Located in the city of Ningbo, Zhejiang province, Tian Yi Ge Museum is China's oldest private library existing today. It is also Asia's oldest library. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]
Located in the city of Ningbo, Zhejiang province, Tian Yi Ge Museum is China's oldest private library existing today. It is also Asia's oldest library.
The construction of Tian Yi Ge, started in 1561 and finished in 1586, was led by Fan Qing, a government official during the mid-Ming Dynasty.
Fan Qing loved collecting ancient books. After receiving the collection from Wanjuan Tower in Jin County, he had a total collection of more than 70,000 books. In 1772, Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty ordered the compilation of the Si Ku Quan Shu (Complete Library in the Four Branches of Literature) to be made. Fan Maozhu, a descendant of Fan Qing, contributed 638 books.
Although there are many book collectors, not so many of them can preserve their collections for more than 100 years. The reason why Fan's collection is still preserved to this day is closely related to his way of management. One of the early rules of Tian Yi Ge was that no one outside the Fan family should be admitted into the library, keeping it unknown from the outside word. It was not until 1673 that Huang Zongxi, a great philosopher and historian, became the first "outsider" to have the privilege of going into the library and reading the many books in the collection. After the visit, Huang listed the books, which were not circulated in society, and wrote an article documenting his visit to the library.