(Studio of Silken Driving)
Meditations on the collection donated to Binghamton University
Some time before the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), members of the Wang Family, who were originally from Tai-yuan, migrated from Henan to Jiang-yin. The patriarchs of the family established a homestead in Wen-chang Xiang (the Lane of Thriving Literature), in the southern section of that city.
When my father, Xi-yu, and my mother, nee Pei-qui Jiang, found the old homestead inadequate for their five sons and four daughters, they built a new residence west of the old home. A studio, Jia-si-zhai, was integrated into the residence. My father named the studio as a reminder for all to be vigilant against indiscretion and discourtesy.
The studio housed about 7,000 juan (volumes) of Chinese classics, including, among other titles, Liu-zi-quan-shu (The Complete Works of Six Master Philosophers, compiled and published by Gu Chun in 1533); Quan Tang-shi (The Complete Anthology of Tang Poetry, printed by order of Cao Yin, 1658-1712) as well as the first editions of each of the following titles: Jing-yi-kao (The General Bibliography of the Confucian Classics by Zhu Yi-zun 1629-1709); Si-ku-quan-shu zong-mu-ti-yao (An Annotated Bibliography of the Imperial Catalogue with Ji Yun, 1724-1805, as edior in chief); and Xu Zi-zhi tong-jian (A Supplement to the Mirror of History by Bi Yuan, 1730-1797). Most outstanding in the collection was the 24 Dynastic Histories, a facsimile version of the Wu-ying Palace edition, published by the Wu-zhou Tong-wen Shu-ju (The Five Continents Universal Press) in the Guang-xu period, 1875-1908. The history of each dynasty was bound in an individual wooden box. Each box, in turn, had an engraved label in the Li script of the Han calligraphic style, which was then filled in with green pigment. Together the boxes formed a colorful screen.
In November,1937 our house was burned down by the Japanese army when it invaded and ravaged Jian-yin with military atrocities.
Twelve years later, after receiving the Doctor of Philosophy in Oriental languages from Harvard University, I began a long college teaching career and thus had the opportunity to build a book collection using my own financial resources. Over the span of several decades, in addition to titles in Western languages, my Chinese collection grew in size to almost ten times that of the original holdings in the Jia-si-zhai.
As time passes, I am approaching my twilight years. In memory of my late wife, nee An-chi Lou, I have begun seeking an institution of higher learning and research in the country of my adoption, the United States. I hoped to find a school committed to Chinese studies, but which is still in the budding stage of building a collection of library holdings to support that commitment. To such an institution I wished to donate my entire collection.
>The Binghamton University of the State University of New York impressed me as an institution that is developing vigorously. It had the added appeal of an impressive enrollment of students of Asian ancestry, estimated to be one-fifth of the total student body.
After deliberate consideration, I am now making a formal donation of my library to the University of Binghamton.
The University of Binghamton, upon receiving the gift, shall create a special category of research publications on Chinese culture to be integrated into the Wang Endowment. The Endowment will also facilitate the purchase of additional books in the Chinese language in years to come.
In the stillness of the night, I imagine the delight of my late father's reaction to this transaction. Wherever he might be, he would be waving his sleeves as he steps forward, saying,
"The marauders from
the East turned my library to ashes, but a pristine collection from you shall
grow among the friends in the West.
Both libraries, yours and mine, vanished in an instant, but I am not perturbed.
Once we had no choice, now we have no fear, but only hope.
May all you, dear young and brilliantly eager scholars,
Carefully seek the truth in all fields of studies: philosophy, history, classics, or belle-lettres.
The flame of civilization does never fade away, and
The river of beneficence shall flow in perpetuity."
Composed and handwritten
in Chinese by Yi-T'ung Wang, Heir to the Jia-si-zhai, in the winter of 2003,
at age Eighty-nine.
Paraphrased into English by Chun-jo Liu, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota, December, 2003.