Treasured tomes

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-11 07:48

Treasured tomes

Wei Li's latest book about the country's private libraries. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A businessman collects thousands of ancient Chinese books in quest to preserve history. Wang Kaihao reports.

Wei Li's peers consider him to be a top collector of ancient Chinese books.

Weng Lianxi, a researcher at the library in the Palace Museum in Beijing, describes Wei as "a reader, a researcher and the country's biggest individual book collector".

Wei, however, prefers to keep a low profile, with little presence on the internet. Media reports say that he owns more than 8,000 volumes or 70,000 copies of ancient books in full editions, of which some 200 are handwritten or block-printed versions from the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties or even earlier.

In China, the majority of ancient books that have survived are from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and it is a dream for book collectors to own even a few rare copies from earlier times.

Nevertheless, Wei, 53, a businessman, tells China Daily he does not have an exact number for his collection.

"I've been compiling the inventory of my collection for the past 11 years," he says, adding that the process is ongoing.

He says what matters is his love for books. However, he adds that today's tycoons show little interest in collecting ancient books.

"It's easier to showoff an old painting, which is worth tens of millions of yuan, than having a common-looking book, which perhaps is of equal value," he jokes.

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