Ch’en Shou-yi’s Personal Documents

This week I processed a small box full of Ch’en Shou-yi’s personal documents such as his diaries, to-do lists, address books, official documents, appointment letters, governmental forms, and materials on his family. Ch’en’s personal documents provide supplementary sources for research of contemporary Chinese scholars in the United States.

As a scholar, Ch’en collected many books for his research and for The Oriental Library (now Asian Library at The Claremont Colleges Library). This box preserves the receipts from various bookstores and presses in China such as The K’ai T’ung Bookstore (開通書社), Sui Ya Zhai (邃雅齋), Lai Xun Ge (來薰閣), and others. Due to Ch’en’s contributions to Chinese studies, Ch’en was appointed by colleges and institutes in both China and the United States. This box preserves Ch’en’s letters of appointment from Academia Sinica in Taiwan and Peking University China foundations, as well as governmental documents for travel and work like IRS taxation forms, and the entry forms to the US and Taiwan.

From left to right: three receipts from book sellers Lai Qing Ge (來青閣), Sui Ya Zhai (邃雅齋), and Lai Xun Ge (來薰閣)
Left: Appointment record from the University of Hawaii; Right: Appointment record from Academia Sinica

Among these materials, I was really impressed by the conversation notes between Ch’en and one of his Japanese friends, Katsuki Tamura (田村克喜) written during Ch’en’s visit to Japan. On four small notes, Ch’en and Tamura wrote simple Chinese characters to talk about Ch’en’s research topic, and Ch’en answered Tamura’s question on why he was not able to return to Mainland China because of the contemporary communism movements. At the time, Ch’en seemed unable to speak Japanese and Tamura did not speak English. Thanks to the same Chinese characters in both Chinese and Japanese, the two scholars successfully completed their conversation with pen and papers. With the same passion and friendship in research, language was no longer an obstacle for Ch’en to expand his social circle.

Left: Katsuki Tamura’s (田村克喜) business card; Right: Tamura extends his best wishes to Ch’en