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October 17, 2009

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Ningbo tourism festival showcases history, culture and nightlife

NINGBO'S tourism festival features historic attractions, music, a carnival, and nightlife on the Old Bund. Yao Minji pays a visit.

Tourism festivals are popular around China in the autumn, when the leaves turn gold and the weather is still welcoming. If you're still in a holiday mood after the October National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival, Ningbo is showcasing its tourist attractions.

Through October 28, the Ningbo Tourism Festival features historic attractions, music festivals, carnivals, shopping discounts and forums.

Since the Hangzhou Bay Bridge opened last May, it only takes about two hours to drive from downtown Shanghai to Ningbo City in Zhejiang Province.

The Ningbo area was inhabited 7,000 years ago. Ningbo was one of the first three trading harbors in China, together with Yangzhou in Jiangsu Province and Guangzhou in Guangdong Province.

Ningbo is known for four kinds of fragrances -- rice, fish, books and ink -- for its rich ocean products and cultural resources.

"Ning Bo" means calm wave and the name is based on its geographic location. Water from three rivers converge in Ningbo before flowing into the ocean, making it an ideal port.

The latest tourist attraction is the Ningbo Museum, which opened late last year and tells the history of the ancient port city. The exterior facade is built with bricks and other materials left over from reconstruction of the old city. Tianyi Pavilion Library

Libraries are seldom big tourist attractions, but Tianyi Pavilion Library is a favorite with tourists in Ningbo because of its significance in history and culture.

Established in 1561, it is believed to be the oldest existing library in China and Asia, as well as one of the three oldest family libraries in the world. The first owner Fan Qin, a retired government official, was a zealous book collector who amassed more than 70,000 volumes.

Fan adopted the name "Tianyi" (an obscure expression related to oracle bones) from a line in the "I Ching," or "Book of Changes." Following the book's logic, the line says that "Tianyi sheng shui," which means water comes from Tianyi. Since fire is the greatest fear of book collectors, Fan adopted the name in hopes that the library would never burn.

Fan not only referred to water in naming the library, but also built an artificial pond in front of it. Through generations, owners of the library added more elements -- hills, gardens, bridges, streams, pavilions and so on. Now, it is not only a place filled with books, but also a typical Chinese garden. Many existing old Chinese libraries are built based on the construction of Tianyi Pavilion Library.

The library remained as the Fan family library and reached its peak of fame in the mid-1700s. The emperor at the time planned a cultural project to compile all literature and philosophy works. The owner of th Fan library contributed more than 600 of the 3,503 books compiled, suddenly making the library a magnet for book lovers.

But the library, restricted only to family members until 1673, was only open to very few acclaimed scholars. There were other rules to protect the thousands of volumes in the collection: books could not be removed from the premises, and the library and collection were passed on only to family heads in each generation. This prevented division of the collection over the years. Smoking and drinking were strictly prohibited.

Though books were stolen and damaged during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), many were replaced and the library today houses around 80,000 books.

It is no longer a functioning library, however, but a museum that also houses a mahjong exhibition hall explaining everything about the popular game. Old Bund

The Bund in Shanghai, with its neoclassical architecture, is famous worldwide. But the oldest bund in China is the Old Bund in Ningbo City.

The city, just 130 kilometers from Shanghai, was designated one of five treaty ports in 1842 and its bund where three rivers converged was an important port for American and European traders. It officially opened in 1844, 20 years before the Bund in Shanghai.

Set in the center of the city, the Old Bund has become a landmark entertainment center combining old and new buildings. Like the Bund in Shanghai, all kinds of Western-style buildings -- churches, office buildings, banks, embassies -- have been renovated into department stores, hotels, restaurants and other venues.

Ningbo's Old Bund evokes not the Bund in Shanghai, but Xintiandi, where reconstructed old buildings house modern entertainment.


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