Heshun library, the earliest and largest village library in China

0 CommentsPrintE-mail CRI, August 14, 2009
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"One half of Heshun's population, or over 3,000 people have library cards. Senior citizens and children who have more spare time to visit here frequently. When the young people are free, they are also frequent visitors to the library. Every day we receive about 50 readers. My kid reads books here very often. It is our tradition to attach importance to education and cultural development."

Thanks to this tradition, Heshun also built a middle school and four primary schools before 1949. The middle school has become the second most important middle school in the county.

Cun Maohong says the Heshun Library's geographical location has contributed a great deal to raise locals' awareness to education.

"Farming is the main means for people to make a living in Heshun. But the town has always had a large population and shared limited farmland. Many people had to go to Myanmar, India and Southeast Asia to make a living. Through their struggles in foreign lands, our ancestors began to realize the importance of education for the development of our hometown."

Locals describe the library as a beacon that guides them forward and a treasury from which they absorb wisdom. It has contributed to their pure folk customs and culture and served as a source of enlightenment for many famous literati.

"The establishment of the library aimed to enlighten people. It has achieved its goal as generations of Heshun people have come here to read books. We have benefitted greatly from the library. People in our town are known for civility and friendliness." Liu Fuqing, a local businessman who visits the library frequently, said.

In 1980, the Heshun Library was included in the national library administration system, and listed as a provincial cultural relics site. Tourists have flocked to Heshun since 2000 when the town became better known to the outside world. Many of them say they are impressed by the library.

"It's difficult to find another library like this in other areas. I heard a legend that a farmer in Heshun left his cattle on the mountain and went to read books in the library."

"It's very unique. Farmers come here to read books and newspapers when they are free. They can also borrow books from the library."

"Locals are gentle and cultivated. From the library we see how much importance they place a library on education and culture."

But the pickup in Heshun's tourism industry has also put some pressure on the library's service.

Cun Yunguang is the library's curator.

"There are conflicts between the development of tourism and the protection of the library and its reading environment. For example, the reading room is supposed to be very quiet. But now it's noisy because many tourists are coming here. In the future, we are moving the reading room to the back of the library. The reading room now will mainly be for visiting."

Not to be left behind by the digital revolution, the township library introduced computers in 2000. Now locals can share their stories with the rest of the world, online.

In the meantime, local residents and people from the surrounding areas continue to donate books to the library.

Curator Cun Yunguang says he hopes the library will expand to serve more people in the future.


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