Thousands of Chinese have mobbed bookstores here to buy copies of 35 books that had been banned for a decade.

The titles, which included "Tom Sawyer," "Robinson Crusoe," "Les Miserables" and "The Arabian Nights," had been unavailable since China's Cultural Revolution of the mid-1960s when foreign works were banned.

Most of the books, which went on sale May 1, were foreign, but "The Scholars," an old Chinese story, was also on the list.

Crowds formed early to buy the Chinese-language volumes, and police eventually had to be summoned to keep the eager shoppers orderly. Shopkeepers strung rope from buildings and trees to form lines and to leave some of the jammed sidewalk free for pedestrians.

One shop manager estimated he was selling 100,000 books a day. Once customers got inside the stores, they rushed the sale areas, shouting for books before harried clerks could get the volumes out of boxes and onto shelves.

Customers emerged ecstatic, holding their purchases in neatly tied stacks. One man admitted that he had no idea of what he had bought but that he had simply heard that new books were on sale.

Some people who did not want to wait were offering to pay buyers more than the sales prices, but they struck few deals.

"I am looking forward to reading all of these," said Huang Hong, a recent university graduate who works as a guide. "I think I have to learn the literature of other countries so that I'll know what people I'm with are talking about."

"I have a 20-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son, and they never heard of books like these," said Chan Diang-Piang, who bore two bundles of books. "I had read them when I was young, and when my daughter heard they were going on sale, she asked me to get them for her."