Student Li Jiajia used to get up in darkness and rush for a seat at the school library to prepare for exams, now she grabs more sleep and sets a flexible schedule as the nearby self-study center is open 24 hours.
"It is somewhat crowded, but very quiet and helps me focus. I plan to get a membership and prepare for the exam there," Li said.
Opened only a few weeks ago, the 500 square-meter self-study center in Taiyuan City, capital of north China's Shanxi Province, has 100 seats and is almost always full on weekends.
Fan Zhenhuan, co-owner of the place, said the idea came from a trip in Taiwan.
In early 2017, Fan went to Taiwan with Duan Zhengjun, who later became his business partner, and visited one such place. "Everyone was concentrating on their books, some even brought the whole family there. I asked about the difference between reading books here and at home, they said the self-study room created a perfect atmosphere for learning," Fan said.
Fan, a teacher and book lover, realized it was a good business model and could be introduced to the Chinese mainland. He and Duan later went to Japan, the Republic of Korea and Guangdong Province to borrow experiences before opening their own all-day self-study center in early 2018.
Unlike conventional study rooms, the 24-hour one caters to the demand of different customers and offers single and double seats, as well as tables for more than three people.
"The light is soft and the desks are high enough and comfortable. I can have a private space and study at night," said a customer surnamed Wang, on his second visit.
"We want every detail at the center to be suitable for learning," Fan said. "Even picking up the right chairs took us a long time. If the chairs are too cozy, they make people sleepy; if not, people cannot stay long," he said.
The temperature, light, potted plants and size of the desks in the room were all carefully designed after months of discussion.
With a background in engineering, Duan also injected a sense of technology in their back-end management. Seat reservations can be made via WeChat and parents of young customers will be informed about their child's attendance by text message.
"We made a total of 43 drafts of the interior design of our room. We often stayed up until 3 a.m. during that period," Duan said.
In just one month, the 24-hour self-study center has drawn practitioners in Beijing and northeast China who want to copy the concept.
"We're lucky to have found a good business pattern. But we want to do more," Fan said. "Opening up a self-study room is just the first step, we hope it can become a namecard in Shanxi to promote the habit of reading and the philosophy of lifelong learning."
As night falls and the city is swallowed by peace and darkness, the place is still busy. Fan turns on the light, and a sentence on a glass door appears: "The 24-hour self-study center illuminates a warm light for the city late at night."