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Tianyi Tower Library

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Tianyi Tower Library

Tianyi Pavilion Library is situated beside the Moon Lake in west Ningbo City. It is the oldest private library in existence in China. The library, which has survived 430 years of dramas and upheavals, is the oldest existing private library of China and Asia, and one of the world's three oldest libraries kept by a family. For centuries it has been reputed to be the "city of books in South China" for its giant collection of highly-valued ancient books and documents. For those men of letters traveling to Ningbo, a trip to its Tianyi Pavilion has always been a craved experience. However, during the past several hundred years, the library used to be the private property of the Fan family, an absolutely restricted neighborhood. As a result no more than twenty visitors could have a privilege to step into the premises during the past several hundred years.

Today Tianyi Pavilion is a vault chosen by the State government to deposit Ningbo's private bibliotheca. It is open to the public too so that experts and scholars can finally have access to their most coveted archives right in the library, rare documents buried under centuries of dust. This can be called "the modern use of the old times". In 1982, the State Council made Tianyi Pavilion one of the country's key cultural heritages, thus turning the library into an indispensable landmark in this city famous for its remarkable historical culture, a star of civilization in which Ningbo people take great pride.

The Fan family adopted a discipline that no one in the family was allowed to claim any book as his or her own property, and books were prohibited from being taken out of the pavilion. Tianyi Pavilion was the private property of the Fan family, so others including women of the Fan family, were not allowed to read books in the library. However, books and materials are now available to experts and scholars for research purposes. From the books and steles kept in the library, information on the education, economic development, literary and revolutionary history of Ningbo City can be learnt.


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