The Tianyi Pavilion is located in the west of Yuehu Lake in Ningbo City, Zhejiang Province.
First built by Fan Qin, a high-ranking official equivalent to today's national defense minister, during Emperor Jia Jing's reign in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The Tianyi Pavilion Library is the oldest well-preserved private library in China today. It is a combination of culture, social studies, history and art.
Fan Qin loved collecting ancient books all his life, and his collection of books reached 70,000. To protect the books, Fan Qin made strict family rules that all the posterity should abide by the teachings of the deceased, Never discard the books, and never take the books away. However, many books disappeared as the years passed by. In the thirteenth year (1808) of the Jiaqing reign of the Qing Dynasty, books in the pavilion totaled to 4,049 in more than 53,000 volumes. During the Opium War, British aggressors plundered many books and sold them to French missionaries and paper mills. After many accidentals, books in the pavilion merely totaled 1,591 in 13,038 volumes in 1940. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, special management departments were set up to protect the Tianyi Pavilion. More than 3,000 volumes of missing books were found.
Now, the Tianyi Pavilion keeps a large collection of about 300,000 ancient books, among which 80,000 are rare copies including the woodcut copies and handwritten copies of the Song and Ming Dynasties. They are rich sources of local chronicles and imperial examinations and are precious materials for the study of history, people, social customs and habits. The Tianyi Pavilion Library is called the "Book City of South China". The Tianyi Pavilion is not only world famous for its wide collection of books, but also for its unique architecture and elegant landscape.
The Tianyi Pavilion has a flush gable roof, and is six bays wide and deep, with a corridor extending from the front to the back. In front of the pavilion is a pond that stores water for fireproof. Fan Wenguang, Fan Qin's great-grandson, rebuilt the pavilion by laying rockery around the lake, building kiosks and bridges, planting flowers and grass in the fourth year (1665) of the Kangxi reign in the Qing Dynasty. The whole pavilion and the milieu feature the style of private gardens south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. During its rebuilding in 1933, the Zunjing Pavilion of Confucian Temple in Ningbo was moved to the backyard. Steles from the Song (960-1279) to Qing Dynasties in Ningbo City were also put there. These steles and the Zunjing Pavilion are called the Stele Forest in Mingzhou.