Newsletter No. 54 (July 2009)

Providing a reference service in Chinese Studies at Monash University Library

Dennis Kishere

Chinese Studies Librarian
Monash University

Dennis Kishere presented at the library panel at Chinese Studies Association Conference in Sydney, July 2009
Dennis Kishere presented a paper at the Chinese Studies Association of Australia conference in July 2009


This article is based on a paper which I presented at a library panel at the Chinese Studies Association of Australia conference in July 2009 at the University of Sydney.  In the paper I outlined the history of the Chinese studies reference service at Monash University Library and how it is evolving in the current digital environment.  I discussed current issues affecting collection building, in particular political censorship in China and the loss of digital information.  I also described the Chinese studies materials in our library, issues involved in cataloguing them and how we link to the ever expanding resources on the internet.

The Chinese Studies Librarian

The position of Chinese Studies Librarian was established in 1991. Prior to that, there was intermittent use of cataloguers with Chinese language skills whilst a general Asian studies reference function was carried out by a single reference librarian (this included Chinese Studies using only English language resources).  During the 1980s the urgent need for a Chinese language library collection and reference service was recognised. One of the library directors Mrs Ho Chooi Hon succeeded in creating the position of Chinese Studies Librarian in 1991. This was followed by the creation of positions for a Korean Studies Librarian, a Japanese Studies Librarian and the Senior Asian Studies Librarian (who is an Indonesian Studies specialist). This was then followed by the establishment of the Asian Studies Research Collection in 1995 with those four librarians and two support staff.  The creation of the ASRC was the result of consistent and vigorous advocacy and lobbying by Mrs Ho.

Unlike other subject librarians outside the ASRC, the Chinese Studies Librarian has cross faculty responsibilities for Monash students and staff. Although users are mainly in the Chinese Department there are also many from other areas of the Arts Faculty and departments of other faculties. A major user is the Monash Asia Institute which is a non-Faculty centre (MAI’s researchers are drawn from various faculties). In addition the Chinese Studies Librarian position is responsible for technical services, collection building and reference.

Increasingly over the years the Chinese Studies librarian has not just represented the local collection at Monash University but has needed to identify relevant resources in other collections and on the internet.   This trend is also noted in North American Asian studies collections: “Today librarians can no longer be simply the custodians of their own collections: instead they must serve as the information providers who are constantly seeking new resources empowered by technology and global network of resources” (Liu & Atwill 2006 : 14).

To build up the collections we use suppliers of Chinese materials in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Melbourne.  Many local Chinese materials (such as the Chinese Melbourne Herald : Mo'erben ri bao 墨爾本日報 ) are acquired by donation. Our most generous donors over the past 18 years have been Melbourne based authors Xia Zuli 夏祖麗 and Zhang Zhizhang 張至璋 (Julie and James Chang) who have given the library many literary works including their own.  

In selecting materials I do not rely on any single source of information. Apart from library vendors’ lists I use book reviews and best seller recommendations in literary magazines like Chang Xiao Shu Zhai  畅销书摘,  Du Zhe 读者, Dang Dai 当代,  Lian He Wen Xue 聯合文學 and Wen Xun 文訊 as well as literature yearbooks from China and Taiwan. Translations of contemporary Chinese novels are popular and are often reviewed in the literary supplements of major English language newspapers. Specific recommendations from academics and researchers and other users are important but need to be supplemented by our own selection to ensure a well rounded collection.  I also refer to catalogues like Libraries Australia, OCLC WorldCat and overseas library catalogues. Blogs, email discussion lists like Review of Internet Resources for Asian Studies and internet forums like the “Books on China” section of Danwei : Chinese media, advertising and urban life are also very useful. This selection process needs to anticipate likely future user needs.

The Chinese Studies Collection

Chinese language books and journals are kept in the Chinese language collection in the ASRC.   Material in other formats and materials in other languages are held throughout the library collections.

Users who just rely on browsing the shelves can miss out on a lot because there is much “unseen material” which is only identifiable by online searching.   Such material includes microforms (mainly newspapers, periodicals and theses) and databases.  There are also collections not available to be freely browsed on shelves such as special collections in the ASRC and materials in the Rare Books Collection.  So that they can be easily found, the bibliographic records of such materials must have full descriptive cataloguing.

There are all sorts of interesting books kept in our Rare Books collection which pertain to Chinese studies. These include materials in English, French and Chinese.  In my talk I displayed slides from the contents of  these works:

  • China Monumentis by Athanasius Kircher. Amsterdam, 1667. Usually known as China Illustrata. Kircher was a seventeenth century German Jesuit scholar who was interested in Oriental Studies. The book contains a transcription of the Nestorian stele at Chang’an.

