About 80km northeast of central Beijing, in Jiaojiehe Villages Wisdom Valley, stands the Liyuan Library. Architect Li Xiaodong was drawn to the beauty of the surrounding area and inspired to bring books to nearby village of 300, which lacked educational resources. The library is the only man-made structure in Wisdom Valley.
The trip to the library was our first journey outside of central Beijing, and we were a little apprehensive about our driver. He seemed friendly enough as we shared small phrases with the help of Google Translate, but, we weren’t certain we knew where we were going. We had a fair amount of confidence of its general location, but we had no idea how rural and remote it would be. The farther we drove into the mountains, the more narrow the roads, the less civilization we encountered.
After a few trial and error turns and desperately waving our phones in the air to find a signal, we came upon a sign: closed until spring. But, having driven that far, we asked the driver to keep driving so we could see how close we could get. Our driver, we learned, was up for adventure. And we were lucky he was. The library was indeed closed, but we were able to walk right up to it. After months in the city, with all of its concrete, metal, people, cars, and pollution, it was therapeutic to be in the middle of a forest, in the mountains, on a cool, misty afternoon. The air still wasn’t that crisp, mountain air we were accustomed to from other locales, but it would do.