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A Hundred Harvests: The History of Asian Studies at Berkeley

East Asian Studies

East Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, go back more than a century to the establishment of the University's first endowed chair, the Agassiz Professorship of Oriental Languages and Literature, endowed in 1872 by Edward Tompkins, one of the university's founding fathers. Instruction in the languages and literatures of East Asia began in that year. Throughout the first years of the Department of East Asian Languages (founded in 1896), John Fryer and the successive holders of the Agassiz chair directed a curriculum of instruction in modern and classical Chinese with the help of junior faculty. The appointment in 1901 of Yoshisaburo Kuno, an alumnus of the university, enabled the department to develop a parallel curriculum in Japanese, thus laying the foundations of the university's distinction in both Chinese and Japanese Studies.

The department expanded with courses in Manchu, Mongolian, and Tibetan. Korean was first offered in 1942; it now has a curriculum that includes elementary through advanced language instruction as well as courses in Korean poetry and prose. World War II found the staff well prepared to participate in intensive language programs necessitated by the national effort.

The second stage of development began following World War II with the substantial investment by private philanthropic foundations in East Asian programs throughout the country. This phase provided the program that critical margin of difference in extramural funding which in turn stimulated the university to support the program on a far larger scale than before.

Teaching Program

Under such favorable funding circumstances, it was possible to hire East Asian specialists in many of the humanities and social science disciplines, including anthropology, comparative literature, history, history of art, language and literature, linguistics, music, geography, philosophy, political science, religious studies, and sociology. Faculty have been added to the professional training programs of architecture, business administration, education, journalism, law, and public health as well. The Group in Asian Studies, an interdisciplinary program that grants B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees, developed out of the postwar effort. Founded in 1949, the Asian Studies program will soon celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. The university also offers a program in Buddhist Studies at the Ph.D. level. Today throughout the university, sixty faculty members teach more than 150 courses to more than 6,894 students in East Asian Studies. In the ten years between 1985-1995 alone, 191 Ph.D. degrees were awarded in East Asian Studies through the various departments and above-mentioned interdisciplinary degree programs; another 294 M.A. degrees were conferred.

East Asian Area Centers

The Center for Chinese Studies was established in 1957 to meet the urgent needs of social scientists focusing on developments in contemporary China. In the early years, the priority was to increase the number of trained personnel equipped to understand and analyze the economic and political development of contemporary China. Early participants have gone on to become national leaders in the field of Chinese studies. A series of monographs and occasional papers, published under center auspices, appeared in the mid-1960s and continues to the present time.

A contemporary China reading room was established in the early 1960s. As materials from and about the People's Republic of China and Chinese Communist Party history became plentiful, the reading room was transformed into the Center for Chinese Studies Library. As the Chinese studies faculty community at Berkeley grew, the mission of the center expanded to support scholarly activities in the full range of China's historical experience. Currently, research sponsored by the center focuses not only on the People's Republic of China but on the Chinese societies of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia as well.

Center for Chinese Studies Library

The Center for Chinese Studies Library was established in 1957 as an off-campus reading room affiliated with the Center for Chinese Studies. At a time when the political biases of the McCarthy era made communist-published materials extremely difficult to obtain, the reading room provided scholars of mainland China access to crucial research materials unavailable on campus or elsewhere. The reading room quickly grew into a full research library and moved on campus in 1972, and gained branch library status in the early 1980's.

The CCSL now houses one of the premier research collections on contemporary mainland Chinese affairs. The library's holdings consist of over 60,000 volumes of books, 200 current periodical titles, and over 1,500 videotapes. The collection consists of approximately 85% Chinese-language and 15% English-language materials. The focus of the collection is primarily on post-1949 Chinese society, politics and government, economics, military, and law. CCSL collections of particular note include the New Local Histories collection, the Wen Shih Tzu Liao Literary and Historical Materials collection, the Communist Party Organizational Histories collection, and the Chinese film collection.

The Center for Japanese Studies was founded in 1958 similarly to support student training programs and faculty research. In 1964 it was enlarged to include Korean studies, reflecting the growing strength of the Berkeley faculty in this important field. In 1979, the Center for Korean Studies established an identity separate from the Japan Center. At present there are approximately 20 faculty and staff in Japanese studies representing such disciplines as East Asian languages and literatures, history, journalism, law, linguistics, music, geography, political science, and sociology. Regular and visiting faculty offer courses on Korea in such fields as language and literature, history, political science, and occasionally in economics and geography. Currently, the Center for Japanese Studies and the Center for Korean Studies support teaching, faculty research, fellowships, visiting scholars, the East Asian Library, publications of monographs, lectures, and seminars.

