井底之蛙

1/30/2014

News from the City of Five Rams

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 5:44 am Print

Everybody on this blog is publishing stuff lately. The scholar formerly known as Gina Russo, now known as Gina Russo Tam, has a nice review up on the archives of Guangzhou. So if you want to plan a trip, this would be helpful.

For what it is worth, this is one of the most valuable features of the very valuable Dissertation Reviews. Chinese archives change constantly, and this sort of post is one of the best ways to find out what is up before you go. With any luck Gina will post something soon on cool things she found in the archives.

 

11/13/2013

Happy birthday Dunhuang Project

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:32 pm Print

Did you know that this is the 20th anniversary of the International Dunhuang Project? Neither did I. They grow up so quick these international scholarly projects. In honor of the occasion they are posting a lot of things from their collection

They will also let you Sponsor A Sutra. Just as patrons used to get their name attached to a sutra they had copied, you can have your name (or your organization’s name) attached to the digitization of a sutra. They don’t seem to have anything available in my price range right now, but I am definitely going to get some. I think it would make a great Chanukah gift as well.

What interested me most was that they have beefed up their educational section since last time I was there and there is some great stuff. Two that I noted from the Cultural Dialogue on the Silk Road page were

a collection of mudras

mudras

Which is neat if you want to talk about the mass production of Buddhist art and the physical dissemination of religion. These look to me a lot like models for someone doing Buddhist paintings or sculptures.

letter

Along the same lines we have a model letter to apologize for getting drunk. As the site points out things like books of model letters or etiquette books really only make sense in a time or place of rapid social change or intercultural contact. Otherwise why bother to write down how to behave in a book? For more advanced students this will also help to show how weird Dunhuang Chinese was. Here is the text, for any of our readers who may need it.

Yesterday, having drunk too much, I was so intoxicated as to pass all bounds; but none of the rude and course language I used was uttered in a conscious state. The next morning, after hearing others speak on the subject, I realized what had happened, whereupon I was overwhelmed with confusion and ready to sink into the earth with shame. It was due to a vessel of small capacity being filled for the nonce too full. I humbly trust that you in your wise benevolence will not condemn me for my transgression. Soon I will come to apologize in person, but meanwhile I beg to send this written communication for your kind inspection. Leaving much unsaid, I am yours respectfully.

9/11/2012

National Library of China- A fine place to do research

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 4:13 pm Print

 

Most of our readers who might care already know this, but the National Library in Beijing is a fine place to do research on Republican China. It has it’s own subway stop, which means easy access. The computer system works well (nice search features), getting a card is easy, and the collection is good. Specifically, a lot (all?) of the published journals and reports that used to be in Nanjing are now in Beijing. Many years ago, Nanjing had the Tezangbu (Special Collections Department) which held all the journals and books that used to be in the pre-49 National Library. I spent some time talking to people and looking through the computer, and it seems that the books I read many years ago are still in Nanjing (or somewhere) but pretty much all of the journals and official publications are now in Beijing. This is a big deal, since local and provincial governments loved to publish stuff. If you find a monthly report in a provincial archive there is a good chance that at some point it was published in a monthly report in a nice typeface that does not look like the work of a budding master calligrapher.

They will photocopy stuff for you. Photography is not permitted. I saw some people who were obviously trying to photograph whole books get yelled at. On the other hand, I was in the reading room while some people discretely photographed a few individual articles and nobody noticed or cared.

 

 

9/19/2009

Looking behind the curtain

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 2:58 am Print

Inside the Archives

One day after lunch when I returned to the Shaanxi Provincial Archives one of the employees asked if I would like to see the documents they were working on upstairs. At all other Chinese archives I have been to that never happens. You sit in the reading room and they bring you stuff, and a tour of the place is not going to happen. So I was a bit surprised, but also excited. I got to go up to the room where they were processing documents Archive room

One thing they do is mount the pages. Most Republican-era documents are printed on fairly flimsy paper which was then folded over to make a sort of two-ply page. In Shaanxi they mount all of these on heavier paper in part to preserve the pages and also to make them easier to read without the other side bleeding through. That is this guy’s job, and yes, that is an ordinary iron he is using. 1

Mounting

Thus you end up with something like this. Nice firm mounting, easy to read, and easy to preserve.

Document

They are also doing computer print-outs of all the tables of contents in each folder. At present these are hand written, and most of them are fine, but some of them seem to have been done by budding master calligraphers. On others you can see the handwriting get worse as the copyist gets bored. Now they will all be nice and machine printed. You might think they were on their way to digitizing the whole collection. Indeed, here is a lady doing scanning for the digitization process.Digitize

Here are people entering keywords. Soon, not sure how soon, the whole archive will be digitized, and you will be able to call up stuff from anywhere.Keywords

Cool huh? Well, this is a Chinese history blog, and I think it’s cool

Tour Guide

My tour guide

  1. I don’t know if they still do this, but one bad thing about Shaanxi is how they used to deal with post-it notes. On Chinese documents if someone in the bureau had a long comment that could not fit in the margin they would write it on a slip of ultra flimsy paper and glue that to the top of the page. These long strips often rip or come off, and are hard to deal with. The solution in Shaanxi, at one point, at least, was to glue the entire comment on top of the document. Not ideal. []

12/8/2008

The Shanghai Lexicographical Publishing House.