  • An authentic account of an embassyfrom the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China by George Staunton. London 1797. Earl George Macartney led the first British embassy in 1793 to the court of Chinese Emperor Qianlong 乾隆;

  • A drawing of  The Great Wall of China from a 1799 French translation of the Macartney book;

  • A coloured illustration of the town of Dinghai 定海 (now part of Zhoushan 舟山 city in Zhejiang on the coast).  This is in The costume of China  by William Alexander 1767-1816. London : W. Miller, 1805. Alexander was the draftsman with the Macartney mission;

  • An edition of the Guo Yu 國語 published  in Japan in 1854. Our copy is annotated with marks for reading in Japanese (kunten訓点) by the scholar Hata Kanae 秦鼎.  This is from the library’s Suetsugu Collection

  • Cai zi gu wen  才子 古文 (A Qing dynasty compilation of essays). This edition was published in China in Kangxi jia zi 清康熙甲子 [1684] and found its way to Japan at some stage and into the collection of  Suetsugu [1].

I also spoke briefly about our subscription databases relating to Chinese Studies -  CNKI/CAJ (with a one-user licence), Dragonsource (200 titles and a multi-user licence), China Data Online (yearbooks and statistics) and Factiva which includes many Chinese language newspapers from China and elsewhere.

This is a collection of Japanese and Chinese language books published between the 17th and 20th century held in the library’ Rare Books Collection.. The Chinese titles include works published in China and also Japanese editions of Chinese classics with Japanese commentaries on them. The collection was donated to Monash University Library by Captain L.K. Sheperd who met the scholar and bibliophile Mr Susumu Suetsugu of Matsue while in Japan, initially as an Intelligence Linguist with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force from 1947-1956. Much later, following Captain Shepherd’s return to Australia, he became the recipient of Mr Suetsugu’s collection in the 1970s.

Collection Development Policy

The question of “What is Chinese Studies?” is fundamental to writing a collection development policy. However “Chinese Studies” in terms of a library collection is not a straightforward concept. It can be defined either by its geographical or cultural or language characteristics or all of these.  It can also be any study using Chinese language sources, eg. accounting research and engineering articles. This covers quite a wide range of users and an evolving list of topics.

The concept of Chinese Studies is reflected in our Collection Development Policy which seems to be constantly in a state of updating. However the CDP is a useful starting point. It describes the current state of the collections and the intended direction but it can get easily out of date by shifts in research direction.  Research is no longer constrained by the expertise of available supervisors at the university since researchers are able to have supervisors outside Monash and, indeed, outside Australia. So although we need to anticipate future trends in our collecting, if that is possible, we will always need to seek resources from outside our library to satisfy research needs.

A Wide Range of Users of the Collection

Users of our collection include Undergraduate and Postgraduate students and academic staff. They also include students doing preparatory study at Monash College, and include local and international students with different language backgrounds, who might be using both Chinese and English language resources. Even academics without knowledge of Chinese may require information regarding the citation of their publications in Chinese language publications.  Some will be students or researchers of Chinese Studies but others may be international students enrolled in Business or other faculties who need dictionaries and reference sources and information from Chinese language databases.

There are varying levels of Chinese language competence among users. For instance some may want stories using simple language. Then there is the issue of traditional and simplified characters. Students of Chinese in Australia learn simplified characters but international students include those who are more familiar with traditional characters.

Reference needs in Chinese Studies at the Library range from ongoing research projects over several years (theses and post-doctoral research) to everyday immediate queries such as undergraduate essay requirements and specific queries about where to find certain categories of books.

Simple reference queries can include:

“I want CDs for learning Cantonese”, “I want to write my name in Chinese” and “Where can I find a Chinese dictionary?”

More complex reference queries have included topics such as:

“Statistics on foreigners married to Chinese living in Shanghai” (I sourced information for this from NLA), “I want information about the topic of “national humiliation” (guo chi 国耻) (this involved ordering more materials), “I need information in astrological almanacs [huang li 黄曆 / yin li 陰曆] about certain years” (I answered this using my own books as the library has not collected them), “I am studying the effect of globalisation on Chinese companies” (I used several business databases), “I’m looking for the Journal of West China Border Research Society published in the 1930s”  (I found it in another library using Libraries Australia), “I am comparing different Chinese translations of Alice in Wonderland” ( I used Chinese language databases and catalogues).

With these more complex queries, much of the relevant material was not located in the Monash University Library. Such queries were not anticipated in my collection building. Material had to be specially purchased or obtained on inter-library loan.

More frequent reference queries include requests for various popular novels and other very specific title requests.

But the most common reference query theme would be “I have to write an essay about Chinese culture”, or “I want to compare Chinese and Western culture for an assignment”. These questions can be associated with straightforward undergraduate essay topics or more advanced assignments such as discussions of “cultural distance” in Translation Studies (which involve comparisons of Chinese and Western culture).
This leads me onto to the next point on cataloguing Chinese Studies materials.

How Cataloguing Can Assist the Reference Process

Making relevant material visible to users can be a problem because it is known that users rely a lot on browsing the catalogue using simple keyword searching as well as physical browsing of the shelves. That is why we need to make collections more visible and easy to find from the catalogue, especially non-book materials like microforms, databases and other electronic material, closed access DVDs and closed access rare books.

