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Chinese scholar donates book collection to Harpur

By : Ingrid Husisian

Xiuying Zou, Asian Studies librarian/bibliographer-cataloger, sorts through books at the Glenn G. Bartle Library, where she helped secure a donated book collection worth nearly $50,000.
A vast collection of 19th-century and modern books highlighting the history, philosophy and literature of China has been donated to the Glenn G. Bartle Library’s growing collection of Asian literature.

University of Pittsburgh Professor Emeritus Yi-t’ung Wang of the University of Pittsburgh donated his collection, known as the Yi-t’ung and An-Chi Lou Wang Research Collection on Chinese Culture, which is comprised of 4,435 volumes and 1,558 titles, and is worth nearly $50,000.

The University credits its new donation not only to Wang but also to Xiuying Zou, who has a joint appointment between Harpur College’s Asian and Asian-American Studies Program (AAASP) and the library as its Asian Studies librarian/bibliographer-cataloger.

Zou was made aware by a former colleague that Wang, a Chinese historian who earned his PhD from Harvard in 1949, wished to donate his collection to an academic institution that would not only use, but also add to, the volumes that he collected during his career.

Frank Mols, library associate director of technical services and budgeting, said that BU acquired the collection through a bargain sale.

In 2002, AAASP received a Freeman Foundation Grant to support its expansion. Using a portion of the funding, the AAASP, the library and the University Foundation worked together to facilitate a purchase of Wang’s collection. The difference between the $50,000 value of the collection and the $21,000 purchase price is a gift to the University Foundation. In addition, Wang donated $20,000 in cash to establish a permanent endowment, which will fund the purchase of additional Chinese reference manuals.

Upon donating his collection to BU, Wang wrote an essay in Chinese about his family’s tradition of love and respect for books.

Entitled “Studio of Silken Driving: Meditations on the Collection Donated to Binghamton University,” the essay chronicles Wang’s lifelong quest to build a library of his own after the Japanese burned his family’s collection in China during World War II.

Wang also explained that he choose the University as the recipient of his prized collection because of its strong reputation for academics and large population of students of Asian descent.

A majority of the books are rare and valuable, particularly dating back to the nineteenth century. Each book is bounded by thread stitches, a technique that dates to the Ming Dynasty from 1368 to 1644; some volumes are cased in ornate boxes bound with silk ribbons or ivory buttons.

Zou and her husband traveled to Pittsburgh so they could chronicle, box and arrange the transport of the collection to BU. The books are now located in the library’s special collections area, where they await cataloging and bookplates.

Each book will receive a custom-designed bookplate emblazoned with Wang’s family crest to recognize his generosity.

The collection will provide invaluable for faculty and students, many who will use the materials for their research. Wang’s donation furthers the plans of Professor John Chaffee, AAASP director, who wants the University to become a regional resource for scholars of Chinese history and language.

“The Wang collection gives us a well developed collection of essential works of traditional Chinese history and literature,” Chaffee said. “The audience would be scholars of pre-modern Chinese society, culture and literature, of which we have several here. The collection provides a wonderful base for developing more modern collections as well.”

The collection also arrived at a time when Asian and Asian-American Studies, which as a major was approved last April, is steadily growing in enrollment. Fran Goldman, acting associate director of the program, said that about 30 students are either majoring or minoring in the program.

Parts of the collection will also be available on Interlibrary Loan through OCLC, a network of nearly 7,000 colleges and universities throughout the world that loan and share books. To view Wang’s essay.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08