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Xiaoyuan Liu
Assistant Professor of History
State University College of New York at Potsdam


1996-1997

From May 19 to June 1 I conducted two weeks' research in the Mudd and Gest Libraries of Princeton University. The research was financed by a Friends of the Princeton University Library Fellowship. The subject of my research project was about the interrelationship between the Cold War, the Chinese Civil War, and China's ethnic politics in regions like Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, and Tibet during the initial postwar years. My research in Princeton was guided and assisted by Mr. Ben Primer and his staff in the Mudd Library and Mr. Martin Heijdra and the staff of the Gest Library. The experience was very rewarding.

In the Mudd Library I examined a wide range of manuscript collections. Many of them provide interesting information on the Asia policy of the U.S. government during the early Cold War years. But some were more important to my subject. For instance, George F. Kennan Papers provide valuable information on Kennan's opinions on the Chinese Civil War, Chinese-Soviet relations, anti-communist resistance in China, and other related issues in the late forties; both H. Alexander Smith Papers and Karl L. Rankin Papers contain interesting correspondence and records of conversations that shed light: on American officials' and politicians' attitudes toward the "China debacle" in the later 1940s; and I found a couple of fascinating documents in Allen W. Dulles Papers about the possibility of American aid to anti-communist resistance movements in China's western provinces. These records are of great importance to my inquiry in possible U.S. involvement in China's borderland-ethnic politics.

The Gest Library has a superb collection of materials on China's ethnic affairs. I was informed that the library was specialized on Chinese publications about and coming out of Inner Mongolia and some other northern provinces of China. But its collections on Xinjiang and Tibet could also support substantial research regarding these regions. There were three categories of materials that I examined in the Gest Library. The first was professional journals and periodicals published in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, and Tibet, or about these regions. Knowing the difficulty of keeping a complete set of any Chinese journal, I was really impressed by the library's effort to complete and update its collections. The second category included the so-called "cultural and historical materials", or wenshi ziliao in Chinese. These were reminiscent materials written by participants of historical events, and often contained information that could not be obtained by other means. The Gest Library has excellent collections of these published at the provincial level of the three regions. Those published at lower levels are for "internal circulation" only and are hard to get even within China. The last category included scholarly books on ethnic affairs written by Chinese authors in the mainland and in Taiwan. I was very much impressed and delighted by the library's collection covering publications from the twenties to the nineties. I took advantage of all these collections and ended up duplicating several hundred pages of documents. But my full appreciation of the strong collection of the Gest Library was gained only later, when I did research in certain supposedly best research libraries in Beijing, China. Then I became realized that in terms of the comprehensiveness of the collections, researcher's accessibility to documents, and effectiveness of the service, none of the libraries I used in Beijing can compete with the Gest Library.




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