So, good cataloguing of Chinese language materials is vital.  Although Library of Congress Subject Headings do not always adequately describe Chinese language library materials, there are ways of making such materials easier to find through a library catalogue.  I have also found that users might use either Chinese or English keywords or a combination of both to search for relevant material. This needs to be kept in mind when enhancing catalogue records.

The contents of literary and other anthologies are invisible on the catalogue unless the contents are noted in the catalogue record.  Such records need detailed cataloguing involving 505 (contents notes), 520 (abstract) and 710 (personal name, added entry) for the authors in an anthology.  Some of these anthologies can be in several volumes containing dozens of works. This sometimes requires time consuming cataloguing. Often, without such extra cataloguing fields, we would have no way of knowing if our collection has writings by a particular author.

As I mentioned before, there are many reference questions which are variants of the request: “I need information on Chinese culture”. Chinese culture is a diffuse concept and may cross many subject areas. Enquirers may be referring to traditional festivals, proverbs and practices or they might be referring to culture in a slightly more academic sense of a national or ethnic group’s total set of practices and ways of thinking.  There is also the question of whether enquirers are referring to traditional, modern, popular or high-brow culture.  It depends on the user’s preconceptions and needs.

A frequent accompanying query is the request for material which compares Chinese and Western culture or Chinese and Australian culture.
How do you find material on Chinese culture and its comparison with other cultures? 

In the cataloguing process we can use the term “Chinese culture” as a 653 “Index term uncontrolled” or “Subject Keyword” (a sort of non-standard subject heading)[2].  This can be used for any books likely to come under the general description of “Chinese culture”.

For some books describing aspects of Chinese culture, it is difficult to describe them with Library of Congress Subject Headings ( LCSHs). LCSHs are suitable for Western concepts but less so for Eastern concepts and for Chinese words without an easy English translation, eg. a book about Chinese power relationships involving such concepts as guan xi 关系 (relationships) and lian 脸 (face, in the sense of social face or reputation).  Books about guan xi 关系 can only use the LCSH |a Interpersonal relations |z China. However one can make a 520 abstract note so that such books are searchable with a general keyword search, as I did in the record for this book:

中國人的權力遊戲 / 黄光國編
臺北市 : 巨流圖書公司, 民國77 [1988]

Originally when I retrieved a record for this book it only had the LC Subject Headings “Political corruption –China” and “Nepotism – China” which hardly describe the contents. It would have taken too much time to type out a 505 contents note (because of the lengthy chapter titles) but a shorter 520 summary note was easier.  Moreover, sometimes chapter titles are not very informative, so it would not be worth doing a 505.  As you can see, the LC Subject Headings are not very descriptive of the contents[3]. See Appendix 1 for a description of this record.

A related query is the topic comparing Chinese culture  and Australian or Western culture. There is only one way to find this with a subject search - to do a search using the LCSH “East and West” and perhaps limit the search to Chinese language or add the keyword  “China”.  Of course, once again we could add a 653 for Chinese culture.  See Appendix 2 for details of this record:

中國文化與西方文明 : 從臺灣人的移民性格談起 / |魏萼著.

Originally this record only had the subject heading “China – Civilization”.
I have added extra LC Subject Headings as well as a 653 to make the book more easily searchable for someone interested in the issue of Chinese and Western cultural interaction or comparison.

Sometimes there are user queries about “Chinese language communication” or about “Chinese culture and communication”. Here is an example of a bibliographic record of such a book:

中国人的人情与面子 / [策划余德慧] ; 张老師月刊编辑部编.

So that this book is retrievable from a search on “Chinese culture”  and “communication” and “face”, etc., I added the extra headings 653 Chinese culture, 650 Communication and 520 (summary note). This book would be very useful for such queries but it needs to be “findable” by adding those extra headings and notes.  See Appendix 3 for a fuller explanation.

When I became aware that library users were often using the Chinese keywords “Zhongguo wen hua 中國文化 ”, I started adding a 653 for the words “Zhongguo wen hua” together with the Chinese characters in the 880 (non-Roman script) field. For instance books about Chinese festivals can be most relevant when writing an essay about Chinese culture but the words “Zhongguo wen hua” do not normally appear in the title[4].