Since 1973, Berkeley has received grants under Title VI of the Higher Education Act (formerly NDEA) to fund the Berkeley East Asia National Resource Center (NRC), first jointly with Stanford and then independently since the early 1980s. The grants allow us to support teaching, lectures and conferences, outreach programs, and the library. The grant also funds East Asian Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships (FLAS).

The establishment of the NRC coincided with efforts already under way to bring together the various parts of the East Asian Studies program at Berkeley, which had evolved more or less separately over several decades. These efforts culminated in the establishment of a new institute-level administrative and research unit in 1978 known as the Institute of East Asian Studies. In establishing this institute, Chancellor Albert H. Bowker stated, Scholarly study of East Asia at Berkeley is a national resource unusual in scale and excellence. It is the product of historic commitment to scholarship in the Far East, of inspired teaching and research, of unique collections, and of private and public investment in its growth and development. Much of this occurred when East Asia was a mysterious far-off corner of the world. But today the worth of this effort to the nation is apparent.

Given Berkeley's preeminence in this field, I have designated East Asian Studies as one of our top priorities. The institute brought together the Centers for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Studies, the Berkeley East Asia National Resource Center, and the Group in Asian Studies. More recently, the Chao Yuen Ren Center for Chinese Linguistics and the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies have come under the administrative umbrella of the institute.

Campus Cultural Resources

The University Art Museum houses one of the finest university Asian art collections in the United States. It contains more than 1,000 hanging scrolls, screens, fans, and ceramics from China, Japan, and India, as well as a number of important individual works and some depth in the areas of Yangchow painting and Japanese Nanga paintings and woodblock prints. The museum's Pacific Film Archive houses the largest collection of Japanese films outside Japan. It also has presented films series from China, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and India.

Berkeley's Department of Music offers a strong ethnomusicology program, which includes courses in the music of the East Asian and Southeast Asian traditions, as well as a performance course in the Javanese gamelan. Cal Performances frequently sponsors Asian programs such as the International Taiko Festival, the Central Ballet of China, and the Asian Youth Orchestra.

University Archives related to the East Asian Studies in the Bancroft Library

University of California President Kellogg Nominates Fryer for the Oriental Chair; 1895 The sum of $50,000 having accumulated from the gift of Mr. Edward Tompkins, it is in order to present a nomination for the Agassiz Prefessorship of Oriental Languages and Literature. Shortly before his death in 1872, Regent Edward Tompkins left a tract of land in Oakland to the University with the provision that the land be sold when its value reached a point [about $3000 per year] where it would serve as an endowment to support a professorship. By the early 1890s, the land had appreciated. Regent Tompkins thought that commerce with East Asian countries held great promise and suggested that the endowed chair be associated with some aspect of the study of East Asia.

John Fryer accepts the Agassiz Chair, November 2, 1895 Fryer's acceptance letter reads: "Dear Sir: Your letter of the 12 September [1895] announcing that the Board of Regents of the University of California appoints me to the Agassiz Professorship of Oriental Languages and Literature has reached me in due course. It gives me great pleasure to accept the appointment on the terms specified." 

Assess report to President Wheeler on the possible Carpentier endowment, October 10, 1902
The philanthropist Horace W. Carpentier had generously endowed an Oriental College at Columbia University and was about to visit Berkeley, no doubt with the intention of providing funds for another endowment, this time at the University of California. John Fryer wrote to President Wheeler on 1 September, 1902: "[Mr.] Carpentier agrees with me that the U.C. naturally ought to have the largest Oriental College in the world."

Will of John Fryer, 1928
John Fryer left his personal papers and his library to the University. This bequest of more than 2,000 volumes formed the basis for the University's systematic collection of publications related to East Asia and led to the formation of the East Asian Library in 1947.

John Fryer, LL.D., 1839-1928
First Louis Agassiz Professor of Oriental Languages and Literature Fryer was born in Hythe, Kent, England, of humble origin, and received a scholarship to Highbury Training College, London, a school for training teachers. His parents supported missionary activity in China. There is evidence that Fryer developed an intense attraction to China as a youth and that he composed themes on China whenever possible while in school. His early interest in China was a factor in his acceptance of a position as headmaster at St. Paul's School in Hong Kong in 1861 at the age of 22. In 1863 Fryer joined the newly organized T'ung-wen kuan, or Interpreter's School, in Peking where he quickly mastered the Mandarin Chinese dialect and laid the foundation for his life's work. Between 1865 and 1867 he searched for a more satisfying career, working first a headmaster of the Anglo-Chinese School in Shanghai and then as editor of a Chinese-language newspaper. Starting in 1868, Fryer worked for 28 years at the Kiangnan Arsenal near Shanghai as translator of Western works into Chinese, where he was responsible for the translation and publication of more than 100 works into Chinese. His goal during this period was to introduce Western ideas and knowledge, with primary emphasis on Western science and technology. 

