Heshun library, the earliest and largest village library in China

0 CommentsPrintE-mail CRI, August 14, 2009
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In southwest China's Yunnan Province, Heshun Township lies right at the southern end of the Chinese section of an over century old 'tea-horse trade route' that borders Myanmar. Having a history of over 600 years, which is shorter than that of the 'tea-horse trade route', Heshun still stands as one of the ten most charming ancient towns in China. Many well-known Chinese merchants and literati were born in Heshun. Despite its glory of history, locals are most proud of their town's library, the first and largest village library in China.

Heshun Library lies beside the river that runs through the town. It was built by stone and wood in 1928 and resembles a college campus with a dooryard. Books, magazines and newspapers in six reading rooms are available to locals free of charge.

Liu Fuqing, a 58-year-old businessman, is reading newspaper in the library when we arrived for a visit.

"I like our library very much. I came here when I was small. It's a holy place for me to study. Though I'm working in the county, I come here every day to read newspapers and books. I was born and grew up here and can't live without the library."

As the biggest village library in China, Heshun Library boasts a collection of around 80,000 books, most of which are easy-to-read and are related to people's daily lives such as farming. About 10,000 of the books are rare and ancient ones.

Unlike other libraries in big cities, Heshun Library was built with the fund donated by both local merchants and the Heshun people who had settled down in Myanmar. They subscribed to newspapers and magazines and kept abreast of domestic and international current affairs.

Cun Maohong, former curator of the library, says:

"Back then, transportation was very poor. There were no roads in remote areas. If donors wanted to transport books from Shanghai by land, it took about two months. They had to transport the books to Myanmar by ship and then use horses to carry them here. It took about two weeks."

Heshun is a remote town of no more than 20 square kilometers on China's southern border. It is located at an altitude of more than 1,500 meters, and has a population of 6,000. Most of the residents in this mountainous border town are farmers.

The library has remained intact for more than 80 years, withstanding wars and political turmoils. It has become an important source of education and leisure for locals.

Famous scholars have travelled far and wide to visit the Heshun Library. Among them was Hu Shi (1891-1962), a great Chinese modern scholar, poet, historian, and former president of Peking University.

Now, the library opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m. every day. People can borrow books with a library card. Only five people work there. 37-year-old Cun Jianqing takes charge of the library's periodicals.

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