years, he read The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet among other works of the literary giant.
"I was enchanted by the ups and downs in the plots, the vivid characters and plaintive emotions displayed in the stories by Shakespeare," Xi said in a speech during a state visit to the United Kingdom in 2015.
He recalled that as a teenager living in the barren land of northern Shaanxi, he kept thinking about the question of "to be or not to be", and it was during that period that he made up his mind to dedicate his life to serving the nation and the people.
Xi also has a taste for Chinese historical classics, which he described as "the encyclopedia of our ancestors and the summary of our forefathers' knowledge, experience and wisdom."
Once, in a reply letter to graduates studying at the Karamay campus of China University of Petroleum-Beijing, Xi encouraged them to aim high and make contributions to the nation by quoting a sentence from The Book of the Later Han.
"Only those who have lofty aspirations succeed, and only those who brave headwinds make progress", Xi cited the line from the history book.
The Book of the Later Han is one of China's "Twenty-Four Histories" and covers the story of the Eastern Han Dynasty which lasted from AD 25 to 220. The book was compiled in the 5th century.
Traditional Chinese classics
Representing the quintessence of Chinese civilization, traditional classics also take an important position on the reading list of Xi.
As Xi said: "Ancient classics are in our veins and DNA."
Xi often uses sayings from traditional Chinese classics to explain his philosophy of governing the country or China's foreign policy.
"All living things should grow in harmony without hurting one another, and all the ways should run forward without interfering with one another."
This saying originates from the Confucian classic The Book of Rites which dates back some 2,000 years. Xi cited the sentence to explain his vision for universal harmony and building a community with a shared future for mankind while addressing a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France.
In addition to the classics and masterpieces mentioned above, there is also one small and humble book that once nourished the mind of Xi.
When Xi lived and worked in the countryside, Xi would read books during the intervals of his farm work or while his sheep were grazing.
One of the books he always took along with him was Xinhua Dictionary, which is the most popular dictionary in China.
Xi said when he had a break after hoeing the field for a while, he would take out the dictionary to study the different meanings of a word, and then learn the new word by heart after going back to work. In this way, his knowledge gradually expanded.