Academic Publishing and Information Service to China Scholars in North America
Karen T. Wei
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Since the arrival of Emperor Tongzhi’s (1856-1875) gift of Chinese books to the United
States Library of Congress in 1869, China scholars have relied on printed materials collected by China or East Asia specialists in academic libraries across North America for more than a century. By the 1980s, digital access to Chinese language resources began to emerge, and in the 1990s more online web-based databases were made available to the overseas market. This emerging environment in technology and user demands
for digital information resources in addition to printed materials has profoundly changed how Chinese Studies librarians are providing information service to China scholars.
This paper will present an overview of the Chinese collections and transformation of China studies in North America, survey recent developments in China’s academic and
scholarly publishing, and assess current information provision to China scholars and the challenges in providing such services. Finally, it will explore ways to enhance the efficient use of Chinese information resources by China scholars and students in North America.
1On the cover of the May 9, 2005 issue of the Newsweek magazine, there was a collage
of pictures with China’s ancient Great Wall on the left, a snapshot of modern Shanghai to the right, and a beautiful actress named Ziyi Zhang, branded as the face of a new China, in the center while “China’s Century: Special Report” splashed across the page. The
main themes centered on “Is China the World’s Next Superpower?” and “Does the Future
Belong to China?” A month later, on the cover of the June 20, 2005 issue of the US
2News & World Report, the large print of “The China Challenge” attracted immediate
attention, and “What the Awakening Giant Will Mean for America?” was the key tagline.
In both features, various aspects of China were explored regarding the unprecedented challenges, threats, and potential opportunities with the emergence of China in the East.
This renewed interest in China in recent years is in part due to China’s exploding
economy and its rapid rise as a major player in world affairs. China’s influence is now
extending to academia and the library world. China has emerged not only as an economic and political powerhouse, but also as a source of academic inspiration. The latter has begun to impact on library collections and information provision to China scholars and the general public overseas.
The trend was championed by the British Library when it issued a consultation document, “The British Library’s Content Strategy – Meeting the Knowledge Needs of the Nation”
on April 25, 2006. In this 36-page text, the British Library, responding to the rapid pace
of change in scholarly communications, recommends making appropriate shifts in the collections to reflect a changing world and the changing international research and scholarship. One such recommended shift is to give greater priority to area studies
3materials relating to China and India. The same was reported in a news release, “British
4Library Sets Sights on the East,” published in The Guardian on April 23, 2006.
The ramifications of this shift would be enormous for academic publishing in China and resulting information service to China scholars and researchers abroad. This paper will present an overview of the Chinese collections and transformation of China studies in North America, survey recent developments in China’s academic and scholarly
publishing, and assess current information provision to China scholars and the challenges in providing such services. Finally, it will explore ways to enhance the efficient use of Chinese information resources by China scholars and students in North America.
Chinese Collections in North America – An Overview
The collection of library resources for China studies in North America, or East Asian studies in general, is largely a post-World War II phenomenon. However, a few
thAmerican libraries had begun collecting Chinese language materials in the 19 century.
The first was in 1869 when the United States Library of Congress (LC) received a gift of
5ten works in 933 volumes from the Emperor Tongzhi (同治, reigned 1856-1875). In
1878, Yale University became the first academic library to establish a Chinese collection
with a donation of Gu Jin Tu Shu Ji Cheng [古今圖書集成; The Complete Classics
Collection of Ancient China], a 10,000-volume set of Chinese encyclopedias compiled
6during the Qing period and printed in 1728. Thereafter a handful of US institutions
started collecting East Asian printed materials, including Chinese materials in the late thth19 and early 20 century. These institutions, in chronological order by the year of establishment, were: Harvard, University of California at Berkeley, Cornell, Columbia, Princeton, and Chicago. It is worth noting that besides LC, Berkeley is the only public university on the list; all others are private institutions.
