Collective history of China's libraries

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-24 07:21

Collective history of China's libraries

The National Library of China in Beijing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Cheng says his panel steered away from making political judgements and maintained a balanced tone in order not to compromise historical accuracy.

For example, early Western contribution to modern Chinese libraries, like those from Christian churches, are also listed in the new book. The volume also outlines the development of libraries in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan during their years under foreign rule, something mostly absent from previous academic works on similar topics.

"However, sometimes it's difficult not to get emotional, especially considering that so many libraries were destroyed by enemy forces during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45)," Cheng says. "Yet, the choice of some words may still reflect our stance."

The volume on the contemporary era of post-1949 outlines the key achievements made by libraries all over the country in recent decades.

Xiao Ximing, a professor from Wuhan University in Hubei province, says many libraries provided vast numbers of submissions during the writing of this volume, but he adds rigid standards were maintained during the selection process to avoid instances of self-promotion.

Rather than focus on major libraries, more attention was given to showing the history of smaller, lesser-known yet still crucial institutions to help fill in the gaps in other studies, Xiao says.

"This book has monumental significance," says Chen Binbin, deputy director of the public cultural institution department at the Ministry of Culture.

"Through interdisciplinary studies, the book also reflects social changes across China as a whole. The history of libraries is a microcosm of the history of Chinese civilization."

Xiao also hopes the book will help raise public awareness of the need to care for ancient books just as the draft of a new national public library law is about to be submitted for deliberation at next year's National People's Congress, China's top legislature.

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