Treasured tomes

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

Treasured tomes

Tianyi Ge in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, is one of the earliest surviving private libraries in the world. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Born in Yuxian county, Hebei province, Wei was interested in ancient books since childhood, when his grandfather, a fan of ancient literature, looked after him.

He attended high school in Beijing, where he first saw a collection of 18th-century prose at an antique store. He then saved some pocket money for four months to buy the book, kicking off his lifelong pursuit.

Many literary treasures were hidden in antique stores in the 1980s. But the market for ancient books has heavily relied on auction houses since the mid-'90s.

Once a manager in a foreign trade company, Wei quit that job to start his own shipping company in the 1990s.

He has now become a part-time investor in financial projects and a full-time researcher and collector of ancient books.

"What makes a collector sad most is not the lack of money, but to witness books pass by," he says.

In 2012, when the ancient Guoyunlou collection of 1,200 copies went on auction, Wei was told at first that the sum could be paid in parts.

He was confident of buying about 10 copies.

However, the books were finally sold together at a price of more than 210 million yuan ($31 million), the highest recorded single auction turnover of ancient Chinese books ever.

With a majority of ancient books housed in public libraries, collectors get limited opportunities to buy many, he says. However, he can get their reference in academic courses.

Though a photocopy is commonly kept as a recording of an old book, he says the original is irreplaceable.

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