Ban She: An oasis for the Soul
Tucked in between Nanchang Road and Huaihai Road lies Ban She café, our new favorite reading place in Shanghai. Nothing on the street side reveals its existence. It is only when you walk through the gate, into the small lane, that you’re greeted with the café’s sign and lush greenery.
Ban She Café calls itself more than just a café. It describes itself as an art space. In the words of Benjamin, the owner: “Art is not something that is superior to us. It is an expression of spiritual sublimation distilled from our daily lives. Hence, it needs to be experienced, to be thought about, to be felt. We hope to create with our space a small world outside of Shanghai’s hustle, where art lovers can go to think and feel; space where people can breathe, reflect and regain energy. Our coffees and teas will give the physical comfort, but the real gift of this place is the mental relief.”
Indeed, from the small wooden entrance door to the big courtyard windows, everything gives you the feeling that you’ve entered another world. Suddenly, you’re surrounded by calmness. Suddenly, you have space to breathe. The tall bookcases set the vibe. People take a seat at the large table in the middle and automatically start to whisper or read in silence.
The upper floor is bathed in a wall of red. Remnants of a previous exhibition, the walls were supposed to be repainted with each exhibition. But the artists found the red wall so inspiring, and hence the color stayed.
The cherry on the cake of the upper floor is its bamboo courtyard view. The bamboo leaves reach all the way up to the large window area, mixing green with red, mixing creativity with calmness. Somewhere in this room is also a hidden wall. When you open it, tons of hidden books and art pieces reveal themselves. Ask the owner if you can see it, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a glimpse of the treasures.
The attic hosts a Zen tea room. Only 10 square meters large, its refurbished Ming style furniture makes space seem ethereal and elegant. The wall is treated with natural elements – leaves and flowers – representing how time passes by while standing still.
Make sure not to ignore Simba, the café’s rightful little prince. The owner initially did not have any plans to raise animals. But destiny sent him a two-month old kitten, and in less than a week it had conquered the hearts of the owner and his guests. The bamboo in the yard is Simba’s favorite spot. He loves to nibble on the bamboo leaves and stare into the greenery.
Books are scattered in an orderly matter all over the tables and bookshelves. They’re a good mix of new, old, novels, essays, poetry etc.
Ban She also has a section of Second-hand foreign books for sale! Look on the bookshelves for the frame “Books in Shanghai”, books are for grabs for 20 RMB and up. The profits are invested in an orphanage for disabled children. Check out our other articles for more information on the orphanage.
We leave Ban She, our heads filled with more creative energy but our minds with less mental clutter. Ban She is indeed more than just a café. It is an oasis for the soul.
Ban She café
Address English: Nanchang road, nr 254, building 4
Address Chinese: 南昌路254弄4号
Second-hand foreign books for sale: Look for the frame “Books in Shanghai” on the bookshelves
Do you have a bookish location to suggest? Contact us by email (email@example.com) with your suggestion.
We’re Books in Shanghai, a community project where we celebrate our love for books, reading, and Shanghai.
We’ll share with you where you can exchange / buy books, we’ll gather bookish locations in Shanghai, we’ll post and organize bookish events, we’ll try to connect readers with other readers,… We’ll make Shanghai a bookish place.
- To receive more info on our events
- To donate your books
- To promote your bookish events
- To contribute as a writer. photographer, video maker
Wechat channel: Booksinshanghai
Wechat group: Contact us to be added to our chat group!