Studies have shown that users use keyword searching on library OPACs rather than title or author searches, let alone search on controlled subject headings.   In recognition of this, library OPACs normally default to keyword searching  (Jia Mi & Cathey Weng 2008 : 7). This sort of searching, which is akin to the popular internet searching methods, will more likely succeed if there is detailed cataloguing and if bibliographic records contain keywords which are obvious or commonly searched.  In any case it is believed that most academic users begin their information searches using an internet search engine.  Unless library materials are easily searchable and retrievable, users will bypass the library for easier methods of getting information (Ross & Sennyey 2008 : 145). For bibliographic records, this means making them searchable in both English and Chinese. I think this approach is validated  by a recent OCLC survey which found that library users appreciate evaluative content :

Discovery-related information elements beyond author and title, such as summaries, excerpts and tables of contents, are essential aspects connecting the stages of an end user’s discovery-to-delivery experience.
While conducting their searches, end users value and expect evaluative information to assist their discovery, and ultimately, the delivery of materials. Libraries need to make it easier for end users to quickly ascertain whether items meet their needs; for analog items, the available data needs to help users decide if it is worth their time to obtain the items—most often by going to the library.” (OCLC 2009 : 19)

In summary, I have tried to enhance the bibliographic description of certain Chinese language records where I have thought it warranted so that users can find materials using common and predictable keywords.  I believe in the importance of appropriately descriptive cataloguing for a reference service in the field of Chinese studies where non-western concepts are often found.

Of course not everything needs such detailed cataloguing. Most novels, for instance, are pretty straightforward and do not need extra notations.

According to Library of Congress Subject Heading rules, the topical term heading “Culture” cannot
have a geographical subdivision.  The LC entry for “Culture” has a see also reference which states that one can use the subdivisions “Civilization” and/or “Social life and customs” under the name of countries. This precludes one from having an LC heading with the words “China” and “culture”.   Moreover users would tend to use the expression “Chinese culture” or use the Chinese expression “Zhongguo wen hua”.

I have noticed that Taiwan or China derived OCLC records often use the approach of including Chinese language notes, eg. including the note “xiao shuo小说” in records for novels. 

Online Resources Beyond Our Own Collection

There is more information for Chinese Studies available online now than there is stored on the library shelves although there is still a lot of material on shelves which is not yet online.  

Online information is constantly increasing, changing, going out of date or disappearing. In such a situation it is difficult to put everything on a subject guide web page, keep this up to date and make this information easily searchable and retrievable.

Apart from our subscribed databases, there is a growing mass of free online information for Chinese Studies, such as statistical information, literary texts and dictionaries. An example is  Lin Yutang’s Chinese-English Dictionary of Modern Usage [5]. This online version of the dictionary invites users’ comments and corrections.  Our catalogue has a link to the online dictionary.

Free online  resources also include many out-of-copyright English language books about China in Internet Archive (digitised by Google) These English language books include translations of books by Chinese authors such as Sun Yat Sen and Zhang Zhidong.  An English version of the 19th century Peking Gazette has also been included in Internet Archive.

Another important resource, the World Digital Library has recently been established [6]. It already includes high quality images of several Asian classics. Chinese titles include encyclopedias like the Yongle Dadian 永樂大典and the 張深之先生正北西厢秘本 (1628-1644 ) [Secret edition of the Northern Western Wing by Zhang Shenzhi]

There is also an increasing amount of digital text on Project Gutenberg, such as Li Bai’s 李白poetry and 中國小說史略 by Lu Xun 魯迅.
The National Library of Australia has also commenced digitising some of their Chinese treasures such as a Buddhist sutra in Chinese printed in 1162 and the Chinese material in their London Missionary Society Collection. (National Library of Australia Digital collections). 

Online Novels

The publishing of online novels has been a growing phenomenon of the past decade. A search on the search engine Baidu 百度 for xiao shuo 小说  will show the extent of this. Likewise a search on the Taiwan based Yam search engine will retrieve similar results.

Some of these online books are free, others are not. Some are novels already published in print , eg. the novel Shanghai bao bei 上海宝贝on  the Tianya Book web site 天涯在线书库 . That web site not only includes literary texts, such as serialised novels, but also readers’ comments and contributions.  

It has been remarked that in Chinese internet literature there is little or no barrier between writer and reader and there need be no editor. It can simply be a matter of self-publishing. (Su, 2008 : 219-227)

Faced with the popularity of writing novels online, what role does the library have?  We can of course make links to them through the library catalogue as we do with other important, hopefully permanent web sites.

When we link to these online resources, should we put these resources on a special web page or incorporate them as links from our library catalogue? At Monash we tend to do the latter. Hopefully this will encourage users to use the catalogue for searching rather than use a search engine in the first instance.  A number of writers have remarked on the desirability of the library catalogue being the starting point for quality internet resources (Hinton 2002 :52).

In my paper I also spoke about the emerging phenomenon of e-books, both e-book databases and those contained in hand-held e-book readers.  The boss of Amazon Jeff Bezos said recently when unveiling the new 3G Kindle that the company's ultimate goal with the device is to have "every book ever printed in any language, all available [for download] in less than 60 seconds." (Montalbano, 2009).  If this succeeds, will it discourage people from using the library?

Although there are the advantages of avoiding the space problem with hard copy books, I am aware of problems involved in acquiring e-book packages.  Apart from the cost of paying for the subscription each year, e-books are several months behind the appearance of hard copy books and there is the problem of loading reader software (Ko & Li : 2008). Also they represent a stage of software and hardware development that will probably become obsolete one day and the contents will need to be migrated to some new platform or be lost.

