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Beyond the Black Door: Discovering Solitude and True Selves in Sanctuary Book Store | Realpreneur Tales

By Dai Yuan|Jan 30,2024

Chongqing - Nestled in the corner of Ecool, a fashionable block in Chongqing Liangjiang New Area, the Sanctuary Book Store caters to those who appreciate literature and Astanga yoga. 

A compelling message welcomes visitors on the distinctive black door: “Please shoes off because we are also a yoga shala.” This gentle reminder establishes the atmosphere for a distinctive space carefully curated by the store’s founder, Eva.

People can sit on the ground or anywhere to read a book they picked at the Sanctuary Book Store. (Photo/Dai Yuan)

The Sanctuary Book Store has a captivating daily rhythm. Mornings are dedicated to invigorating Astanga yoga, infusing the space with vibrant energy. The rest of the day offers a tranquil haven for book enthusiasts to explore the curated collection. Eva describes the bookstore as a genuine sanctuary where patrons can freely embrace their true selves, liberated from societal expectations in a space of authentic solitude.

Drawing from her 13-year background in Astanga yoga and her experiences as a former backpacker, Eva sees her bookstore as more than just a reading nook. It’s a spiritual retreat—a sanctuary where visitors are invited to honor and respect the space.

“We need to respect this room, and people interested in books will push the door to enter,” said Eva. Her inspiration for combining bookselling and Astanga yoga practice originated from a travel experience in Japan. While there, she encountered a familiar yoga teacher conducting a class in a vegetarian restaurant. The innovative use of space sparked the idea to integrate her two passions.

Shaped by Eva’s wanderlust-driven life, her bookstore’s identity reflects her transformative experiences. At 22, her journey to India unfolded with a month dedicated to learning traditional Astanga yoga, followed by two months of immersive exploration. “I suddenly understood that I am not a waterfall but a sea,” Eva realized. “A sea is inclusive of waterfalls, water, river, and everything.” 

This perpetual quest for new experiences leads her to revisit India annually and explore diverse countries, influencing not just her life but the curated selection of books within the store.

Eva teaches Astanga yoga every morning at her bookstore. (Photo/Eva)

An unmasking space for authentic conversations to thrive

Eva’s approach to book curation mirrors her eclectic travels. Handpicking each book in the store, she rejects categorical restrictions, aiming to share wisdom beyond specific genres or trends. Declaring, “I will not recommend any book to visitors,” Eva believes in the solitude of reading. She prefers individuals to engage with books based on personal taste, fostering a genuine connection with the written word.

From its black door to the thoughtfully selected books, the bookstore is a genuine reflection of Eva. Uninterested in conforming to trends, she avoids offering so-called hot-sale books. In the Sanctuary Book Store, everything mirrors her distinctive identity and values.

Eva’s initial travel destination is always a church or a temple, driven by her quest for tranquility and self-awareness independent of religious ties. Influenced by this affinity, the store’s ambiance features dim lights and dark-tone wall paint, creating a space conducive to introspection and healing. Eva’s intentional design choices aim to give visitors the strength to heal themselves as they step inside.

The welcoming black door is deliberately designed so that the rugged square frame signifies mountains and waves, echoing the bookstore’s Chinese name, “Shanchuan.” (Photo/Eva)

“The luckiest thing for me is always having courage; I don’t fear loss,” shares Eva. Her courageous spirit propels her vision for the bookstore beyond commercial success. 

She envisions Sanctuary Book Store as a hub where people forge genuine bonds—a space where societal masks are discarded and authentic conversations thrive. Eva aspires to create an environment where visitors experience a profound connection and freedom of being true to themselves.


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