Library given vast Chinese book collection
By David Hutton
Emeritus history professor Man-Kam Leung has donated his massive collection of books on Chinese history and culture to the University Library, giving the U of S one of the top five Chinese book collections in Canada and the best in the Prairies.
“This collection started 50 years ago when I was a student in Hong Kong,” says Leung, who began teaching at the U of S in 1965 as a member of the Department of Far Eastern Studies.
“Since I had worked at the U of S for so long, I wanted to give something back. I felt this is the right thing to do.”
His collection, consisting of more than 15,000 books and 60,000 volumes, including journals, garnered interest from many university libraries around the world. But Leung felt the U of S Library was the right place for it.
“For 20 years in our department Professor Leung was Asian history at the U of S,” says History Department Head Brett Fairbairn. “He truly built this area of study here himself. For this he was very much respected and admired by students and colleagues. The collection, the courses and his students are a lasting contribution and a huge benefit to the U of S community.”
Leung’s collection is diverse, ranging from academic journals and dictionaries to medical texts and pulp Chinese fiction. The bulk of his collection consists of Chinese-language books written by modern Chinese scholars on history, literature, and philosophy.
Due to the restrictive publication policy of the Chinese government, Leung says that academic publication usually had fewer than 1,000 copies in print and only 100 copies sold outside China.
Leung’s collection of academic journals published in China and Hong Kong will be the first of its kind for the U of S Library.
“I concentrated on publications which are not in the library and are related to my own research interests,” says Leung.
“For quite a few years, I was the only person who specialized in Chinese history and culture at the U of S. When people asked me interesting research questions, I had to keep on acquiring books to keep myself updated and well informed.”
The library currently has basic texts on Chinese history, literature, and philosophy, with strength in Buddhist and Taoist texts and the Chinese dynastic histories. Leung’s donation will significantly expand holdings in this area.
With an increasing number of international students from China choosing to study at the U of S and the growing global influence of China, Leung feels his collection will be helpful in the future development of Chinese studies here.
Building library holdings in oriental languages was a focus of the Department of Far Eastern Studies when it started, but the department was phased out in 1984. To keep up with new research in his field, Leung had to use his own financial resources to purchase Chinese publications which related to his research.
To obtain certain books, Leung had to compete with oriental libraries in Europe, Australia, the United States, and Canada in acquisition. Although he cannot estimate the worth of the collection, he says it consists of numerous rare books, many of which have fewer than 50 copies in circulation worldwide and are quite valuable.
“We are very happy that professor Leung decided to honour us with his collection,” says Donna Canevari, the liaison librarian in charge of the collection. “It fits perfectly with our collection parameters and the new University initiatives in this area of study.”
Leung has donated his time to the U of S library to help catalogue the collection with the help of a former student. Otherwise, the University Library would have to hire a translator.
The full collection will be available for use in the coming years. Many of the books from his collection on China in French, German, and Russian languages are already in the library.
David Hutton is a student intern in the U of S Office of Research Communications.