(ASRI 2024) Journey to promote Records in Asia - P07 - Tianyi Ge: The Oldest Library in Asia


(Worldkings.org) Tianyi Ge, also known as Tianyi Pavilion or Tianyi Chamber, is a library and garden located in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, China, is the oldest existing private library in China as well as Asia.

Tian Yi Ge - Wikidata
Founded in 1561 by Fan Qin during the Ming dynasty. At its peak, it boasted a collection of 70,000 volumes of antique books.


The name Tian Yi refers to the concept of cosmic unity first described in a Han dynasty commentary to the Book of Changes. In Chinese alchemy, Tianyi is linked to the element of water, thus it was believed that providing a watery name would protect the library against fire damage.

The poetic garden within the complex

The Qianlong Emperor of the Qing dynasty visited Tianyi Ge, and ordered officials to draw schematics of Tianyi Ge's building plan and bookcases as a prototype to build several imperial libraries including Wenyuan Ge in the Forbidden City, and Wenjin Ge in the Chengde Mountain Resort to house the Complete Library of the Four Treasuries encyclopedia.

Wenyuan Chamber Imperial Library in the Forbidden City, modeled after the Tianyi Chamber
Wenyuan Chamber Imperial Library in the Forbidden City, modeled after the Tianyi Chamber


After the Second Opium War, the British took many books from the library's collection of geography and history texts. These losses were followed by further thefts by local thieves. By 1940, the collection dwindled to less than 20,000 volumes. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, due to governmental effort and donations by private collectors, the collection recovered somewhat to about 30,000 volumes, mostly rare antique Ming dynasty printed and hand-copied volumes.

Ming dynasty antique books in Tianyi Chamber collection

In 1982, Tianyi Ge was established by the Chinese authorities as a National Heritage Site. The Qin Family Drama Stage is also located in the complex. The walls were specially constructed to prevent fire.

Having a liking for books, Fan Qin collected local annals, records about jinshi (successful candidate in the highest imperial examination held in the palace under the emperor's supervision) of various dynasties and contemporary anthologies. Books given by Fan's friends and handwritten copies of books were an important part of the collection. Thanks to his efforts, the library already had 70,000 volumes at the time of his death.

Statue of Fan Qin, the founder of the chamber
Fan Qin Statue

Unfortunately, only 13,000 volumes remained at the time of the foundation of the PRC because a great many of them either were expropriated by the bureaucracies, stolen or fell into decay. Recent generations were committed to the protection and enlargement of the library. In the 1950s, some books were found and some others were donated by the local book collectors. 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.

A private treasure of ancient books - SHINE News
The family drama theater is also located in the complex

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.


According to Internet

Josephine (Collect & Edit) - WORLDKINGS (Source of photos: Internet)


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