National Palace Museum – Books 古書

I am no bookworm, but I do enjoy looking at antique books. Which makes me wonder. If the Chinese invented paper, who invented the printing press?

The National Palace Museum houses a collection of over 214,500 rare and antiquarian books, and its core is made up of print editions, volumes executed in movable type, imprints annotated by renowned scholars, old manuscripts, and delicately copied volumes, spanning the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties.

The earliest known form of printing as applied to paper was woodblock printing, which appeared in China before 220 AD for cloth printing. However, it would not be applied to paper until the seventh century. Later developments in printing technology include the movable type invented by Bi Sheng around 1040 AD and the printing press invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century.

The Tianlu Linlang Library 天祿琳瑯叢書 of Rare Books


The first series of the Siku Quanshu, completed towards the end of the 46th year of the Qianlong reign (1782), was deposited in the Wenyuan Pavilion. The complete Siku Quanshu collection comprises 36,381 volumes in 6,144 cases. Its refined brushwork, meticulous editing, and elegant binding and decoration make it the most celebrated collection of rare books in the National Palace Museum.

When the Manchus came to rule over China, the new dynasty also took over the entire court library left by the defeated Ming and expanded the collections. Compilations of imperial writings and various other works were commissioned by imperial order, and great effort was put into actively acquiring books, which were for the emperor’s eyes only.

The Tianlu Linlang Library 天祿琳瑯書目 was a collection of rare books assembled by the Qianlong emperor. Comprising titles from the Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties, it was preserved in the library at the Zhaoren Hall (originally the Kangxi emperor’s study). Emperor Qianlong turned the hall into a library housing rare books as a way to commemorate his grandfather and named it after the Han dynasty Tianlu Pavilion, China’s first imperial library.

Journey to the West 西遊記
Romance of Three Kingdoms 三國演義

Back to the question. A printing press is a mechanical device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium (such as paper or cloth), thereby transferring the ink. That used a typeset technique and was invented by Gothenburg.

About the National Palace Museum

The National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院) was originally founded within the walls of the Beijing Forbidden City in 1925, the present-day National Palace Museum moved to Taipei’s Shilin District following the Republic of China government relocation in 1949 with an official opening for the public in 1965.

Over 600,000 of the most precious artefacts within the collection were moved to Taiwan to prevent their desecration during and after the Chinese Civil War. 

Due to the enormous numbers of collection spreads over 4 floors and 2 exhibition halls, the museum’s exhibits continuously rotate, as only a small percentage of the museum’s collection can be displayed at a given time to prevent wear and tear, so there will always be a new series of collection being exhibited on each visit! 

National Palace Museum
No.221, Sec. 2, Zhishan Rd., Shilin Dist., Taipei City 111001, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Tel : 886-2-2881-2021

Date Visited : Oct 2018

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