Chinese invited to spend holiday with great ancient encyclopedia

There is now a new way to spend Chinese New Year: practicing calligraphy by copying manuscripts from one of the world's oldest and largest encyclopedias.

The National Library of China announced that selected manuscripts of "Yongle Dadian" -- the Great Encyclopedia of Yongle -- will be on display between Feb. 8 and March 2. The public are invited to view and copy some of the classic chapters.

The encyclopedia was commissioned by Emperor Yongle in 1403. Thousands of scholars spent four years collecting nearly 8,000 kinds of books available at that time and compiled the 22,877-scroll, or 11,095-volume encyclopedia.

Regarded as a national treasure, the book covers a wide range of subjects. However, the original and most of the copied manuscripts were lost, partly due to the invasion of Western powers in China at the beginning of the 20th century. The national library houses about 220 out of the 400 known existing volumes.

The manuscripts to be on show during the 2018 Chinese New Year holiday, according to the library, consist of a volume found in rural Shandong Province in 1983 and one donated by a Canadian Chinese in 2007.

The Chinese New Year -- the Year of Dog -- begins on Feb. 16. Most Chinese have a week off starting with new year's eve, while children have a longer holiday because of the school winter break. Practising calligraphy is a favored traditional pastime for the Chinese.


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