Li­braries share data to trace an­cient Chi­nese books

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By WANG KAIHAO wangkai­hao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Al­though some Ital­ian priests fa­mously came to China in the late 16th cen­tury, large num­bers of West­ern mis­sion­ar­ies only stepped into the coun­try after the 1840s, when the Mid­dle King­dom was forced to open its gates to the West­ern world in the af­ter­math of the first Opium War.

The mis­sion­ar­ies took myr­iad Chi­nese books and writ­ten records of their re­li­gious mis­sions back to their home coun­tries.

A new book re­leased by the pub­lish­ing house af­fil­i­ated with the Na­tional Li­brary of China now at­tempts to clar­ify the long-hid­den his­tory.

Last week, The Bibliography of Chi­nese An­cient Books Col­lected in Pitts The­ol­ogy Li­brary in Emory Univer­sity was re­leased in Bei­jing, of­fer­ing de­tailed in­ven­tory of an­cient Chi­nese books housed in the li­brary, a repos­i­tory of files rel­e­vant to the mis­sion­ar­ies once sta­tioned in China.

About 500 an­cient Chi­nese books and Chris­tian files in Chi­nese from the univer­sity in At­lanta, Ge­or­gia, are listed in the new book, pub­lished in both Chi­nese and English.

As a top US re­search in­sti­tu­tion on the­ol­ogy, Emory Univer­sity got about 1,500 vol­umes of an­cient Chi­nese ma­te­ri­als in 1976.

The new pub­li­ca­tion mainly fo­cuses on those in the univer­sity’s Pitts The­ol­ogy Li­brary that are from the Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911), ac­cord­ing to Liu Ming, a re­searcher from the Na­tional Li­brary of China who hosted the project.

“These books are not only cru­cial to fig­ur­ing out the devel­op­ment of Chris­tian churches in China, but sig­nif­i­cant ref­er­ences to study Chi­nese lin­guis­tics,” Liu said at a sym­po­sium on the new book in Bei­jing last week.

For ex­am­ple, he cites that New Tes­ta­ments writ­ten not only in Man­darin but in Chi­nese di­alects like Fuzhou di­alect and Shang­hainese are found in the col­lec­tion.

The old­est Chris­tian book listed was pub­lished in Hong Kong in 1845. Some books in the bibliography were from the reign of Em­peror Kangxi (1662-1722).

Ac­cord­ing to Wang Guo­hua, a re­searcher from the Pitts li­brary, the pub­lish­ing is part of co­op­er­a­tion with the Na­tional Li­brary of China launched in 2014.

“The book is to pro­vide ref­er­ences for pro­fes­sion­als, and it’s also to show the over­seas com­mu­ni­ties’ en­thu­si­asm to pro­tect those pre­cious an­cient books from China,” she ex­plains.

Zhou Yuan, di­rec­tor of the East­ern Asian Li­brary at the Univer­sity of Chicago, says trac­ing the cir­cu­la­tion of such books after pub­li­ca­tion adds a di­men­sion to his­tory.

“These Chris­tian books are per­fect items to study in­ter­cul­tural com­mu­ni­ca­tion and know his­tory in a big pic­ture,” he says.

In 2014, China’s na­tional li­brary kicked off its longterm in­ves­ti­ga­tion of an­cient Chi­nese books scat­tered over­seas. So far it has pub­lished three bib­li­ogra­phies of over­seas col­lec­tions of an­cient Chi­nese clas­sics, con­cern­ing Ja­pan, Spain and Har­vard-Yench­ing Univer­sity in the United States.

Zhang Zhiqing, deputy di­rec­tor of the NLC, says these are all huge projects.

“North Amer­ica’s uni­ver­si­ties house abun­dant an­cient Chi­nese books, but most of them don’t have a com­plete bibliography of their col­lec­tions,” he says.

Though the col­lec­tion at Pitts is not that big, it has a cer­tain theme — Chris­tian his­tory in China — and thus is a good ex­am­ple for more projects to come, Zhang ex­plains.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A new bilin­gual book of­fers cru­cial ref­er­ences of the devel­op­ment of Chris­tian churches in China.

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