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Complete library returns to Palace Museum's pavilion

CCTV.com

08-11-2016 17:40 BJT

The largest book collection in Chinese history is set to return to the Pavilion of Literary Source inside Beijing's Forbidden City, albeit in a slightly different form. The collection was removed 83 years ago to protect these precious cultural relics during the Chinese Civil War. Soon, visitors to the imperial palace will have the chance to see China's most famous book collection for themselves.

The largest book collection in Chinese history is set to return to the Pavilion of Literary Source inside Beijing

The largest book collection in Chinese history is set to return to the Pavilion of Literary Source inside Beijing's Forbidden City, albeit in a slightly different form.

The collection consists of 36-thousand volumes, originally commissioned by Qing Dynasty Emperor Qian Long. It will soon be put back onto the shelves of the Pavilion of Literary Source in the Forbidden City. The book collection was removed from Beijing in 1933 and is currently housed in Taipei's Palace Museum in Taiwan. The returning collection is a photocopied version.

"The 'classics' will be placed on this floor. There is a hidden floor sandwiched between the first and second floors where the category 'histories' will be housed. The 'masters' and 'collections' categories will be put on the third floor. There are 103 cabinets in total to house all the books," said Zhang Rong, Director of Library of Palace Museum.

Back in 1773, Emperor Qianlong launched the project of compiling the collection and named it Sikuquanshu, or "The complete library in four branches of literature". The project involved 361 scholars to choose books, and countless people to hand copy them. After ten years, the collection was copied seven times and placed in specially contructed libraries across the country. To date, only three and half copies of the original texts still remain. This photocopied version is made from the one of the originals in Wenjin Chamber, in the Mountain Resort at Chengde. Due to its being finished later, this version is hailed as the most complete, being corrected by major thinkers led by renowned scholar, Ji Xiaolan.

"We've photocopied a total of 2 point 4 million pages, which would stretch 1000 kilometers if laid out end to end. It took 10 years to do. Dozens of cameras were invalidated during the process," said Lu Guobin, Director of Photocopy Project.

The Palace Museum is preparing an exhibition about the collection, to inform people about the history and circulation of the books. Copies will be made of some of the texts, giving visitors the chance to leaf through pages of Chinese cultural history.

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