The majority of East Asian libraries in public institutions were launched after World War II and in the mid-1960s. Building up Chinese collections during World War II was in part responding to the need for a better understanding of China in times of war and the Communist Revolution. These institutions included Hawaii, Hoover, Michigan, UCLA, and Washington. During the 1960s, many more institutions of higher education took advantage of heightened interest in East Asia that led to the establishment of numerous Asian Studies centers across the nation when federal funding was generous in support of world area studies. Several institutions were designated National Resource Centers by the US Department of Education under Title VI of the Higher Education Act. Some of the East Asian libraries established during this period include Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, and Wisconsin.
The development of Chinese collections that serve China scholars in North America had been progressing at a steady pace since 1869 when LC received the first shipment of
Chinese books from China. The rapid expansion during the 1960s saw an increase in collection sizes during that decade that surpassed the total increase of the previous 100 years. Growth, however, slowed to some extent in the 1970s but resumed and accelerated in the 1980s when China allowed direct purchase of Chinese publications,
with some restrictions, by overseas customers including libraries in the US. By 2006, 137 years after the Library of Congress began collecting Chinese materials, there are more than 80 libraries in North America that systematically develop Chinese language and China-related library resources and many more that collect China subjects in English, providing critically needed service to China scholars and students overseas.
Based on the latest statistics collected by the Council on East Asian Libraries, there are nearly 8.5 million volumes of Chinese language materials collectively owned by 52
7reporting North American libraries as of June 2005. The figure would be much higher if
all libraries reported their holdings. Undoubtedly, with the hard work of many dedicated librarians over the years, Chinese collections have become one of the most accessible and comprehensive sources for information provision to China scholars in North America.
Transformation of China Studies – From Sinology to the Present
The development of Chinese collections in North America supported American interest
thin China studies. The origin of China studies can be traced back to the 16 century when
missionaries went to China, learned Chinese language, and some developed a high degree
thof competency in researching Chinese history and culture. In the mid-19 century when
American Sinology had just begun, scholars in Europe had already pushed for the
8thestablishment of Sinology as a discipline. By the 20 century the study finally gained
acceptance in institutions of higher education. The term Sinology was often used to describe the study of Chinese language, literature, or civilization and those researchers were regarded as Sinologists. While Americans began the study later than their European counterparts, they expanded rapidly. Similar to Sinology developed in other parts of the world the American study of China was concentrated on language, literature, and gradually progressed to other humanities subjects.
In the post-World War II era, America quickly emerged to become the world’s most
dominant political, economic and military superpower. At the same time, China was besieged by civil wars between the nationalists and the communists. The subsequent rise of communism in China prompted a shift of American academics from traditional Sinology to contemporary Chinese society, economy, politics, and culture. The move was consistent with America’s global and national interests in the post-war era.
stFrom early Sinology to the dawn of the 21 century, China studies have experienced
remarkable growth and expansion in scope. Chinese scholarship emphasis broadened from language, literature, and culture studies to other disciplines in the humanities. After WWII, there was further expansion to include contemporary social science subjects, such as political science, economics, popular culture, and cinema studies. More recently, Chinese science and technology have also emerged as areas of study. One good example
is the recently successful Department of Education Title VI grant application jointly submitted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Indiana University, which has placed emphasis on extending professional knowledge with a learning, teaching, and outreach initiative titled “Science and Technology in the Pacific Century.”
China studies have also transformed from discipline specific to interdisciplinary in nature, such as literature and cinema studies. In the last decade, we also witnessed China scholars who have for a century relied heavily on printed materials and are now utilizing emerging electronic resources. China studies have indeed undergone tremendous expansion and changes over time in order to meet the needs of academic and national interests in the U.S.
Recent Developments in Academic/Scholarly Publishing in China – A Survey
Academic publishing “describes the subfield of publishing which distributes academic
9”research and scholarship. Most academic work, published in journal article or book
form, relies on some type of peer review process to qualify texts for publication. For the purpose of this paper, academic or scholarly publishing is used interchangeably and refers to research strength publications at the college level or above, a good number of which were published by university presses. “Recent” denotes developments after
China’s Cultural Revolution, roughly from the late 1970’s to the present.
Beginning in the late 1970s, China had successfully launched a series of economic reforms and promoted its Open Door Policy. In the 1980s, China’s economy began to
take off. Heavy foreign investments sustained China’s continued growth. After China’s
entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, enormous economic and social transformation has taken place in all sectors of industry, including the publishing industry. In effect, China’s publishing in general and academic publishing in particular has undergone major changes during the last 25 years, especially in the last decade with the transition from print to electronic format.
