Jan. 20, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 8

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    Tsien honored for saving rare books

    [tsuen-hsiun tsien] by dale walker A delegation from the National Library of China presented an award for distinguished service to Tsuen-Hsiun Tsien, Professor Emeritus in East Asian Languages & Civilizations and Curator Emeritus of the University’s East Asian Library, at a ceremony Friday, Dec. 17.

    Tsien worked for the National Library of China from 1937 to 1947 and risked his life to protect its rare-book collection when Japanese troops attacked Shanghai in 1941.

    Fearing that bombs might strike the National Library, Tsien assisted in a secret transfer of approximately 30,000 books to the United States Library of Congress for safekeeping. Housing these volumes in Washington provided an opportunity to microfilm them, preserving and increasing access to these treasures.

    The National Library of China sent Tsien to the University of Chicago Library in 1947 to catalog its Chinese collection. Two years later, he became the first Curator of the Far Eastern Library (now the East Asian Library), a position he held until his retirement in 1979. Tsien’s judicious guidance helped the University Library build one of the nation’s premier Chinese collections. Among his many contributions to the University Library, Tsien reestablished an exchange relationship with the National Library of China that has benefited researchers ever since.

    Tsien received his award as part of the National Library of China’s 90th-anniversary celebration. Representatives from the National Library presented the award at a reception co-sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies and the University Library.