A new exhibit in the IAS Office Exhibit Space, located on the second floor of Bostock library, showcases recent acquisitions on East Asia. New Chinese-language arrivals provide a glimpse of perspectives surrounding female agency and subjectivity during major political shifts in contemporary Chinese history. New Korean-language publications (including graphic novels) focus on important historical issues and events, such as the experience and testimony of Korean women during periods of Japan’s colonial occupation, and contemporary social and political movements in 20th-century Korea. Finally, our existing holdings in Japanese have been enhanced by a major gift of volumes focused on Japanese religion, which provides new research avenues for scholars of East Asian Buddhism.
Chinese Women’s Liberation
Luo Zhou, Librarian for Chinese Studies
Duke University Libraries has expanded its collection with over 200 titles, primarily published during the 1950s and 1960s in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). These titles consist of original booklets and pamphlets that focus on women’s liberation and the promotion of the new Marriage Law, which was issued by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1950, only one year after the establishment of the PRC. The Marriage Law, which was the first fundamental law of the PRC, sought to provide a legal foundation for Chinese women to combat oppressive practices such as polygamy, widow chastity, child brides, and bride-wealth. The 1950 law was a significant legislative accomplishment for the CCP in terms of women’s liberation. The promotion of the new law was a nationwide effort, with numerous illustrated publications intended for women, 90% of whom were illiterate in the early 1950s. Concurrently, publications were issued to promote a new image of women as citizens capable of doing the same job, and seeking the same rights, as men. “Holding Up Half the Sky,” a slogan first introduced in the People’s Daily in the mid-1950s, best encapsulates the CCP’s goal of achieving two main social objectives: nurturing women’s individuality and their social productivity.
20th-Century Korean History
Miree Ku, Librarian for Korean Studies
Duke’s Korean collection recently added new graphic novels (Korean manhwa), monographs, and biographies about important historical issues and events in 20th-century Korean history such as “comfort women, “the Korean War, and civil rights and pro-democracy movements.
Between 1932 and 1945, women from Japanese-occupied areas in Korea, China, and the Philippines were coerced or tricked into joining private military brothels. In some cases, women were kidnapped from their homes. Many of the new additions to Duke’s Korean collection focus on direct attestations of women, including oral interviews and letters, which provide a grim picture of violence against women during this period of Japanese colonial expansion. By preserving the physical record of East Asian female subjectivity, such accounts help researchers to understand not only the range of women’s experiences in colonial contexts, but also how direct testimony remains a valuable source of our historical knowledge. Additionally, the Libraries acquired several works covering contemporary democratic movements in Korea, especially the Gwangju Uprising (1980), which was a period of armed conflict between local citizens and South Korean military. Likewise, there are also new works on the June Democratic Struggle, which was a nationwide pro-democracy movement in South Korea that generated mass protests in the summer of 1987.
Matthew Hayes, Librarian for Japanese studies & Asian American studies
Finally, as part of a large-scale gift generously donated by Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Studies Paul Groner (UVA), Duke University Libraries received key works on Buddhism in East Asia. The work of Dr. Groner, who is a renowned scholar of Japanese Tendai Buddhism, has engaged disciplinary precepts and ordination, the status of nuns in medieval Japan, and later Buddhist educational systems in Japan. The first part of this two-part donation is comprehensive in scope, and includes biographical works focused on key Buddhist figures; expository and commentarial works focused on significant scriptures; philosophical works focused on concepts such as emptiness, non-self, the nature of the mind, and disciplinary ethics; as well as critical reference works. Duke’s current holdings tend toward contemporary Japanese Buddhist histories with a focus on the Zen sect. Dr. Groner’s donation thus fills a crucial chronological and sectarian gap in our current holdings and provides new and important resources for scholars working on East Asian Buddhist philosophy, philology, textual studies, commentarial traditions, law, or ritual. The second part of this donation will arrive in a few years, once Dr. Groner has completed the last of his projects, and will be of similar scale, but contain far more volumes in Japanese. Taken together, this gift will robustly support Buddhist Studies, and the study of East Asia more generally, among Duke faculty and students for decades to come.
APSI launched its Spring Speaker Series by inviting Dr. Groner to give a talk, which was held at Duke Libraries on February 16th. He spoke about the nature of precept-taking in medieval Japanese Buddhism, after which attendees gathered to formally announce Dr. Groner’s donation to Duke Libraries. The exhibit showcasing these new arrivals to the East Asian Collection is on now through May 2023. Visitors to this exhibit space are encouraged to take a bibliographic guide to each title, located on the windowsill to the right of the exhibit case.