Ch’en Shou-yi and The Development of Chinese Studies in the Western United States 

In the past weeks we have introduced Ch’en Shou-yi’s academic circle with various global scholars, Ch’en’s academic contributions to Sino-US communication, and Ch’en’s successful education for the new generation American scholars on Asian studies. This week we would like to focus on Ch’en’s contributions to the development of Chinese studies on the West Coast of the United States, especially in California, by introducing different types of materials.  

Generally, Ch’en’s contributions to the Chinese studies in the Western United States was a combined result from Ch’en’s long-term efforts and support from academic institutions and Rockefeller Foundation. First of all, the Rockefeller Foundation offered financial support to Ch’en’s Asian studies. Ch’en’s capability and hardworking nature won the Rockefeller Foundation’s admiration, which hoped Ch’en could stay in the US longer to complete more work on Asian studies. As we have introduced, in 1937, Ch’en went back to China but was stuck in Shanghai due to the breakout of the war. Therefore, Ch’en returned to the US and continued to the development of Asian studies with the help of the Rockefeller Foundation. Second, last week we presented Pomona College’s 5th president, Dr. Charles K. Edmunds, who provided administrative support to Ch’en and the founding of the Asian studies program at Pomona College. When Ch’en was teaching at the University of Hawaii, Ch’en maintained correspondence with contemporary scholars like John K. Fairbank, to discuss education on East Asian studies in the US. At Pomona College, Ch’en focused not only on education for his students and academic works for the society, but also collections for Asian studies. Ch’en was involved in securing the Todd Collection of Chinese bronzes to Pomona College. Also, due to the deep relationship between the faculty members in Lingnan University and Pomona College, Ch’en, as an alumnus, played an important role in collecting materials related to Lingnan University such as Dr. Edmunds’ slides, and facilitated the book procurement from China and Japan for the Oriental Library, the predecessor of Asian Library at the Honnold Library. In the end, Ch’en participated actively in various activities to present China to the American public. Newspapers, radios, and television programs became Ch’en’s stage to enlighten the public. In addition, Ch’en invited global scholars to give seminars in California. Apart from paper-based collections, Ch’en’s collection also preserves recording tapes of Hu Shih’s speech at the Claremont Colleges. 

Ch’en left valuable legacy for the Asian studies in the Western United States. On the one hand, the Asian Library with its collections of rare books Ch’en donated or help to obtain, and the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures that Ch’en helped founded, became visible heritage. On the other hand, Ch’en’s passion for education and research with students and scholars, and his sense of duty for Asian cultures became invisible heritage for us to continue the development of Asian studies in the Western United States.  

Left: Local newspaper reported Ch’en’s new book; Middle: Ch’en’s lecture on TV series; Right: Ch’en’s lecture at a seminar in California
Left: Letter from John K. Fairbank to Ch’en on teaching Chinese history and language in the US, enclosed a syllabus; Middle: Ch’en’s typed invitation draft to Dutch historian J. J. L. Duyvendak; Right: J. J. L. Duyvendak’s visit to the US
Left: Letter from Rockefeller Foundation to Ch’en; Middle: Memo by Ch’en and Claremont College Library on book purchases for the Oriental Library; Right: Plague, in memory of Ch’en’s contributions to The Claremont Colleges and Honnold Library