Mobile phone (cell phone) literature ( 手机文学 ) is another phenomenon occurring outside the boundaries of the library. It is a phenomenon popular in East Asia and includes novels, essays and poetry. Normally readers will read this sort of literature on their mobile phones, after having paid a fee to a mobile provider in China.  Even a sort of Chinese “TV series” for mobile phones has been done consisting of five 5 minute episodes (Fang : 2005).   This “thumb culture” (拇指文化) is ignored by library catalogues and subject web pages.  If it is not formally published on the internet or in print, will it be lost to future readers?

Such material could be classified as pulp fiction which in its print form is often collected by libraries as an expression of popular culture and which might come to have great historical value.  Unfortunately this mobile phone literature will at some stage be lost unless it is formally published, as far as I can see.  Some select novels do get published, however.

Loss of Online Information

How will we preserve Chinese language web-based information for the future, particularly unofficial and dissident web sites and blogs?  We all know about broken links and defunct web sites which are the equivalent of yesteryear’s lost pamphlets and leaflets. Broken links are evident from browsing on portals such as the Asian Studies WWW Monitor and the Portal to Asian Internet Resources.   Indeed the more comprehensive coverage  such portals have, the more likely we are to end up with broken links. (Woodyard 2003).

It has been estimated that 44 percent of the Web sites that existed in 1998 vanished within one year. The average lifespan of a web site is 44 to 75 days (Barkdale & Berman 2007 : 15).

Capture and Archiving

Around the world a start has been made by larger national libraries to capture and preserve what is considered to be important digital information as well to digitise rare printed materials. There is the National Digital Library of China 中国国家数字图书馆 but obviously this will not include unofficial or dissident Chinese material.  There are also several digitisation projects in Taiwan concentrating on museum material and archives. 

An interesting and important initiative which addresses this problem is The Digital Archive for Chinese Studies (DACHS) set up in the University of Heidelberg. On their website Nicolai Volland has stated that in regard to his thesis:

“As an inhouse investigation carried out by DACHS in January 2005 has shown, Chinese Internet-based sources are highly instable and tend to disappear after a few years or even months. Websites based outside the PRC have proven to be only marginally more stable. To keep the documents permanently accessible for documentary purposes, all online material used in the thesis has been archived in DACHS”
(Volland : 2008)

Staff at DACHS  did a random sample of three articles in the China Quarterly in 2003 and one in 2004 which relied on internet sources for their arguments. By November 2004 most of the sources had disappeared from the Internet (Wagner : 2004). Rudolf Wagner has written at length about the problem of disappearing web sites. DACHS is engaged in capturing and preserving selected Chinese web sites and other web sites pertaining to Chinese Studies. They also add metadata to the images.

At Monash University all postgraduates from now on will have a PDF version of their completed thesis. However, where internet sites are cited, these are not captured and saved unless a student does so for their own private reference. Indeed it would violate copyright unless permission is obtained. If students want to quote extensively from a website, they must get the author’s permission.

In conclusion, as Francine Berman (Director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center) has noted, “there is more digital data being created than there is storage to host it.” (Berman : 2008). Berman says this “tipping point” occurred sometime in 2007.  This includes data on phones, hard drives, USB sticks, CDs etc.  In the future, whatever can be preserved will need to be migrated to new storage platforms. For example computers are now being produced without diskette drives, so information on diskettes will have to be migrated to hard drives and/or USB sticks. Likewise with old video formats and old video players.

Impact of Censorship

I then spoke about the related issue of censorship. We need to preserve information not only from digital loss but also from political censorship.

Obtaining published hard copy print material for Chinese Studies is generally not a problem. If we do not hold it, we can usually buy it or get it with interlibrary loan from elsewhere. However it can be difficult to obtain publications after a writer has suffered censorship or even imprisonment.

Reporters Without Borders has mentioned 48 Chinese journalists who have been imprisoned, (China – 48 journalists imprisoned 2009) while the PEN American Center says that 44 writers are currently in prison (Writers for freedom of expression in China 2009). These include dissidents writers of blogs, eg Yang Tongyan (pen-name: Yang Tianshui 杨天水) who was jailed for 12 years in 2006.  Obviously, if people want to do research on these writers it will be difficult and they may have to
find relevant material in places other than a library. Have their writings been expunged from publication and from memory already?  In the case of Yang Tianshui I have only found his poems on the internet.  I have not been able to find his poems in print.

Recently on 25 June we read the news about the arrest of Beijing literary critic and signatory of Charter 2008 零八宪章 Liu Xiaobo 劉曉波.  On that day I searched the Chinese search engine Baidu 百度 and the web site of Xin hua she 新华社but there was no mention of this incident.  I expect that we will be unable to source his writings from China for the foreseeable future although we are able to buy them from Taiwan.  One cannot find any of his publications on the web site of China International Book Trading Corporation 中国国际图书贸易总公司.  However on Libraries Australia you can find some of his writings from the 1980s.

