Issue 90, September 2010
Treasure trove
The newly opened Wang Gungwu Library at the Chinese Heritage Centre has a prized collection of more than 50,000 books on the Overseas Chinese.

Stepping into the Wang Gungwu Library is like stepping into the inner world of overseas Chinese communities, particularly those who have made Southeast Asia their home.

In the library’s extensive collection are 5,000 textbooks from defunct Chinese-medium schools in the region that give a glimpse into a bygone era. Other treasures to be found – rare printed materials such as genealogical records, tomes by Chinese clan associations, documents relating to the former Nanyang University and books published before and just after the Second World War.

Open to the public, the library is the first in the region to focus on the Chinese diaspora and is named after the eminent historian who not only pioneered studies on the Overseas Chinese but also donated nearly half of the library’s collection of 50,000 books.

Set up by NTU and the Chinese Heritage Centre, the Wang Gungwu Library first opened its doors to researchers in 2003 after Prof Wang gave the Chinese Heritage Centre 20,000 volumes from his private collection. He subsequently bequeathed another 3,000 books. With the support of NTU, private donors and schools, as well as the acquisition of collections from local school libraries, the collection has grown substantially.

For academic scholars and the casual historian
At its official opening on 14 September, NTU President Dr Su Guaning said the university was truly privileged to have such a rich resource under one roof. The library’s extensive collection of books, bound journals and periodicals covers everything from history and art to literature and philosophy.

“Prof Wang Gungwu is a true scholar’s scholar,” said Dr Su. “It is befitting that the Wang Gungwu Library at the Chinese Heritage Centre bears his name.” Dr Su also said he hoped to see the resources of the library grow to benefit future scholars.

Prof Wang himself hopes that “the library will become so well known as the library for Chinese overseas materials that scholars everywhere will want to come here to do their research”.

Prof Wang has authored numerous books and research papers on the Chinese and the Chinese diaspora. He was the founding president of the International Society for the Study of Chinese Overseas and currently chairs the East Asian Institute, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Under an agreement, the Wang Gungwu Library receives professional and management support from the NTU Library, which also spearheads improvements to its infrastructure. For instance, renovations carried out in 2007 significantly increased the library’s shelving capacity, enabling it to house an extra 40,000 volumes in the Open area and 15,000 volumes in a Special Collection room.

Strong roots
Welcoming visitors to the new library, Prof Leo Suryadinata, Director of the Chinese Heritage Centre, said this was the place to “explore the multifaceted histories and cultures of the Chinese Overseas”.

Research on the Chinese language and culture remains a strategic priority for the university. “Today, the study of the Chinese Overseas continues not only in the Chinese Heritage Centre, but also in NTU’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, especially in our Division of Chinese Studies and the Centre for Chinese Language and Culture,” said Dr Su.

“As we continue to build on this rich cultural heritage, and reap the benefits of a healthy collaboration, academic scholarship on the subject of the Chinese Overseas will continue to flourish and enjoy pride of place in the research landscape of NTU,” he added.

© Corporate Communications Office