Assistant Professor of History
State University College of New York at Potsdam
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
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.