井底之蛙

7/4/2013

Seek Truth from Farts

Filed under: — C. W. Hayford @ 12:31 pm

My passing comment on Alan’s Seek Truth from Facts mentioned that I once saw “Seek Truth From Farts.” Maybe it was a misprint, maybe a comment.

Then I ran across a posting on the Harvard-Yenching Facebook which linked to a Waseda University collection of Japanese painting.

https://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/s720x720/148556_147913225361069_116530357_n.jpg

 

 

10/29/2010

Bruce Willis and Harvard Yenching

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 11:57 pm

I dropped by Harvard-Yenching library this afternoon to pick up some books requested from the depository and look up a few more from my todo list. I noted down book locations to find on the shelves in three different columns on a scrap piece of paper:

1) English language books with library of congress numbers
2) Japanese books with library of congress numbers
3) Japanese books with a special Harvard-Yenching lookup number in the format of J xxxx[.xx] xxxx format.

Soon enough, I had a pile of books I just have to look at stacked about half a meter tall. Having brought my camera with me and not wanting to wait in line for the PDF scanners downstairs I snapped some photos of the few relevant pages from most of the books, using someone’s study carrel as my temporary workstation. The H-Y library is fantastic and filled with wonders, but the little tables that pass for carrels in those narrow book aisles offer only cramped working quarters.

It was Friday night and after dinner I decided to go see a bad action movie to unwind: the new movie “Red” with Bruce Willis. It was pretty bad, and there was hardly anyone in the theater. In fact, it was so bad I started checking my email while the movie was still going and debating on walking out.1

Suddenly, retired CIA agent Bruce Willis was in Chinatown, investigating the death of a Chinese-American New York Times writer who left behind a mysterious postcard with only a single number on the back.

Was it a phone number? No.
Was it a book in a library? Perhaps, but wait…it doesn’t look like a library of congress call number.

Suddenly Bruce hits on the solution! Obviously the number doesn’t look like an LOC call number because it is from the Harvard-Yenching classification system and refers to an Asian book!2

In order to provide the obligatory movie proof that “all spies are super polyglots” Bruce Willis then made his entry for the “2010 Worst Chinese spoken by a Hollywood Actor” award. I can’t remember what he said (was it, “I live in Wuhan?” Anyone catch it? This year I think he might actually beat Shia LaBeouf’s Chinese in the “Wall Street” movie sequel.)

Together with his completely useless kidnapped sidekick, a former weed dealer who left California to work in a pensions department in Kansas City, the protagonists made their way to the library to look up the mysterious book. Though the Harvard-Yenching classification is used by some other libraries, I assumed they made the drive up from NYC to Boston and was dazzled by the huge bright library they ended up in. The massive multi-floor monstrosity in which they found the Chinese book they were looking for with its supposed Harvard-Yenching classification call number was certainly a big contrast to the humble and cozy H-Y library. Was anyone else who has suffered through the movie been able to identify what library it is?

  1. Please don’t do this when at the movies if anyone is nearby who can see the bright glow of your smartphone…it is very annoying []
  2. I don’t remember the number looking anything like an H-Y number but, trust me, this is not a movie you want waste time on picking out inaccuracies. []

10/13/2009

Harvard to Digitize Chinese Rare Book Collection

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 6:02 pm

I just read on H-Asia that Harvard has announced last week that, in cooperation with the National Library of China, it will be scanning its 51,500 volumes of Chinese rare books. Early next year it will begin with its collection of Song to Ming dynasty works, and then move on to its collection of Qing dynasty works in 2013.

They also noted, importantly, that after digitization they will continue to allow scholars access to the works.

Read more about the announcement here.

9/16/2009

Happy Birthday New Policies!

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 2:42 am

2009 marks the 100th anniversary of the New Policies (新政) reforms of the late Qing. Well, not really. The Late Qing reforms are increasingly seen as more important even than the Revolution of 1911 in creating a new China. A modern government with modern departments was set up, there was a budget, modern schools were built, etc. The began sometime after the Boxer uprising of 1900 and lasted till 1911. The Revolutionaries found themselves taking over a much more modern Chinese state than had existed a decade before.  1909 is actually a little late as a date, but I am using it here because it seems like all the major libraries in China are celebrating. I was at the conference for the National Library in Beijing’s 100th. It was a big deal. Mei Baojiu performed and I got to see him. Then I come to Shaanxi and the Provincial library is also having its 100th. This was a bit annoying, since they were setting off fireworks outside the reading room and I wanted to stick my head out the window and yell “This is a library, darn it.” but I figured it would do no good. I assume people all over China are finding it hard to get any reading in as explosions and long-winded speeches interrupt the quiet. Both libraries of course started out as New Policies institutions. I’m not sure how it is with other cultural institutions, but Chinese universities are always very status conscious about how old they are, and people always ask when my university was founded and are quite impressed when I say 1875. That makes us older than Beida! Below are a couple of pictures of the gifts that Shaanxi library got on its birthday. I particularly  like the boat Qingdao sent.

Swag2

Swag1

11/17/2008

Newspaper Digitization at Shandong Provincial Library

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 10:00 am

I am currently spending my days at a microfilm machine in the basement of Shandong Provincial library, looking through old wartime newspapers from occupied and civil war period Shandong.1 The publications I’m looking at are often put out of more remotely located areas not fully under Japanese control such as Yishui(沂水).