Chinese-American novelist Ha Jin 哈金has written about the censorship process in China (Ha 2008).  He recounts not only his own experiences with translation censorship in China but also the censorship and banning of other mainland Chinese authors. According to Ha Jin authors who are well connected will not suffer apart from the act of censorship whereas ordinary citizens will simply not be heard of again if they protest in print [7].

Ha Jin gives the example of Yan Lianke’s 阎连科 novel Wei Ren Min Fu 为人民服务 (Serve the people). This novel was published originally by the magazine Hua Cheng 花城.  Even before he submitted the manuscript the author had cut out a lot of the content in an act of self-censorship.  The editor of Hua Cheng cut out even more before publishing.  As soon as it came out in issue 1 of 2005, the Propaganda Department ordered it to be withdrawn but it was too late. Even overseas subscribers such as our library had received their copy. However if you check the online version of that issue of Hua Cheng (eg. via the database CNKI 中国知网) you will find all the contents there except for Yan’s novel. This is a lesson on why online is not always best. The librarian’s word for this is “unpublish”[8]. A fuller version of the novel was subsequently published in Taiwan by Mai Tian 麥田in 2006, of course in traditional characters.

Another case is the author and filmmaker and Cultural Revolution survivor Dai Sijie  戴思杰 who now lives in France and writes in French and has been translated into Chinese. The simplified character 简体字   version of his novel Baerzhake yu xiao cai feng 巴爾札克與小裁縫  has been banned in China since 2005. The novel is available from Taiwan in an edition with traditional characters.  According to Dai there are differences between the two versions. (China Post 20 October 2007)

Readers may be familiar with the film version of Dai’s novel with the English subtitle Balzac and the little Chinese seamstress. There is also a translation of the book with the same title.

France-based novelist Gao Xingjian 高行健  was a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in December 2007 but he cannot be published in China because his works are banned (although there is online discussion about him).  There are also other authors who are intermittently banned :  Mian Mian 棉棉, Weihui 卫慧, Zhang Yihe 章詒和 and Tibetan writer Weise 唯色(Woeser), who are now only published in Hong Kong or Taiwan.   Zhang Yihe is a historian whose latest banned book Wang Shi Bing Bu Ru Yan 往事並不如煙 was a memoir of her father Zhang Bojun 章伯鈞, an author condemned by Chairman Mao as China’s “Number One Rightist” in 1957. We were able to purchase a copy before its publication was stopped (detailed accounts of the anti-Rightist campaign are still not allowed in China) but now one can only purchase editions published in Taiwan. Her book Ling Ren Wang Shi 伶人往事  is an account of the lives and deaths of seven Peking Opera artists and the full edition is also only available from Taiwan or Hong Kong. The mainland edition is missing passages about the Cultural Revolution and other events. (Martinsen : 2007)

Another problem I experienced was getting hold of a  DVD  of the Chinese TV series Zou xiang gong he 走向共和 which was considered to be too controversial in its depiction of some historical persons and had some episodes censored even before the series was cancelled [9]. The DVD was banned after its release. However it is still available from overseas suppliers.  In my case I was able to get a copy from Sydney via my good colleague Darrell Dorrington at the ANU Library [10].

It is important to make an effort to acquire such materials while they are available. A number of internet sites have details of banned Chinese books. Danwei is good source for the subject.


In his 2002 book  Meng Fan 孟樊, a professor, author and editor, discusses the nature of an impending “post book age”(後書本時代). He thinks that the traditional book will survive in some form but will be just one of a number of information sources. (Meng 2002 : 31)

Although there has been enthusiasm for using ebooks, databases and online data, users still want to read print books, especially literature.

In the future we will help users access information which in most cases will be online and will not necessarily be part of the physical collections which our offices are located near.  Already our reference books have been increasingly replaced by online resources (mainly subscribed databases and online reference books). Will this happen to the rest of the collection in the future?  The amount of information on subscribed Chinese databases now exceeds what we hold in print periodicals.  The amount is even greater if we include free online periodicals and books. The same will happen if our library decides to acquire commercial Chinese e-books. 

I believe that our future as Chinese Studies librarians is assured and will probably become even more important but our “collection” will evolve into something new.  Probably “our collection” will be equivalent to the relevant resources wherever they may be, physically or online.


As always, we will need to be expert in helping users find information in Chinese studies using Chinese and English language resources.  We will still need our traditional language skills and specific knowledge as reference librarians and cataloguers. However, we will need to keep up with developments in the world of online information and consider ways of preserving online data from the threats of censorship and technological obsolescence.

As well, we should not forget the real advantages of hard copy publications. Once acquired they are protected from censorship and they probably have greater longevity as a medium than digital data storage formats. They are less susceptible to damage than CDs and CD-ROMs and will be a medium which cannot become technologically obsolete.  They are easier to use and for genres like literature they appear to be the preferred medium for the reading public. They should form an important part of our collection in the future. Accordingly, we should be advocates for the traditional print book.