In 1896 he accepted the Agassiz Professorship at the University of California, where he worked until retirement in 1914 at age 75. During his Berkeley years, Fryer continued to translate and publish, lectured, advised both the Chinese and United States governments, and established the Department of Oriental Languages. He undertook a massive teaching load including both instruction in the Chinese language and lecturing on Chinese culture, and through the University Extension he lectured to community and civic groups on events as they evolved in early 20th century China. While in Berkeley he worked with great vigor to expand the scope of East Asian language and culture instruction and advocated the teaching of Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, and Malay. 

John Fryer broadened the definition of language training to include history, political science, and East Asian religions. During the period of immigration exclusion he argued for the admission of Chinese and Japanese students to the University, purchased a tract of land in Berkeley to be used for housing Asian students, and promoted his plan to create an Oriental Institute for training both Asian and American students. He made a number of trips to China, advocated increased trade with East Asian countries, and served as a primary consultant on Chinese affairs to State and Federal agencies. He strongly encouraged the admission of Chinese as students at the University, provided living space in his own house, and acted in loco parentis to the first groups of Chinese students.

Fryer's pioneering work in China as translator of technical materials, as exponent of the use of the Chinese (Mandarin) language as the only efficient vehicle for modernization, and as editor and essayist are enough to insure a prominent place for him among the promoters of China's modernization. His single-minded focus on introducing Western science and technology into China, his efforts to introduce Asian studies into the University curriculum, and his advocacy of recruiting Chinese and Japanese students at the University demonstrate his vision and the timeliness of his work.

In his will, John Fryer left the University "my library of Oriental books, works and manuscripts, consisting of over 2,000 volumes ... the same to be carefully used as a separate reference library by the faculty of the Oriental Department of the University." This was the beginning of the East Asian Library. -- Fred Dagenais

Yu chih keng chih t'u
(Imperially-made Pictures of Agriculture and Sericulture). Paintings by Chiao Ping-chen (fl. 1696); and verses by two Ch'ing rulers, Kang-hsi (1662-1723) and Yung-cheng (1723-1736). Reprint ed. Shanghai, Tien shih chai shih yin, 1886. A fine set of prints from the John Fryer collection. The picture that shows the task of "Selecting cocoons" faces the page with verses that are framed by wide borders decorated with imperial emblems of dragons chasing the pearl and of schematic patterns of waves and mountains. The illustration is from the Pictures of Sericulture (Silk-worm breeding and silk-weaving), which was reproduced and distributed in the form of wood engravings in 1696 by the Ch'ing court artist, Chiao Ping-chen, who applied Western perspective to his illustrations. Paired with Pictures of Agriculture (Rice cultivation), they depict the cycles of labor that produced in the central-southern regions for most of imperial China the staple crop of rice and the luxurious fabric of silk. Agriculture and sericulture symbolize also a well-governed state in traditional Chinese culture. -- Marion Lee Mateer

Kuan hua lei pien
Chinese text [for a course of Mandarin lessons]. Shanghai, 1892. Sample of an early textbook for Chinese language instruction used by John Fryer in 1890's. 

Ke chih hui pien: The Chinese scientific and industrial magazine, a quarterly journal of popular information relating to the sciences, arts and manufactures of the West.
Edited by John Fryer. Shanghai, Ke chih shu shih vols. I-VII (1872-92). This magazine is perhaps the most popular and impressive of Fryer's Chinese publication. Fryer did his best to popularize science and introduce Western scientific progress to China. This magazine was published on and off between 1872 and 1892. 