The rapid development in China’s publishing industry is well documented in China
Publishing Yearbook and China Statistical Yearbook. During the last quarter century, the
number of published monograph titles has increased from 21,621 in 1980 to 208,294 in
102004, and the serials increased from 2,191 titles in 1980 to 9,490 in 2004. In the 1990s,
electronic resources in CD-ROM format became available to North American libraries, and web-based products were further developed during the last decades, which are now subscribed to by major Chinese collections throughout North America.
In spite of a fast changing information environment and rapidly developing electronic resources, China studies as a discipline is still heavily reliant on printed sources for research, as evidenced by the increase in printed publications. Conversely, electronic resources have developed at even faster pace, making vast Chinese resources accessible to overseas scholars.
In the last two decades we have observed the following trends in printed sources in the humanities and social sciences in which most East Asian libraries collect: 1) Increased publication of large sets, especially those subsidized by government agencies and university presses. Examples include Xu Xiu Si Ku Quan Shu [續修四庫全書] in 1,800
volumes published by Shanghai Chinese Classics Publishing House [上海古籍出版社]
in 2002, and Zhongguo Ming Chao Dang An Zong Hui [中國明朝檔案總匯; Collection
of the Ming Dynasty Archives] in 101 volumes published by Guangxi Normal University Press [广西师范大学出版社] in 2001; 2) Strengthened publication of local gazetteers [地方志]. During the last 25 years, over 10,000 local gazetteers have been compiled and
11 published by various levels of government agencies;3) A large number of classics [古
籍] are being collated and published, such as Beijing Tu Shu Guan Cang Zhen Ben Nian
Pu Cong Kan [北京圖書館藏珍本年譜叢刊]; 4) More emphasis has been placed on the
publication of historical archives such as Riben Guan Dong Xian Bing Dui Bao Gao Ji
[日本关东宪兵队报告集]; 5) Publication of folk literature, including Huizhou Wen Shu
[徽州文书]; documents of minority ethnic groups, for example, Yi Zu Wen Xian [彝族文
献]; documents of the Republican period, for instance, Man Tieh Diao Cha Bao Gao [满
铁调查报告], and documents that exist overseas such as Meiguo Hafo Da Xue Hafo
Yanjing Tu Shu Guan Cang Zhong Wen Shan Ben Hui Kan [美國哈佛大學哈佛燕京圖
書館藏中文善本彙刊; Harvard University Harvard-Yenching Library collection of
12Precious Chinese Books] have all been target areas for intense publication; and 6) the
number of social science publications has increased.
stIn the rapidly changing information environment of the 21 century, the development of
Chinese electronic resources has been most exciting and remarkable. It was only in the mid-1990s that China began to market its first electronic sources in CD-ROM to academic libraries overseas. A decade later, web-based databases, full-text digital collections, and Internet resources have all expanded rapidly. Many have become more accessible and affordable to East Asian libraries across North America. Today, the
increasing importance of electronic media has grown so significantly it has compelled us in the library profession to change the way we think about libraries and our service to a new generations of users.
In the last decade we noted the following developments in electronic publishing: 1) CD-ROM, the early format of Chinese electronic sources, including Si Ku Quan Shu [四庫全
書; the Complete Library in Four Treasuries], compiled in the Qing dynasty; 2) web-based products, including the most popular full-text online journal databases subscribed to by most Chinese collections in North America, such as CNKI’s China Academic
Journal Database (CAJ) and Wanfang’s China Online Journals (COJ); 3) electronic
resources with interdisciplinary research applications, such as Chinese Civilization in
Time and Space [CCTS, 中華文明之時空基礎架構] and Taiwan History and Culture in
Time and Space [THCTS, 台灣歷史文化地圖] developed in Taiwan; both are supported
by a historical geographic information system (GIS) with spatial-temporal applications; 4) the rapid rise and development in e-books, notably produced by SuperStar and Apabi in Beijing; and 5) other ongoing digital projects, aiming to make available vast Chinese information resources.