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UC Berkeley library to present historic exhibit on the challenges, contributions of "Chinese Overseas"
24 October 2002

By Carol Hyman, Media Relations

Berkeley - Five of University of California, Berkeley's libraries have combined resources to coordinate a large exhibit that opens tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 25) of archival material about Chinese people who migrated to the United States and other countries.

"Chinese Overseas: Challenges and Contributions," at UC Berkeley's Bernice Layne Brown Gallery, will contain items from UC Berkeley's rich and rare collections including handwritten autobiographical manuscripts and a photo of Margaret Chung, the first Chinese-American woman physician; early 20th century photographs of San Francisco's Chinatown; a profile of famous architect I.M. Pei; and an account of Chinese entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

Chinese dolls in traditional costume
Chinese dolls costumed to teach children to recognize clothing associated
with various localities.

The exhibit is the result of a collaboration between The Bancroft Library, Center for Chinese Studies Library, East Asian Library, Ethnic Studies Library and South/Southeast Asia Library.

The Ethnic Studies Library has contributed numerous items to the exhibit. This library contains one of the most comprehensive Asian American Studies collections in the United States, including materials on the cultural, political and socio-economic life of Asian Americans and the largest archival collection on Chinese Americans in the world.

"These resources document and reveal the challenges and the triumphs of Chinese overseas as well as their contributions to their adopted and host countries and to their homeland," said Wei-Chi Poon, a librarian there. "These unique materials have proven invaluable for the research and teaching needs of faculty, students and scholars on the Berkeley campus and beyond. They also tell fascinating stories."

Many personal items that belonged to Chinese Americans such as Chung, who as a doctor was active in the war effort on behalf of China and the United States during World War II, will be on display.

Him Mark Lai, a UC alumnus, has devoted most of his life to collecting, researching and writing about Chinese American history and communities. An engineer by profession, but known as "the dean of Chinese American studies," said Poon, Lai donated to the campus 120 boxes of personal correspondence, family genealogy, conference papers, research notes and newspaper clippings. A portion of this collection will be on display.

Items from The Bancroft Library archives include photographs of San Francisco's Chinatown circa 1904-1910. The Center for Chinese Studies Library has contributed, among other items, "Red Guards in Silicon Valley," an account of success in business by Chinese entrepreneurs.

Chinese Diaspora program cover
Proceedings from the 1992 conference sponsored by the Asian American Studies Program at UC Berkeley that led to the founding of the International Society for Studies of Chinese Overseas.

A section of the exhibit, "The Prominent Chinese Overseas," highlights scholars, educators, artists and political leaders who have made important contributions to American society and the world. Items include the profile of Pei, who designed such buildings as the Louvre in Paris, the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.

The groundbreaking book, "The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts," by Maxine Hong Kingston, will be displayed. A Chinese American writer and novelist of national acclaim since the publication of this book in 1976, Hong Kingston currently is a lecturer in the English Department at UC Berkeley.

The Chinese have a long history of migration overseas, and this exhibit brings together many elements that highlight that movement. According to the Overseas Chinese Confederation, in May 2000 there were 34 million Chinese residing in 140 countries around the world. Asia has the largest Chinese overseas population (28 million). America is second (3.5 million), followed by Europe (1.5 million), Oceania (571 thousand), and Africa (137 thousand).

Chinese emigration began in the second half of the 19th century, during the Han Tang dynasty. War, famine, poverty and the hope of better conditions outside of China caused great numbers of Chinese to leave their country in search of work and business opportunities.

After World War II, the source and status of migrants changed. Change in immigration policies, the normalization of relations between China and the United States in 1979 and the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997 has led to a new wave of émigrés - those who want to study abroad and those who want adventure.

In 2000, the Ministry of Education in China reported there were 320,000 Chinese studying abroad, and two-thirds of them continue to live and to work in their host countries after their studies are completed. Many business and professional people are seeking new challenges and new opportunities in foreign countries. These new immigrants and their impact on their adopted and host countries and homeland have resulted in a large body of scholarly research.

The exhibit runs through Dec. 31.