Collective history of China's libraries

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-24 07:21

Collective history of China's libraries

A History of Chinese Libraries, the first comprehensive history of the nation's libraries. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Royal families, private schools, individual collectors and temples were the four pillars behind developing book collections in ancient China.

This opinion in academia thus attributed the appearance of Chinese libraries in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), with the birth of Western-style public libraries in the country.

"However, many concepts relating to libraries are also applicable to ancient cangshulou, which also collected used books," Han says. "The modern development of Chinese libraries inherits their spirit, just in another form."

Wang Yuguang, a Peking University professor in charge of the volume on libraries in ancient China, admitted that the publishing of this book would not end academic disputes. Nevertheless, he says the contributions made by book collectors on the inheritance of Chinese civilization cannot be doubted.

"Some scholars used to criticize ancient book collectors for being too conservative and not allowing more people exposure to their books, but we generally hold a more positive opinion of them now," Wang says. "Thanks to their efforts, we have a better understanding of these books today."

He also points out that affording more respect to individual collectors serves a more practical purpose these days.

"We still need studies at home to create a relaxed atmosphere conducive to reading," he says. "These will never be replaced by digital books."

As for the volume covering the modern era spanning the mid-19th century to the founding of New China in 1949, its lead editor Cheng Huanwen, a professor at the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, described it as a crucial period in the formation of the library system.

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