Yuen Ren Chao, 1892-1982.
Agassiz Professor of Oriental Languages and Literature. Chinese Linguist, Phonologist, Composer, and Author. Professor Chao was born in Tientsin, China. He received his B.A. in mathematics at Cornell in 1914 and his Ph. D. in philosophy at Harvard in 1918. Beginning his teaching career as an instructor in physics at Cornell in 1919, he later taught at Harvard, at Tsing Hua University, Peking, at the University of Hawaii, at Yale, and from 1947 to 1963 at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Chao taught a wide variety of subjects, including physics, mathematics, philosophy, the Chinese language, the history of Chinese music, Chinese grammar, and theoretical linguistics. He laid the foundations of modern linguistics in China and was associated with a number of highly important projects both in China and in America. Meetings with a close circle of associates in his home were the source of the National Romanization, known as Chao Yuen-Ren's Romanization, a phonetic alphabet designed for the Chinese language which the Chinese government officially adopted in 1927. The Academia Sinica was established in 1928 and within it, the Institute of History and Philology. The linguistic activities of the Institute were placed under his direction beginning in 1929. Professor Chao trained students in the techniques of linguistic field work and conducted and directed surveys of Chinese dialects in the provinces of Chekiang, Kwangtung, Kwanghsi, Anhwei, Kiangsu, Hunan, and Hupei. He also established an excellent phonetics laboratory at the Institute and an archive for records of Chinese dialects. 

In 1941 he joined the Chinese dictionary project of the Harvard-Yenching Institute at Harvard. He produced what is still the best dictionary of colloquial Chinese, Concise Dictionary of Spoken Chinese (1946). During this period he also produced two excellent textbooks, Cantonese Primer (1947) and Mandarin Primer (1948).

Professor Chao published more than a hundred articles and books in Chinese and English and also published several original musical compositions which are well-known in China. His writings cover such varied topics as a scientific description of reversed English, tones and intonation, Chinese music, Chinese dialects, Chinese logic, Chinese grammar, and linguistic theory. His linguistic articles range from The Non-uniqueness of Phonemic Solutions of Phonetic Systems (1934), which has become a linguistic classic, to the Graphic and Phonetic Aspects of Linguistic and Mathematical Symbols (1961). Another monumental volume is A Grammar of Spoken Chinese published by the University of California Press in 1968. 

Peter Alexis Boodberg, 1903-1972.
Agassiz Professor of Oriental Languages and Literature Peter A. Boodberg, graduated from The Department of Oriental Languages, U.C. Berkeley, in 1930. He taught at the University from that time until his retirement in 1970. He was the Agassiz Professor of Oriental Languages from 1960-1969, and one of the most creative minds of Chinese studies in the U. S. during the middle years of the 20th century. His major research specialty was the history of early Chinese script and language and his most well-known publications are those on biography, on the philology and semasiology of the language of early philosophical texts, and his famous Cedules from a Berkeley Workshop in Asiatic Philology in typescript from 1954-1955.

Edward HetzeL Schafer, 1913-1991.
Agassiz Professor of Oriental Languages and Literature. Edward H. Schafer, graduated with his Ph. D. from the Department of Oriental Languages, U.C. Berkeley, in 1947. He taught at the University from that time until his retirement in 1984. He held the Agassiz Professorship from 1969 to his retirement in 1984. Professor Schafer was an uncommonly gifted interpreter of mediaeval Chinese culture, noted particularly for his pioneering work on the material culture of the Tang dynasty and on Taoism. His works, including 13 books and over 100 articles, are marked by a superior command of the language and cultural background of texts from that period, and by their sensitive and imaginative renderings of those texts into colorful and challenging English. In 1983-1984, he held the post of Faculty Research Lecturer, one of the highest appointments the University can bestow on one of its own. Professor Schafer was a consummate teacher: articulate and intellectually demanding yet compassionate.

Mathews, Robert Henry. Mathews Chinese-English dictionary. 
Rev. American ed. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1963. Originally published as a Chinese-English dictionary compiled for the China Inland Mission by R.H. Mathews, China Inland Mission and Presbyterian Mission Press, Shanghai, 1931. This copy is handbound and in the margins and between entries, Prof. Schafer entered in red the T'ang pronunciation of every head character, along with summaries of his lifelong philological research into the medieval meanings (both denotative and connotative) of thousands of entries.

The teaching and research of Professors Boodberg and Schafer established a tradition of scholarship that has come to be uniquely associated with the Department of East Asian Languages at Berkeley. This tradition of philology and carefully literary and historical analysis is carried on by the numerous students of both, who now occupy important positions in the academy. -- Professor Stephen West

Looking to the Future

With its West Coast location, its strong faculty and students, and its outstanding resources in East Asian studies, Berkeley is in a unique position among top research universities to continue to provide a powerful Pacific Rim perspective into the future. As part of our effort to maintain this position of strength, we are endeavoring to build a new East Asian Library and Studies Center on an elevated site at the east end of Memorial Glade in the center of campus. This long-awaited complex will unite the teaching, research, and library functions of Berkeley's East Asian programs under one roof, as well as provide classrooms, conference areas, and an auditorium.

