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Tianyi Pavilion Library is a key national level cultural relic site, located on the Tianyi Street beside the Moon Lake in western Ningbo city. It is reputed to be the oldest existing private library in both China and Asia, and one of the three oldest libraries kept by a family in the world. It was Fan Qin who initiated the project to build the pavilion in 1561. Fan was very fond of collecting ancient books and he acquired more than 70,000 books, some of which were the books left by a defunct library. In 1772 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, the emperor issued the edict to revise and enlarge the books named “Imperial Collection of Four”. At that time, Fan’s descendant had accumulated a collection of 638 categories of books and then the emperor gave the command to renovate the library to house the seven “Imperial Collection of Four” books. Thus, the fame of Tianyi Pavilion Library has been widespread all over the country.
In order to preserve the books well, Fan Qin made some strict rules that all the books couldn’t be taken out of the library, smoking and drinking were forbidden in the library and neighborhood were absolutely restricted. However, part of them was still missing in the long historical age. After the founding of New China, the government established the special management institution to protect the library and retrieved the 3,000 missing books from abroad. Up till now, the present books have come up to over 80,000 volumes.
Borrowing the idea of The Book of Changes suggested in “heaven embodied in one gives birth to water”, Fan Qin named the library “Tianyi Pavilion” (Pavilion of Heaven and One). As we know, books are most vulnerable to fire, and water can suppress the fire. Thus, the name hints the fact that Fan Qin hoped his collections would escape from destruction. The house of library was structured in an ancient pavilion style, harmonized with odd-shaped rockeries, exquisite pavilions and bridges and multicolored flowers and plants.
The Tianyi Pavilion Library covers an area of 26,000 square meters. Since it has been opened to public, an endless flow of experts and scholars have accessed to the craved priceless books. The library has been an indispensable landmark in Ningbo, in which local people take great pride.