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Badly Wanted, but Not for Reading: The Unending Odyssey of The Complete Library of Four Treasures of the Wensu Library

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Title: Badly Wanted, but Not for Reading: The Unending Odyssey of The Complete Library of Four Treasures of the Wensu Library
Author(s): Wang, Chengzhi
Subject(s): Libraries and society Libraries in China Wensu Library
Abstract: The Chinese book project Siku Quanshu (The Complete Library of Four Treasures) was conducted at the Emperor Qianlong’s command starting in 1772. Thirteen thousand two hundred fifty-four books were collected nationwide and thousands of scholars were involved; 3,462 books were selected to make up the Siku Quanshu proper. Over 4 million pages were transcribed by thousands of copyists. Out of the seven copies made, only three copies survived the dramatic historical changes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries almost intact. This article traces the odyssey of the Wenshu Ge copy, particularly in the rapidly changing sociopolitical and economic contexts of the twentieth century. The emphasis of the article is placed on the description and analysis of its relocation in the early 1920s soon after China was transformed into a republic; in the 1960s at the height of the Cold War when China split from and confronted the USSR; and in particular, in the new era of reform and opening up for economic development since the late 1970s. After the turn of the century, the two-decade competition between Liaoning Province and Gansu Province for physically keeping the copy has become increasingly intense at the national, provincial, and local levels, and the competition has created significant impacts on library building and cultural development in the two provinces and beyond. The article examines important factors of culture, tradition, preservation, and modernization associated with the fate of the copy in hopes that the perplexing realities of Chinese history and society will be better understood as China has entered a new era.
Issue Date: 2007
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Citation Info: In Library Trends 55 (3) Winter 2007: 387–403.
Genre: Article
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/3722
ISSN: 0024-2594
Publication Status: published or submitted for publication
Rights Information: Copyright 2007 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
Date Available in IDEALS: 2008-02-28
 

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