Newsletter No. 59 (January 2012)

2011 International Workshop for Professional Librarians : Sinological Resources and Services

Mr Dennis Kishere
Chinese Studies Librarian
Asian Studies Research Collection
Monash University

I was fortunate to be able to attend the “2011 International Workshop for Professional Librarians : Sinological Resources and Service” held at the National Library of Taiwan in Taipei between  17 to 21 October  .   This is the second time this workshop has been held.  The National Library of Taiwan has been very active over the decades in assisting overseas libraries which have Chinese language collections, including activities like this workshop.

Twenty eight librarians who are responsible for Chinese Studies at their libraries participated in the workshop. Most of the them were from  USA and Canada but there were also librarians from Singapore, Hong Kong and Macao as well as four of us from Australia – Di Pin Ouyang  (National Library), Bick-har Yeung (University of Melbourne), Nancy Li (Sydney University) and myself.    

The course consisted of lectures and visits.  The lectures were delivered by several prominent scholars and librarians on aspects of Chinese Studies resources in libraries in Taiwan and elsewhere. There were also some interesting visits to libraries and museums.    In between activities, the participants and workshop staff had plenty of time to have informal discussions with each other.

The National Library of Taiwan put considerable resources into organising a successful  workshop.   Daily lunch as well as several wonderful  dinners were arranged.   It was a busy schedule and by the end of each day I gratefully collapsed on my hotel bed.

Wang Mingke  王明珂  of National Chung Hsing University gave a lecture about the changing nature of Chinese Studies.  Wang Mingke is an anthropologist who has studied non-Han ethnic groups and his research interest led him to query the definition of Chinese Studies (especially after this term came to be used in place of Sinology). This also became a topic of discussion at the Chinese Studies Center. For instance should Chinese Studies include the study of Tibetans and Mongolians?  Scholars came to the conclusion that the study of  “the mainstream and the border areas”   is very useful to clarifying issues in Chinese Studies as a whole.

Tseng Shu Hsien 曾淑賢, the Director General of the National Library of Taiwan, spoke about the various resources and services of the Center for Chinese Studies. The Center for Chinese Studies is a major research and publishing institution associated with the National Library of Taiwan.

Li Tianyang李天(石養), the former head of the Center for Taiwan Film Digital Movie Archives台灣電影資料館 spoke about activities of the Center, particularly preservation and digitisation of old films . The Center has a fascinating web site which contains filmographies, biographies of actors and directors,  etc. This is the Center’s web site:

Roger Greatrex, Professor of Chinese at Lund University (Sweden), spoke about “Lost Heritage” (the significance of the loss of texts throughout Chinese history due to natural and man-made calamities as well as their partial recovery.)  Archeological discoveries may give us a clue to the extent of the lost heritage and allow for some reconstruction of such texts and cause us to to re-evaluate tradition.

Lim Kim Char, Principal Librarian, Professional Services of the Singapore National Library Board  spoke about the Chinese language resources of the Singapore National Library

Professor Lu Jintang 盧錦堂 of National Taiwan University gave an erudite and amusing talk on the problems in verifying the provenance and  authenticity of Chinese rare books.  He emphasised the importance of cultivating yanguang眼光(educated discernment)  for the evaluating of rare books.  He also spoke about problems unique to the cataloguing and documentation of Chinese rare books such as the physical excision of information from pages of books and replacement with new paper information.

We paid an interesting visit to an ecologically designed library in the district  of Beitou (northern part of Taipei), the Beitou Branch Library of Taipei City Library 台北市立圖書館北投分館. The library is designed to blend in with the adjacent natural contours and is shaded by the surrounding trees and vegetation.   The side of the library and the outside walkway follow a curving pattern and overlook a forested brook.  It is ecologically designed with solar power and water recycling and uses natural materials.  The roof of the library is covered by a metal screen upon which creeping plants grow. The plants moderate the internal temperature of the library.
Another visit was to Academia Sinica in Nan’gang 南港 (a district in southeast Taipei).  Academia Sinica, founded on the mainland in 1928, is the foremost research institution in Taiwan and is strongly supported by the government. We were treated to some interesting talks regarding different history databases being produced at the Institute of History and Philosophy.

Standing on the verandah of the Beitou Branch Library. Note the curving roof line.

We also visited the Fu Ssu Nien Library 傅斯年圖書館 of the Academia Sinica.  Fu Ssu-nien was a prominent scholar and the first director of the Institute of History and Philology at Academia Sinica.  The library has an important rare books collection of over 220,000 volumes  which is in the process of being digitised. Over 50,00 titles are exceptionally rare.  The library also holds many manuscripts, folk literature, texts for variety shows and story telling as well as ink rubbings.
The library web site is at:

We strolled around the nearby Hu Shih Park胡適公園 which is situated on a small hill next to the campus. Hu Shih was a former president of Academia Sinica.  He was also one of the major intellectuals of 20th century China and also a diplomat. His tombstone is located in the park.  Here we took some group photos.
In the libraries which we visited  I was impressed by the amount of money that must have been spent on interiors and furnishings. An example is at National Taiwan University Library there is a special reading room for authors associated with the university (台大人文庫). The semi-circular room has a floor of polished, multi-hued lengths  of wood. The book shelves follow the curve of the wall and are surmounted by tall arched windows which admit lots of natural light. In the middle of the room is a large oval-shaped black marble table surrounded by transparent plastic chairs.   In the main collection areas readers’ chairs are of heavy wooden design, using rosewood.  The display units for recent serials are also of the same heavy wood and enable storage of back issues inside the display units behind the latest issues.  These areas are all of recent construction and designed to fit in with the existing architectural ambience.   

We had an interesting day trip to the Lanyang Museum 蘭陽博物館 in Yilan宜蘭 which is on the Yilan Plain in northeastern Taiwan.  This museum exhibits the culture and environment of the Yilan region with its collections of local relics illustrating the 4000 years of the region’s history. The museum has a specialised library which is used by museum staff and researchers.  The architecture of the museum together with the adjacent pond aim to reflect  and blend with the surrounding geological features.   It was raining all day when we there but this is not unusual as Yilan County has over 200 rainy days in the year.
This is the museum’s web site :

After looking around the  museum we were taken on a tour of the National Center for Traditional Arts in Wujie Township 五結鄉  This Center houses many buildings in traditional architectural style, including the Wen Chang Temple 文昌祠 and the  residence of scholar Huang Zuanxu 黃鑽緒, built in the traditional three section compound style .  It is over 130 years old. A guide accompanies visitors and explains the significance of the architectural styles and traditional motifs on buildings
This is the web site for the center :

I hope this workshop will be held again in the future. It will be an opportunity not to be missed by librarians who look after Chinese materials.


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