A soothing harbor for spiritual nourishment
Historical Ningbo lays claim to having Asia’s oldest private library, preserved from 451 years ago. And with its current flourishing economic accumulation, the city is attempting, more than ever, to develop and establish itself as an outstanding cultural city.
The city boasts a good ambience of reading thanks to its long history of education, as well as a local policy support to develop book culture. Book lovers can find numerous reading places, both ancient and modern, to provide soothing harbors for the soul to take a rest and derive spiritual nourishment.
“Ningbo is home to numerous renowned intellectuals in its long history and we have made a blueprint to develop Ningbo into a city of books in order to enhance its cultural influence,” said Chen Yanqun, chief of Arts Department in the Ningbo Bureau of Culture, Radio, TV, Press and Publications.
Being the birthplace of Wang Yangming (1472-1529), one of the most significant Chinese philosophers in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and Yu Qiuyu, one of the best-known literary figures in contemporary China, Ningbo is proud of its social environment that values studying and pursuing intellectual achievement. It is also trying to get more people involved through both establishing comfortable reading places and organizing book-related activities.
The three-day 2017 Ningbo Book Fair was held last month at Ningbo International Conference and Exhibition Center, attracting over 102,000 visitors and selling 58,389 volumes of books with a turnover of 2.3 million yuan (US$347,154).
It was the third book fair held in Ningbo since 2015, and it proved to be the biggest yet. It also revealed the city has become a magnet for book lovers.
In addition, the success of the book fair also confirms that bookstores are flourishing in every commercial plaza, where they are equipped with a service package, which includes food, beverages and creative products. Bookstores are places that are welcoming even at night and are an important part of daily life.
Starting from the city’s ancient private library, and seeking different modern bookstores scattered around the city, a reader’s journey to discover Ningbo’s book culture will be a quest appreciated in the city’s proud cultural legacy. It also opens a window into the spiritual and cultural land of Ningbo.
Tianyige is a must-see stop of Ningbo’s book journey, which is the oldest library in Asia and one of the three most important private libraries in the world.
It was built in 1566 during the Ming Dynasty by Fan Qin, a high-ranking official in the royal court. Fan built it as his family’s private library and his descendants, generation by generation, protected both the architecture and collection of the library over several centuries.
Occupying 31,000 square meters in the downtown area of Ningbo, Tianyige today functions as a museum open to the public and it is famous for housing a collection of mainly Ming Dynasty books, records of imperial examinations and transcripts. Many of them are the only existing copies in the world.
The collections of Tianyige exerted a great influence in ancient China, as they directly contributed to the completion of “Siku Quanshu” or Complete Works of Chinese Classics, the foremost ancient Chinese encyclopedia, which were written and edited by about 360 officials and transcribed by 3,800 people over 13 years under Emperor Qianlong (1711-99).
Qianlong commissioned the encyclopedia in 1772 and Fan Maozhu, a descendant of Fan Qin, provided 638 books from the Tianyige collection as reference books.
Address:10 Tianyi St, Haishu District
Tel: (0574) 8729-3856
Ningbo Book City
Across 1844 Heyi Culture Plaza lies Ningbo Book City at the bank of the Yonghe River, which is in an L-shaped building. There is a three-floor Xinhua Bookstore and several book-related companies and institutions.
Completed in 2010, Ningbo Book City is developed into a book-industry cluster and an important cultural landmark in Ningbo. Many local publishing houses are registered there and it also attracts educational institutions, such as music and writing education.
A wide range of cultural activities are held there every month, including lectures and exhibitions. It is also relaxing to take a walk there especially at night when the river is lit up.
Address: 221 Jiangdong Rd N., Yinzhou District
Tel: (0574) 8771-8771
Run by China’s biggest chain brand, Xinhua Bookstore, Tianyi Bookstore is one of the biggest around-the-clock bookstores in China and also the first of its kind in Ningbo.
It lies to the east of Tianyi Square and is only 2.3 kilometers far from Tianyige Museum.
Covering a total of 2,000 square meters, Tianyi Bookstore has over 90,000 volumes of books, covering arts, literature, sociology, science, technology, and etc.
The store’s style is plain and warm with yellow lights, wood-color bookcases and a wooden floor. People can sit on the small round straw mattress and rest their back against the bookcase and read their heart’s content. There are also desks and chairs for people who prefer reading with their backs straight and books open on the desk.
There is also a special zone for kids to enjoy reading inside tents or small house models, and books suitable for kids are put together there.
Stationery, creative and stylish, is a highlight in the bookstore and there is a mini cafe bar near the stair. Usually, the bookstore will organize an activity for readers every week, including lectures by local professors, DIY of decorative things and reading club.
Address: 6 Yaohang St, Haishu District
Tel: (0574) 8726-4122
Starting from 1844 Heyi Culture Plaza and a brisk 20-minute walk along Yuyao River in a northwestern direction, you will find the 90-year-old library in a quiet garden.
Covering 12,000 square meters, the library was founded in 1927, and expanded in 2001. The building has taken on a modern look with a painted white appearance and glass windows.
It houses 2 million volumes of books, of which 80,000 are from ancient times, while there are 2 million digitalized books. There are a dozen of reading rooms in the library, featuring different fields including children’s books, antique books and foreign-language books. Annually, the library holds hundreds of activities, including lectures, classic music sharing and exhibitions. Foreigners can use their passports to read and borrow books here.
Address: 135 Yongfeng Rd, Haishu District
Tel: (0574) 8736-2346
Shanghai Joint Publishing Bookstore
It is one of the biggest cafe-style bookstores in Ningbo, occupying 3,000 square meters in 1844 Heyi Culture Plaza, and is about a 15-minute walk from Tianyi Square, Ningbo’s biggest commercial center.
The bookstore, known as “Altlife Proposition,” is in the sunken area of the plaza with a spiral staircase connecting the door on the ground and the space inside.
The decor is elegant, mainly painted with cold colors, including white and gray.
There is a studio inside the bookstore with seats arranged in tiers and a big screen in its front.
Activities including lectures, concerts and film shows are usually held there.
Outside of the bookstore, there is Ningbo Education Museum, which was home to Ningbo’s first school for girls.
Address: 100 Heyi Rd, Haishu District
Tel: (0574) 8778-5230
Sisyphe Bookstore can be found in the north of Tianyi Square, which is also an in cafe-style that provides food and beverages.
Standing on either side of the store’s entrance are two British Georgian-style bowed windows, and the store is awash with bright colors and sketched with cartoon images, such as donkeys and rabbits.
Books are classified into categories, including children’s books, significant frontlist, literature and psychology.
Bilingual slogans are everywhere in the bookstore which are both interesting and educational, such as, “Books are to mankind what memory is to the individual” marked on the wall and “If you love someone, read” on the ground. Creative products are also on sale in the bookstore, including bags, toys and cups.
Address: 62 Qigan Lane, Haishu District
Tel: (0574) 8762-4265