Charles M. LucasJ
Advocate, Thursday, April 2, 1981 p.29
For 30 years John
Yung-hsiang Lai has helped scholars research information. He beams
when Harvard graduate students come to the Yenching Library on
Divinity st.,Cambridge, knowing that Associate Librarian Lai will
show them sources in their quest to write “A” theses.
Arlington resident says, “A library is a treasure of information. It
contains records of everything that has ever happened. The librarian
lets the public use the treasure. And I enjoy giving assistance to
those wanting to acquire knowledge.”
career began in 1951 at National Taiwan University. [He worked at
the Library and] taught library science there for more than two
decades. Harvard University, aware of his background and that he
understood Chinese, Japanese and English, invited him to the Yenching Library in 1972.
the largest East Asian University library outside Asia, contains
600,000 books on five floors. The languages of the volumes vary from
Chinese, Japanese and Korean to Manchu, Mongolian and Vietnamese.
In a glass case
by the entrance’s swinging doors, the library is exhibiting its
Chinese language missionary work collection. A geographical history
of the United States by the first american missionary to china,
Reverend Bridgeman, faces the viewer from the third shelf.
Pages from the
first Chinese tract, “The Sermon 0n the Mount,” printed in 1834,
reflect on the glass plate above Bridgeman’s compilation. The
collection also includes
formed in the Chinese three-character model and the original first
Chinese translation （1813） of the New Testament.
‘European missionaries were the first ones who westernized China.
They were ambassadors who introduced European civilization to the
Orient. Prior to the Opium War （1842）, the Chinese government
prohibited the distribution of Christian literature. Men like
Reverend Morrison of the London Missionary Society, had to publish
translated clergical tracts underground.”
After the opening
of the ports （1865）, missionaries intrduced Taiwan to the Anglo
culture. They taught Western traditions and made onverts in Lai’s
native country, where five percent of the Taiwanese practice
Christianity today. However, since the Communist takeover of China
in 1949, all western influence has diminished on the mainland.
“Besides religious tracts, the missionaries also translated volumes
of Western works in international law, ethics and psychology,etc.
The missionaries gave an overall perspctive of their countries--not
just a religious one.”
Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions donated a collection of
Protestant missionary works in te Orient to the Harvard-Yenching
Library at the same time of the Communist takeover of China. Lai
compiled a catalog of those 1000 original books, which G.K.Hall and
Co.ublished last summer. Lai’s text attracts readers to Yenching
because it indexes the largest assortment of oriental works in the
romanized style （26 characters）, rather than the chinese style which
has 50,000 characters.
In addition to
writing other library research guides, such as “The New
Classification Scheme for Chinese Libraries,” Lai’s inquiries into
Taiwan’s past inspired him to compose “Studies of History of
Taiwan.” He leans both elbows on his office desk and elaborates on
his classification book. “It shows how to organize library
collections. The system that it describes is widely used in
libraries throughout Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia.”
library science at George Peabody College for Teachers in Tennessee
on his first trek to the United States in the late 1950’s. National
University of Taiwan’s Library Science Department promoted him to
head upon his return home.
Twice during the
1960s he traveled across the Pacific Ocean to resent papers at the
American-hosted International Congress of Orientalists and the
Library Educational Congress for Developing Countries.
Harvard’s invitation to work at Yenching because he wanted to keep
his family together. He explains, “My daughter and two sons planned
to live in the States. My wife,Helen, and I didn’t want to stay so
far away from tem, so I took Harvard’s offer. Chen-li Lee, my
daughter, has followed in my footsteps.” Lai, his smile broadening,
declares, “She works at Wilmington’s Avco Systems Library.”
Cambridge for a year, he moved to Arlington in 1973. Although
baptized a Presbyterian in Taiwan, Lai attends Arlington’s Calvary
Methodist Church services, explaining, “No Presbyterian churches are
close to my house. And considering that Methodists don’t differ much
from presbyterians in concept, I started goin to Calvary Methodist.”
He obtaied his
American citizen status four years ago. In the meantime he visited
Taiwan once for his mother’s funeral. He may go back again, but has
made no specific plans.
president of the Chinese-American Librarians Association and a
current member of the American Library Association, he reflects..The
United States is my home and the home of my children. Harvard’s
Yenching Library has few peers in size and none in information
accessibility and cnvenience. Harvard University’s Library, taken as
a hole, has the greatest treasures in the world. In what other place
would i want to be？”
Library, which was established in 1928, is open Monday through
Saturday from 9 a.m.to 10 p.m. One of the oldest books in the
library,which carries volumes on many subjects, is a 960 A.D.book
from the Sung Dynasty in China.