Remembering Robert Wu, founder of Eslite bookstore

The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The late Robert Wu (吳清友) had spent years facing fierce competition in the business world, eventually coming to the conclusion that his life had developed “a kind of spiritual emptiness and unsettled purpose.” It was his subsequent search for meaning that led Wu to develop Taiwan’s renowned art-and-architecture bookstore chain, Eslite (誠品).

“This epiphany led me to a deeper awareness of our society’s diversity and to a greater understanding of the nature of our times. It confirmed the interconnectedness of humanity and fostered a resolute belief that social development requires a harmonious and balances progress in the cultural, political and economic spheres. So it seemed reasonable for me to wholeheartedly channel my resources to support the enhancement of our culture,” Wu wrote on the Eslite website.

Wu was born in Tainan in 1950 and had nine brothers and sisters. After graduating from National Tainan Industrial High School and attending the National Taipei Industrial College (now National Taipei University of Science and Technology), Wu worked for a number of years in the restaurant and kitchen equipment business.

Wu established the first bookstore in January of 1989 in Taipei, and Eslite has since expanded to over 40 stores in Taiwan, three in Hong Kong and three in mainland China. The company now does business in retail, hospitality, logistics, lifestyle and arts in addition to literature.

While the business reportedly lost money during the first 15 years of operation, Wu persisted in his mission in spreading literature and culture through his stores and Eslite is now and an internationally renowned brand.

Wu passed away in Taipei on Tuesday due to heart problems and is survived by a wife and a daughter. He had a son who died in 2009 from an illness and his daughter, Mercy Wu (吳旻潔), is currently the vice chairwoman of Eslite Group and the general manager of Eslite Life.

By The China Post intern Logan Sander.