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July 6, 2020

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Historic library turns a new page

More than a century ago, Chinese students at the US Cornell University founded the Science Society of China, which has played an important role in the scientific development of the nation.

The non-governmental academic organization was disbanded in 1959, but the heritage of China’s pioneering scholars can still be found at the library of the society, which recently reopened to public after a yearlong facelift.

The Mingfu Library in Huangpu District, originally the Science Society of China Library, was opened in 1931 as China’s first public science and technology library. It is named after Hu Mingfu, China’s first doctor of mathematics.

Dr Sun Yat-sen’s son Sun Ke, who then served as head of the legislative body and vice president of the Kuomintang government of the day, wrote an inscription to celebrate the library’s founding. The stone tablet has been preserved.

The 89-year-old library is tucked away amid tall plane trees flanking Shaanxi Road S. and Shaoxing Road. It has a courtyard and three historical buildings — Mingfu, Huixin and Lele.

A major renovation was launched in February 2019 to repair the historical structures, restore their historical look, while improving the reading environment for the public.

The library was once the largest professional science library in the Far East. Ma Shanglong, a famous writer, was the council chairman of the library. It has a collection of over 30,000 Chinese books and over 20,000 books in foreign languages as well as 7,000 foreign magazines.

The main structure of the Mingfu Building is composed of a three-story reading section and a five-story storage area for the collections. The decoration on the facade of the building and stairways inside have been restored. A small hand-operated elevator to transport books has been preserved along with the original steel windows and book shelves.

The annex Lele, built in 1992, features the same decoration as the Mingfu. A children’s reading room and a reading hall with shikumen-style decoration and books about the city’s unique stone-gate residences have been newly unveiled. “The library surrounded by plane trees is the best place for people to relax and enjoy reading,” Ma said.

The Huixin Building, where the China Association for Promoting Democracy was founded, has been a gathering place for intellectuals. Various events such as lectures and reading parties will be held there.

Famous local writer Zhao Lihong gave a lecture on the “meaning of reading to people’s lives” on the library’s reopening on June 28. The lecture was livestreamed on the internet.

The library is open free between 8:30am and 9pm on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and weekends, as well as from 1pm to 9pm on Tuesday. It is closed on Thursday. Reservations are required through its official WeChat account (mingfulib) or the hotline 021-64370835.


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