To be given access to the old newspapers, I have to pay a fee of about $5 per reel and a few cents per photograph I snap of the microfilm machine screen, but I guess that is just the cost of doing research here (at least I’m allowed to use my camera, which one cannot assume in Asia). Their old microfilm machines aren’t the best, with usually only half of any given page fully in focus and no zoom capabilities but the lamp is brighter and the quality of the microfilm is significantly better than some of the late 1940s newspapers I have looked through in Korea’s national library. Generally, what is left of Korea’s published materials from the postwar late 40s are, as far as I can tell, in far worse condition than what I have come across here in Shandong among the Communist newspapers and documents coming out of nominally occupied zones of wartime China, with some exceptions.2

There is a much better and more powerful machine behind me, however, being used all day by a library employee. I do interrupt her at the end of each reel I look through to have her print out a few selected pages that I want a clearer image of than my camera is currently providing me with by taking pictures of the microfilm machine’s screen. Otherwise, she is slowly making her way through some of the old newspapers in their collection and taking a snapshot of each page that is then saved in the form of a TIFF image of about 200-300kb in size each. We have a similar machine (perhaps the same model) in the microfilm rooms back in the US but it is the first time I have seen it used for a full scale digitization project. Judging from her rate of coverage from the last week, she can probably go through somewhere between 1 to 3 years of issues for a newspaper per day, depending on the completeness of the collection. I estimate that she can probably go through all of the old newspapers the library has in perhaps two years or so, even if she is the only one working on this project.

Many of the newspapers and old magazines they have only exist for a few years and are missing many issues, but are really wonderful sources to have access to. She explained that when she is done the files then have to be processed and indexed by two other sections at the library but she says the eventual goal is to put these online in some form. She is currently making her way through the same newspaper I’m looking at, the Communist controlled 大众日报, and I only wish I could intercept those TIFF files before they get swallowed into the bureaucracy of the library. My experience with the Korean national library and oral history documents available here in digital form is that these wonderfully crisp and simple image files often get horribly mangled on their way to final public access by being transformed into proprietary formats that require dreadful downloaded plug-ins, Internet Explorer Active-X, special reader applications, and the like. God forbid we provide everyone with simple downloads of PDF or image files like some of the better archives and museums out there do. Sometimes issues of copyright are at fault, but that is no excuse for Japanese colonial period documents in Korea or these old wartime newspapers. I look forward to see what happens in this case and hope for the best.

In the meantime, for anyone doing research on Shandong, below are just a few picks from among just the newspapers you can currently view in their microfilm department, selected from periods I’m interested in, including some from occupied territory (often with 新民 in the title). As far as I could tell, these cannot be found listed their library’s search engine and I found a list in an old book that emerged from the drawer of the head of the microfilm division, who has been very friendly and helpful. I’m lucky I ended up in the right place. I was told by a woman working in the newspaper section at the library back in March that, “We have no newspapers from before 1949.” Since I had seen this library listed under various important entries in a master index (name escapes me for this important book) of where old publications are supposed to be located in the libraries and archives of China, I’m glad I was more stubborn this time about tracking down someone who knew what a gold mine there in fact was in their microfilm collection. The microfilm is located deep in the labyrinth of offices in the basement floor. If you wait a few years, perhaps some of these will be viewable online without, I hope, too much hassle. Ok, here is the small sampling, mostly from ’30s and ’40s offerings:

大华日报 1946.7-1948.8
渤海日报 1944.7-1950.4
大众日报(沂水)1939.6-1948.11
大众日报(济南)1950.1-2003.12
东海日报 1931.7-1937.12
华东新闻 1932.11-1948.8
济南日报 1925.11-1938.6
冀鲁豫日报 1944.7-1949.8
军民日报 1945.12-1948.10
鲁东日报 1939.1-1945.7
鲁南时报 1943.7-1948.2
鲁中大众 1945.4-1947.12
民言报 1945.10-1948.10
民众日报 1936.12-1947.1
青岛民报 1932.5-1937.7
青岛日报 1949.12-1996.12
青岛时报 1932.5-1948.6
青岛晚报 1946.7-1948.10
青岛新民报 1938.6-1944.11
山东民国日报 1929.9-1946.6
山东日报 1929.4-1936.10
山东新民报 1938.9.28-1949.9
新闻报(上海)1893.2-1949.5
烟台日报 1945.11-1947.9

  1. For more information on the library in English, see our EALA entry for this library here. []
  2. 1943-1945 大众日报, for example, is of noticeably worse quality than preceding years and even has some handwritten characters. I can only assume that the Japanese came across and destroyed or confiscated their printing press in one of their many mopping up campaigns in the province. []

8/10/2008

National Taiwan University Library

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:12 pm

I’ve started an entry for the NTU Library at the EALA wiki.

Besides the fact that this is a wonderful library by any international standard, I’m really impressed with how open this university library is to visitors. As I explain in the Usage section for the EALA entry, you need only bring a passport or student ID and register at one of the computers near the entry to get a temporary readers card and free wireless login information. The process is even faster and simpler than that at the national libraries in Taiwan, Korea, or Japan. I wish some prominent American university libraries provided such easy access to visitors.

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