Filed under: — gina @ 3:50 am Print

Robert Culp’s Articulating Citizenship and other articles[1] claim that the largest holdings of textbooks is in the Shanghai Lexicographical Publishing House, known in Chinese as the 辞书出版社图书馆, or for short the 辞书 (cishu). The building is in a small courtyard near West Nanjing Road,  a small dusty building made of cement (which makes it quite uncomfortable to look through the card catalog located near the door in a hallway where small heaters cannot reach).

I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be able to use these archives. Culp claims that a letter of introduction was sufficient to be able to use these archives; I was fortunate because my adviser here in Shanghai has an old classmate that works at the Cishu. The workers at the archives were more than happy to fetch materials for me and allow me to read (so far) everything I have asked for; however, others I know have been not quite as lucky with permission to use the archives, as they are private and not supposed to be open to the public.

The staff is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. They are also quite proud of their library, and are often engaging in conversations about how many foreign people come to their library. The staff and other researchers also love to engage me in conversations. The rules are not strict at all, like some other archives; they will fetch materials at any times of the day, they don’t force us to leave during lunch, and while we cannot photocopy, we can take pictures for a small fee (half the price of the Shanghai library). Finding materials is slightly more difficult because the card catalog is only by title, although for earlier materials it is possible for them to do a subject search on the computer (this is not, however, possible for later materials, as they are only cataloged on the cards).

It is very clear that the library has a lot of material, and anyone interested in education should definitely make use of their collection. It seems that having the support or letter from a Chinese professor, especially one that the staff at the Cishu know, is helpful in facilitating the process. Similarly, knowing exactly what kind of material you need to use seems to make them more likely to let you in. I was never told clearly what was necessary to be able to use the archives as I received different stories from different people, but it seems that having very clear justification for using their archives (as in, I’m doing such and such research, I need such and such material and I can’t find it elsewhere) seems to help a lot.



[1] An introduction to this archive can be found in:
Culp, Robert. “Research Note: Shanghai Lexicograhpical Publishing House Library’s Holdings on Republican Period Popular Culture and Education.” Modern China (2), 1997: 103-109.

8/22/2008

Beware of Female Spies

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 8:21 am Print

I decided to bring you a little Friday night clipping from the archives where, as always, I have my eye open for treason and treachery:

In the Chinese national government archival collection at Taiwan’s Academia Historica there is a small file from the military affairs committee1 dated April, 1938 and entitled:

Take Strict Precautions Against the Enemy’s Female Traitors
嚴防敵人女漢奸

The concise attached brief2 says that, “According to reports, [Japan's] special services last month began to dispatch [Chinese] trained female traitors to Hankou, Chongqing, Changsha and other cities” who are to conduct intelligence operations against nationalist forces. It recommends a close investigation and special vigilance against these traitors.3

  1. 軍事委員會, is there a better standard translation for this? []
  2. in the form of a 代電 report, then largely repeated in an directive 訓令 []
  3. This very short file can be found in 國史館 國民政府檔案 001000005615A (001-071040-0001) 敵情動態, 31-36 (1026-1031). []

8/13/2008

舊版報紙資訊網: Initial Thoughts and Technical Review

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 4:47 am Print

I have been spending a few days looking at one of the important early postwar newspapers in Taiwan, 臺灣新生報, using the microfilm collection on the 6th floor Taiwan resource center of the National Taiwan Library (國立中央圖書館臺灣分館). Yesterday, I happened to catch a glimpse of someone viewing some old copies of another important postwar Taiwan paper, 民報, using an online database, which I will offer some comments about below, following a brief opening rant.

I’m not a big fan of microfilm newspapers. The advantages of this medium over providing access to physical copies or bound printed copies are obvious. Among them include: 1) preservation 2) space conservation 3) the ability to zoom 4) ability to print zoomed in articles from microfilm machines onto various sizes of paper, etc.

However, from the point of view of the historian, the disadvantages soon become apparent: unlike the bound printed copies of, for example, 中央日報, 申報, or 大公報 that I can find in various libraries, which sometimes shrink the original size of the newspaper such that the characters in the articles are barely legible – it is actually possible to browse these through these collections quite fast. It is in fact faster to turn the pages of a book and scan a page of a newspaper for interesting articles than it is to operate the knob of a microfilm machine and zoom in and out on interesting looking pieces.

More importantly, the higher contrast of black text on the printed white of paper makes the experience of looking at bound volumes far more pleasant than a microfilm machine. With the exception of some digital microfilm readers that artificially boost the contrast, the vast majority of microfilm readers I have used in Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and the United States are extremely hard on the eyes. If you have to sit at the reader for 4-10 hours, with some short breaks, for even a few days in a row, the impact on one’s eyes is noticeable. The sick yellow background (or black with white text, as the default is for many newspapers I viewed in Korea’s national library, hardly much better) of the microfilm reader, desperately trying to transfer light to the viewer through its lenses always seems to fall below the expectations of my eyes, which yearn to look at real paper, or even the greater contrast of a computer screen!

Digital databases of newspapers are always welcome. In addition to the power of database searching, they offer some of the benefits of both paper bound and microfilm collections but also some more serious defects. It is not all one glorious march towards progress. In my experience, I have found that digital newspaper collections (as well as many library OPAC databases and other online resources) often are designed by people that appear to greatly underestimate the importance of browsing. It isn’t just about what is there in that article or even on that page; historians often want to know what can be found near that article, page, or issue. Sometimes we aren’t looking for a single article about a single topic, but trying to get a feel for the kinds of things being written on the days and weeks surrounding a particular historical event. It is all part of the task of surveying the discursive environment of a time or place.

Now, having made these comments, let me turn to the database I discovered completely by chance yesterday: 舊版報紙資訊網. Read on below the fold…
(more…)

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