East Asian Library

The teaching effort has been supported by the East Asian Library, founded in 1947. One of the most comprehensive collections of materials in East Asian languages in the United States, the library includes almost 750,000 volumes and serials and is expanding at the rate of 12,000 volumes annually. Its combined holdings of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Manchu, Mongolian, and Tibetan materials rank second among American university collections. The Center for Chinese Studies Library, a branch of the East Asian Library, is the world's largest repository of materials on contemporary China outside China. Materials range from full-text electronic databases, books, periodicals, newspapers, maps, and manuscripts to very early examples of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean woodblock printing and reproductions of inscriptions from oracle bones. The library contains numerous audio and video cassettes, extensive microform holdings, and CD-ROM databases, including the complete 25 Chinese dynasties histories on a single disk. The library provides electronic access to information sources in East Asia through such services as Nikkei Telecom.

Elizabeth Huff (1912-1988). Teacher and Founding Curator of the East Asian Library Dr. Huff was born in Illinois. She received her B.A. in 1932 from the University of Illinois and M.A. in Oriental Art from Mills College in 1935. Her doctorate in Far Eastern Languages was awarded by Harvard in 1947. Dr. Huff went to the East Asia first in 1939 where she studied in Japan and then in China. During the war the Japanese interned her in Shantung province in China. Following her release in 1945, she came back to Peking, returning the next year to the U.S. to complete her dissertation entitled Shih Hsuehü a technical history of Chinese poetry. When she was called to U.C. in the spring of 1947 to establish EAL by Donald Coney, then University Librarian, Dr. Huff perceived that her first task was to assemble and unify the East Asian language books. Japanese materials were then dispersed in the Main Library stacks by subject; Chinese books were only partially cataloged and were scattered in various seminar rooms. Although not then organized, these books amounted to a respectable 75,000 volumes and reflected 30 years of generous benefactions such as those of John Fryer, Kiang Kang-hu, and the Carpentier donation. Within five years after Dr. Huff's arrival, a series of important block purchases and special grants enabled EAL to treble in size. In 1952, when the School of Law moved to its new building on College and Bancroft, EAL took over its present quarters in Durant Hall, sharing that building with the Department of Oriental Languages. In addition to her Library position, Dr. Huff lectured on Chinese bibliography in the Department of Oriental Languages.

Unique among East Asian libraries in America, EAL arranges its books strictly by subject classification rather than by language. Its books were represented in a series of intricate catalogs maintained by chief cataloger, Charles E. Hamilton and his associates. The most important was the author-title catalog with the entries for all languages arranged in a single sequence based on 214 standard classifiers. Catalog card calligraphy was prepared by hand and was then reproduced by the xerography-multilith process. Frequently revised brochures, The East Asiatic Library and EAL: the Catalog, guide the reader. A checklist of new accessions, Newly Cataloged Books in the East Asiatic Library, appeared monthly.

EAL's primary goal is to supply faculty and graduate students with the research materials their studies require. The limitless expansion of scholarly interests on this campus has meant that EAL's traditional emphasis on literature and history has broadened to include the arts, social sciences, and natural sciences. Faculty members and their students in many fields, among them economics, biology, geography, and history, use the library heavily, along with East Asian Languages Department scholars.

Most of rare holdings and special collections in EAL were acquired and built under Dr. Huff's tenure. The Murakami Collection of Meiji Literature boasts 10,000 first editions from the crucial period 1868-1912. The 4,000 volume Asami Library of Classical Korean Literature consists of rare texts imprinted from both woodblock and moveable type of the Yi dynasty (14th-20th centuries). More than 1,500 squeezes comprise the notable collection of Chinese bronze and stone rubbings. These ink impressions on paper of pictures and epigraphs go back as early as the Ming dynasty. Other important collections are those of late 19th century Chinese tracts, Taiwan material, and rare woodblock maps. 

Dr. Huff retired in 1968 after 21 years of dedicated service to EAL. An extension of Dr. Huff's scholarly and curatorial influence on the East Asian collection was her bequest to EAL of more than 5,000 volumes in Chinese literature, classics, philosophy, history, and reference works; 250 monographs in Western languages including translations of Chinese poetry and literary classics, and critical studies of Chinese literature; and paintings, rubbings, works of calligraphy, and manuscript leaves.