1. David Sassoon Library, India
Completed in 1870, the David Sassoon Library is one of only 145 monuments protected by India’s government, and the oldest library in Mumbai. One of its most famous features is the beautiful garden in the back—a rare sight in the commercial area in which it is located.The library and reading room were originally intended to be an entire institute dedicated to mechanics, science and technology, but funding ran short. The Sassoon Mechanic’s Institute was renamed the David Sassoon Library and Reading Room after its primary donor.
2. Raza Library, India
The Raza Library in Rampur was completed in 1904, and once part of a palace. While many of the royal family’s other properties have been left to crumble, the library is still protected by the Indian government—another one of the country’s few protected monuments.
The royal family started gathering works for the library way back in 1774. Included in their collection are 17,000 rare manuscripts, 205 hand-written palm leaves and 5000 miniature paintings.
3. The National Library of China
Image courtesy of Flickr user Dennis Deng.
If you’re looking for info on China’s ancient history, the National Library of China’s old buildings might be a good place to start. They serve as the home to an array of historical and ancient books and manuscripts—even inscribed tortoise shells. And though the buildings themselves are designed in a traditional Chinese style, they were only completed in 1987.
4. The Tianyi Pavilion Library, China
Images courtesy of What's On Ningbo.
If you're looking for real traditional Chinese architecture, you’ll need to leave Beijing and head over to Ningbo City—home to the oldest private library in Asia. Built in 1560 by a retired imperial minister, Tianyi Pavilion Library is the third oldest private library in the world. As you might expect, the collection is rather impressive: 300,000 ancient books, including a number of woodcut and handwritten titles.
5. National Library of Bhutan
Image courtesy of Wikipedia user Christopher J. Flynn.
Completed in 1984, the National Library of Bhutan is also technically a Buddhist temple; it had to be consecrated in order to house the religious texts that make up most of the collection. The structure is intended to integrate the three aspects of Buddha and his teachings: the physical represented by statues and paintings, the speech represented by books and printing blocks, and the heart represented by the eight small bowls found on the shrine on the first floor.
The library is home to about 6,100 Tibetan and Bhutanese books, manuscripts and xylographs, and about 9000 printing boards and wood printing blocks. While the collection isn’t massive, it is home to one of the largest collections of Buddhist literature in the world.
6. Grand People’s Study House, North Korea
The Study House was completed 1982 in honor of Kim Il-Sung’s 70th birthday and features an amazing 600 rooms with capacity for 30 million books. Of course, being housed in North Korea, foreign publications are only available with special permission, so it will probably be a while before all the shelves are full.
7. Nakanoshima Library, Japan
This Neo-Baroque design might not be something you’d immediately associate with Japan, but the 1904 Nakanoshima Library actually fits in quite well in Osaka, as the area has quite a few other stone-walled buildings with similar architecture. This building, complete with a copper roof dome (not visible in the exterior image above), is certainly one of the most stunning.
8. Beitou Library, Taiwan
While this attractive building might not be the most beautiful one on this list, it is undeniably the most eco-friendly and the most modern. The slanted roof collects moisture from humidity and rain, and then recycles it for the restrooms and gardens. The Beitou Library has also been fitted with solar panels and deep-set and latticed windows to reduce energy use. The building was the first to achieve a diamond rating under the government’s new eco-friendliness rating system.
This list is not exhaustive, of course. There are probably hundreds we couldn't mention here. Do any of you have pictures of great libraries in Asia? Leave a comment with a link so we can check them out!