To remain relevant and desirable, our library materials (including the contents of books and periodicals) need to be easy to find. Therefore, as librarians we need to be experts in both finding information in Chinese Studies and in creating high quality, descriptive bibliographic records. Otherwise, we will be bypassed by our library users.

The theme of the 2009 conference was the sound “Jiu”. So for the concluding slide of my talk I chose the Chinese character “jiù” meaning “save”:

I urged the audience to save books and save information from digital loss and political censorship.



[1] This is a collection of Japanese and Chinese language books published between the 17th and 20th century held in the library’ Rare Books Collection.. The Chinese titles include works published in China and also Japanese editions of Chinese classics with Japanese commentaries on them. The collection was donated to Monash University Library by Captain L.K. Sheperd who met the scholar and bibliophile Mr Susumu Suetsugu of Matsue while in Japan, initially as an Intelligence Linguist with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force from 1947-1956. Much later, following Captain Shepherd’s return to Australia, he became the recipient of Mr Suetsugu’s collection in the 1970s.

[2]According to Library of Congress Subject Heading rules, the topical term heading “Culture” cannot
have a geographical subdivision.  The LC entry for “Culture” has a see also reference which states that one can use the subdivisions “Civilization” and/or “Social life and customs” under the name of countries. This precludes one from having an LC heading with the words “China” and “culture”.   Moreover users would tend to use the expression “Chinese culture” or use the Chinese expression “Zhongguo wen hua”.

[3] I posted a query to the eastlib email list about the question of whether LC Subject Headings are sometimes inadequate to describe Chinese concepts.  Of course there LC Subject Headings which use Chinese words and/or concepts:
Qi (Chinese Philosophy)
Five Agents (Chinese Philosophy) [use of wu xing]
Yi jing
but there are not that many of them

[4]I have noticed that Taiwan or China derived OCLC records often use the approach of including Chinese language notes, eg. including the note “xiao shuo小说” in records for novels.

[5] Originally published in 1972 by the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

[6] The World Digital Library opened on 21 April 2009. Although the National Central Library of Taiwan has been a partner in the project,  the National Director was refused entry to the opening cermony at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. (“Taiwan to protest against exclusion delegate from UNESCO Digital Library Opening in Paris”.Taiwan News. 22 April 2009)

[7] Books for publications are screened by the government’s General Administration of Press and Publication新闻出版总署 and the CCP’s Propaganda Department中国共产党中央委员会宣传部 or中宣部. They work together to monitor information published on the internet. Materials can be censored or banned. 

[8]I borrow this term from a recent article: Michael A. Keller, Victoria A. Reich, and Andrew C. Herkovic, “What is a library anymore, anyway?”.First Monday, volume 8, number 5 (May 2003),

[9]A detailed synopsis and discussion of this series can be found in: Gotelind Muller 2007. Representing history in Chinese media : the TV drama Zou xiang gong he (towards the Republic). (Berlin : Lit Verlag)

[10] According to Libraries Australia only Monash University library holds this DVD.  University of New South Wales Library holds the videocassette version.


Books and Reports

Lin, Yutang 1972. Lin Yutang’s Chinese-English dictionary of modern usage. (Hong Kong : Chinese University of Hong Kong)
(also online at: http://humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Lindict/)

Meng, Fan孟樊 (陳俊榮) 2002. 台灣出版文化讀本. (台北 : 唐山出版社).

OCLC. 2009 Online catalogs : what users and librarians want. (Dublin, Ohio : OCLC). Also online: http://www.oclc.org/reports/onlinecatalogs/fullreport.pdf

Su, Xiaofang 苏晓芳 2008.
网络小说论。( 北京 :中国文史出版社).


Barkdale, Jim and Francine Berman 2007. “Saving our digital heritage,” The Washington Post (16 May 2007) 15.

Berman, Francine 2008. “Got data? : a guide to data preservation in the information age,” Communications of the ACM. (December 2008) 51.12 : 50-56.
(accessed 29 April 2009)

“China : 48 journalists imprisoned”. Reporters without borders for press freedom.
(accessed 29 April 2009)

“Chinese author Dai Sijie visits Taipei for International Book Festival”. China Post. 20 October 2007 (online version) http://www.chinapost.com.tw/  
(accessed 30 December 2008)

Fang, Weigui 2005. “China’s culture of the thumb.” Receiver magazine. (July 2005) 13.
http://www.receiver.vodafone.com (accessed 20 April 2009)

Ha, Jin 2008. “Exhortation : the censor in the mirror,”  The American Scholar (Autumn 2008)77. 4 : 26-32.
(accessed 26 November 2008 via Proquest database)

Hinton, Mellissa 2002. “On cataloguing internet resources : voices from the field.” Journal of internet cataloging. 5.1: 53-67

Keller, Michael, Victoria A. Reich, and Andrew C. Herkovic, 2003 “What is a library anymore, anyway?”. First Monday, 8.5 (May 2003).
URL: http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_5/keller/index.html 
(accessed on 26 June 2009)

Ko, Angela & Mei Li. 2008. “Chinese e-books in Hong Kong : University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Hong Kong Polytechnic University (HKPoluU)” Journal of library and information science. (April 2008). 34.1: 78-83.
Online PDF version at:
(accessed 16 February 2009)

Martinsen, Joel. “Past stories of actors are not like smoke”. Danwei : Chinese media, advertising and urban life. 19 January 2007.
(accessed 29 April 2009)

Mi, Jia & Cathey Weng. 2008 .“Revitalizing the library OPAC : interface, searching and display challenges.” Information technology and libraries. (March 2008). 5-22.

