Tushuguan zai nar?


Tushuguan zai nar? is Mandarin. It means

“Where is the library?

It’s a very useful phrase.

It’s useful for an international student who is attempting to master Mandarin and needs to prepare for an exam or finalise an essay.

It’s helpful for historians whose passion has taken them to the Middle Kingdom to learn more about The Long March, The Boxer Rebellion or the Great Leap Forward.

For the Sinophiles hoping to immerse themselves in the wonders and mysteries of life behind The Great Wall, this question will come in handy.

It is also a useful phrase for Teachers at international schools in China, in particular, one located on the outskirts of the outskirts of Qingdao.

This is why the designated Mandarin teacher, assigned to educate a group of expat beginners in the finer points of the modern Chinese language, devoted so much time to teaching and practicing this phrase from p.23 of the textbook.

“Tushuguan zai nar?” she would model.

“Tushuguan zai nar?” the students would repeat, with varying success.


“Tushuguan zai nar?” she would repeat, and repeat and repeat, until one of her students turned around and pointed to the ‘Library’ at the brand-new school – a small shelf sitting forlornly at the back of the classroom with about 7 lonely books which had apparently been donated (or discarded) by the Headmaster.

This elicited much laughter from the expat students but failed to provoke joy, or defeat, in the teacher. She pressed on;

“Tushuguan zai nar?”

“Tushuguan zai nar?” The students fumbled, until even the character of Dawei, in the textbook, was covering his ears.

The determined teacher persisted and encouraged her charges to practice their Chinese as much as possible. Out of class, at the shops, in the street.

Her dedicated students heeded her advice, even when they were out on the town on a Saturday night.

They decided that “Tushuguan zai nar?” was a useful phrase to practice with the locals while they were at a bar.

They had one Tsingtao to relax. They had another Tsingtao to loosen their lips. They had more Tsingtao while they discussed the merits of practicing their newly acquired linguistic skills. And when they’d had enough Tsingtao or gin and tonic, they inflicted themselves on the unsuspecting folk of the city of Qingdao.


“Tushuguan zai nar?”

They asked random strangers.

“Tushuguan zai nar?”

They asked the guy at the bar.

“Tushuguan zai nar?” they asked the girl on the dancefloor, and on every occasion were met with chuckles, confused looks, disdain and replies of

“You Shenma?” = “What the…”

They asked almost every person at the bar the same question, but somehow, they never did make it to the library.

Images: Amy Ziqi Zhang, Kelly Liu, Mike Yuan.


One response to “Tushuguan zai nar?”

  1. A-MA-ZING! Kieran, you made me laugh a lot after a hard day’s work. Even knowing the story before, I loved reading it again on your Blog. Very well written! 😀


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