The Shanghai Lexicographical Publishing House.

Robert Culp’s Articulating Citizenship and other articles[1] claim that the largest holdings of textbooks is in the Shanghai Lexicographical Publishing House, known in Chinese as the 辞书出版社图书馆, or for short the 辞书 (cishu). The building is in a small courtyard near West Nanjing Road,  a small dusty building made of cement (which makes it quite uncomfortable to look through the card catalog located near the door in a hallway where small heaters cannot reach).

I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be able to use these archives. Culp claims that a letter of introduction was sufficient to be able to use these archives; I was fortunate because my adviser here in Shanghai has an old classmate that works at the Cishu. The workers at the archives were more than happy to fetch materials for me and allow me to read (so far) everything I have asked for; however, others I know have been not quite as lucky with permission to use the archives, as they are private and not supposed to be open to the public.

The staff is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. They are also quite proud of their library, and are often engaging in conversations about how many foreign people come to their library. The staff and other researchers also love to engage me in conversations. The rules are not strict at all, like some other archives; they will fetch materials at any times of the day, they don’t force us to leave during lunch, and while we cannot photocopy, we can take pictures for a small fee (half the price of the Shanghai library). Finding materials is slightly more difficult because the card catalog is only by title, although for earlier materials it is possible for them to do a subject search on the computer (this is not, however, possible for later materials, as they are only cataloged on the cards).

It is very clear that the library has a lot of material, and anyone interested in education should definitely make use of their collection. It seems that having the support or letter from a Chinese professor, especially one that the staff at the Cishu know, is helpful in facilitating the process. Similarly, knowing exactly what kind of material you need to use seems to make them more likely to let you in. I was never told clearly what was necessary to be able to use the archives as I received different stories from different people, but it seems that having very clear justification for using their archives (as in, I’m doing such and such research, I need such and such material and I can’t find it elsewhere) seems to help a lot.

[1] An introduction to this archive can be found in:
Culp, Robert. “Research Note: Shanghai Lexicograhpical Publishing House Library’s Holdings on Republican Period Popular Culture and Education.” Modern China (2), 1997: 103-109.

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