Montalbano, Elizabeth. 2009. “Bezos, Stephen King unveil slimmed-down 3G Kindle”.  PC world. 10 February 2009.
http://www.pcworld.com/article/159182/bezos_stephen_king_unveil_slimmeddown_3g_kindle.html?tk=rel_news (accessed 2 April 2009)

Ross, Lyman & Pongracz Sennyey 2008. “The library is dead, long live the library! The practice of academic librarianship and the digital revolution”. The journal of academic librarianship. 34.2: 145-152.

Volland, Rudolf. The control of the media in the People’s Republic of China (Online Documents).
http://www.sino.uni-heidelberg.de/dachs/volland050530a.htm  20 November 2007.
(accessed 26 November 2008)

Woodyard, Deborah. “The great digital information disappearing act”. OECD Observer. (December 2003). No.240/241.
(accessed 6 April 2009)

“Writers for freedom of expression in China”. PEN American Center.
(accessed 29 April 2009)

Conference Papers

Liu, Jing and Yurong Atwill. Bridging East and West with cooperative reference services. Paper presented at IFLA, August 18, 2006, Seoul, Korea.
(accessed 18 January 2008)

Wagner, Rudolf. Harvesting the web : preserving Chinese voices : the Digital Archive for Chinese Studies (DACHS) in Heidelberg.
http:// http://www.sino.uni-heidelberg.de/dachs/publ.htm
(accessed 11 February 2009) [Paper given at the International Conference on Sinological Resources. Taipei 2004]

Web Sites

Danwei : Chinese media, advertising and urban life.
(accessed 22 June 2009)

Digital Archive for Chinese Studies
6 February 2009 (accessed 11 February 2009)

Internet Archive.
(accessed 6 February 2009)

National Library of Australia digital collections.
(accessed 20 July 2009)

Portal to Asian Internet Resources
(accessed 6 February 2009)

Appendix 1

Bibliographic Record. This record for this books originally only had the headings “Political corruption – China” and ‘Nepotism-China”. As such the description was inadequate in relation to the real contents of the book which is an ideal text for someone studying Chinese culture.  I added the other headings and also a descriptive 520 summary note in both languages.

中國人的權力遊戲 / 黄光國編
臺北市 : 巨流圖書公司, 民國77 [1988]
520__|6880-04 |aIncludes discussions of these concepts and institutions: Human feeling (renqing), face (mian zi), influence and social relationships (guan xi), imperial examinations (ke ju), organizational dependence (zu zhi yi lai), rewards (chou shang).
650_0|aPolitical corruption |zChina.
650_0|aNepotism |zChina.
650_0|aInterpersonal relations.
650_0|aPower (social sciences)
650_0|aNational characteristics, Chinese.
650_0|aFamily-owned business enterprises.
650_0|aIndustrial organization |zChina.
650_0|aEast and West.
653__|aChinese culture.
880__|6520-04 |a書裏有關的內容是 : 人情, 面子, 關係, 科舉, 組織 依賴, 酬賞.

Appendix 2

Bibliographic record of a book about Chinese and Western culture. The original record was rather sparse, having only the subject heading “China Civilization”. I have added some the LC subject heading “East and West” and also a 653 non-standard subject heading “Chinese culture”
If a user did a keyword search on the keywords “Chinese and Western culture, he would find books like this. A further refinement would be to limit the catalogue search to books in Chinese language.

中國文化與西方文明 :  |b 從臺灣人的移民性格談起 /  |c 魏萼著.
650_0 |a East and West
651_0 |a China  |x Civilization.
651_0 |a China  |x Civilization  |x Western influences.
653__ |a Chinese culture

Appendix 3

中国人的人情与面子 / [策划余德慧] ; 张老師月刊编辑部编.

520 0 |a Discusses the Chinese concepts of "face" (mianzi 面子 or lian 脸) and "human feeling" (renqing 人情) in social relations and communication.
650 0 |a National characteristics, Chinese.
650 0 |a Communication.
653    |a Chinese culture.

So that this book is retrievable from a search on “Chinese culture”  and “communication” and “face”, etc. I have added , 650 Communication, 653 Chinese culture and 520 summary note. This book would be very useful for such queries but it needs to be “findable”. 


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