Bringing the classics back to life

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Staff members show visitors ancient books at the Confucius Museum during the first Chinese Traditional Book Sharing Conference in Qufu, Shandong province, on Aug 6. [PHOTO BY WANG RU/CHINA DAILY]

To revive a long-lost tradition, the National Library of China has teamed up with the Confucius Museum to host a book-sharing conference in Qufu, Wang Ru reports.

When it comes to celebrating Qixi Festival, or Chinese Valentine's Day, certain traditions usually spring to mind. While exchanging gifts and spending time with loved ones are common themes, in ancient times another custom was widely practiced: leaving books outside the main doors of houses to air and share them. It was forgotten in recent years.

In ancient times, books were a valuable commodity that was kept under lock and key. While this habit helped preserve them, books could just as easily fall prey to mold, dampness or bookworms´╝Źand so the practice of airing them every summer took hold.

During the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), agriculturalist Jia Sixie described how people followed this practice in Tian Gong Kai Wu, one of China's earliest and most comprehensive agricultural records.

But just as the word shai, which means "bask in the sunshine", also has the meaning of "showing off" in modern Chinese, the tradition of showing and sharing books was later adopted.

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