To a student, book lover, or member of the academic community, the following libraries serve as a sanctuary as any libraries often do. But because these libraries are also monuments of modern and traditional China, they also attract architectural buffs and the appreciative traveler.
Here are 9 magnificent libraries in China worth a visit.
1. National Library of China (Beijing)
The National Library of China is the largest in Asia and one of the largest in the world with more than 24 million pieces of literature and comfortable tables and seats open to public.
What makes it even more special? Its collection of cultural and historical literature is vast. Scholars studying Chinese history and culture will find their place here.
If you’re not after literature or a place to read, then its collection of manuscripts and inscriptions may tempt you. Among its collections are manuscripts from Song, Shang, and Ming dynasties, stone tablets known as Xiping Stone Classics, tortoise shell inscriptions, and many ancient Chinese literature.
Sounds like an exciting collection of literary artifacts.
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2. Bayuquan Library (Yingkou, Liaoning)
The Bayuquan Library looks like two books on top of each other positioned at different angles. Its construction elements mirrored those of the nearby Bayuquan Theater, which is also a place to visit when in Liaoning.
The library is made of three main buildings – the basement, the third floor or cantilever, and the connection. This positioning plays a major role in utilizing and regulating sunlight, making the reading room well-lighted anytime of the day.
Combining architectural aesthetics and function, this library attracts both tourists and readers.
3. Library of Southern Medical University (Shunde Campus)
The library of Shunde Campus is a cluster of three buildings featuring traditional Chinese architectural design. It sits by a lake, which makes it picturesque and one of the most beautiful school libraries in the country.
Since it was mainly built for the university’s medical students, the 7-storey library is equipped with 32 study rooms aside from the usual tables and seats amounting to 3000.
4. Datong City Library (Datong City)
The Datong City Library is rather like a large chunk of jewel on the ground. This is because when the Preston Scott Cohen team from Cambridge, Massachusetts visualized the plan, they aimed to create a library that performs its two main roles. One is to provide literature for knowledge seekers and another is to create a space for community members.
It was completed in 2013. It turned out to be a magnificent structure that defies expectations. It’s not just a library anymore, but a cluster of educational spaces: reading rooms, gallery, and auditorium. These spaces are positioned around a large garden, much like a park that families visit on Sundays.
All the mentioned features are reasons to visit the library, if architecture alone is not enough.
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5. Shanghai Library (Xuhui District, Shanghai)
Chinese architecture does have a knack for joining world record lists, if building large, spacious libraries is not enough. Although Shanghai Library is only second to the National Library of China in terms of size, it is the tallest in the world, towering like a lighthouse at 348 feet.
Shanghai Library’s long history dating back 1847 includes acquisition and merges aside from expansion to transform the institution that it is today. The most notable of all is its merging with the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of Shanghai that makes it a comprehensive source of educational materials accessible to the public.
Today, it has 24 floors of literature and study spaces, making it look like any commercial building in the city, but its significance is centered on education.
6. Liyuan Library (Huairou County, Beijing)
While you’re in Beijing, travel 2 hours to Jiaojiehe and visit another library called Liyuan Library or the library of glass and sticks.
This one is different from all those listed here as it does not compete in size or height, but in creativity. According to its architect, Li Xiaodong Atelier, the sticks collected from the ground are the same ones used by the locals as firewood.
The result is a humble exterior that blends well with its environment. If you’re not amazed at first look, check out the interior and see how the sticks work with the glass walls in making it a well-lighted, homey place for readers. Despite its distance from the city, you’ll be glad you made the trip.
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7. Library of Peking University (Haidian District, Beijing)
The library of Peking University is considered the largest school library not only in China, but in Asia because of its 6.5 million volumes of literature. This collection is indeed worth any scholar’s time as it includes antique books, stone rubbings, and rare literary items which academicians would consider as treasures.
Another great thing about it is its location. It’s built on the scenic Weiming Lake, making it a must-visit place for leisure readers who want to read in peace, felt and seen.
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8. Nanjing Public Library (Nanjing)
Nanjing Public Library is the third largest and the oldest public library established in the country. It is considered a first class library, thanks to the significant collection of books, documents, and manuscripts amounting to more than 7 million, 1.6 million of which are from the ancient times. It also has an extensive collection relating to the Jiangsu province for anyone interested in the place’s culture and history.
So when you visit Nanjing’s ancient monuments and Yangtze River we first heard in history books, a trip to the Nanjing Library will be worthwhile.
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9. Chongqing Library (Chongqing)
If you’re a tourist in China, you’d be glad to visit its remarkable monuments as they could be, well, uniquely Chinese. The Chongqing Library may not be noted for its size or tallness, but its architecture and functions, both educational and civic, complement the grandeur that is Chongqing.
Like Datong City Library, it extends the usual archive of literature and cultural artifacts to a whole new educational experience with its reading rooms, conference halls, and, of all things, a hotel for academic guests.
But that’s not all. You can compare Chongqing Library to a mall, complete with gallery, concert hall, and restaurants, but instead of shops, it has shelves of books.
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Its architects truly envisioned a world-class urban destination, where education plays a huge role.
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