West Meets East

A Venue for Global Sinology

2019 / March

Sanya Huang /photos courtesy of Lin Min-hsuan /tr. by Bruce Humes

sedate and firmly grounded building stands at the intersection of Taipei’s Zhongshan South Road and Xinyi Road. In contrast, located oppos­ite is Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, which often overflows with the sound of boisterous visitors. The building in question, however, remains quiet and composed. In fact, inside are stored texts that have come down through the ages, and have been collected since the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912. More recently, it has also served as the venue for international academic exchanges in the field of sinology. Like a black pearl endowed with a mysterious air, it constitutes a priceless treasure of thought and culture. 

Seven decades of international exchanges

This is the National Central Library (NCL), Taiwan’s highest-ranking book depository. Since 1944, it has been responsible for the international exchange of the Republic of China’s publications. Having undertaken seven decades of such interaction worldwide, it has collaborated with 606 bodies in 87 countries, such as national and university libraries, academic institutions, international organizations and centers of sinology, to facilitate the exchange and collection of various publications.

Since 1989, the library has managed Taiwan’s “Research Grant Program for Foreign Scholars in Chinese Studies.” More than 450 foreign professors and doctoral candidates have visited Taiwan to conduct research under this program. In addition, since 2010 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has commissioned the library to host 807 scholars from 74 countries on behalf of the ministry’s “Taiwan Fellowship.”

Thanks to the library’s rich experience in managing inter­national exchanges, in 2011 it was tasked with setting up a series of bodies overseas, dubbed “Resource Points.” At the time, the government intended to establish a “Taiwan Academy” network abroad, to promote “Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics.”

Passing on the torch of culture

Why establish Taiwan Academies or Resource Points abroad? After the May Fourth Movement, advocates of the movement strove for so-called “total Westernization.” Western-style democracy, science, literature and art all became mainstream. But for continuous adaptation to environmental change, civiliza­tion—like biological evolu­tion—requires the convergence of diversity, inspira­tion from fresh ideas and the nurturing of new life.

The same is true of culture. As stated by the Swedish sinologist Kristofer Schipper: “Culture brings exchange and exchange brings culture.” During the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, “China fever” swept Europe and missionaries such as the Italian Matteo Ricci, German Johann Adam Schall von Bell, and Flemish Ferdinand Verbiest arrived in China. Fluent in Mandarin, they were able to gain entrance to the court’s inner power center and frequented scholar-officials. The missionaries brought Western technology to China, while introducing ancient Chinese classics such as The Analects and Tao Te Ching to European high society and intellectual circles.

Neither sinology nor “Chinese culture with ­Taiwanese characteristics” is the private property of ­Chinese people. Like Western culture, they are treasures to be shared by mankind. Unceasing interaction between East and West has frequently disrupted the inertia of rigid thought, and facilitated mankind’s ability to deal with our rapidly changing world. At a time when a bevy of voices warn that “AI will soon replace mankind,” such exchanges have taken on greater significance. It is now more urgent and crucial than ever to abandon an insular stance, plant our feet on the international stage, and carry the torch of sinology across the globe.

Priceless cultural advantages

Due to the political needs of the Cold War, particu­larly those of the United States, over the last half century there has been an upsurge in China-related analysis. Sinology has broadened from a focus on tradi­tional Chinese classical canons, to include research into China proper and regional studies. Add to this China’s three-decade-long economic boom, and sino­logy—or “China studies”—has become a popular cross-­disciplinary field in its own right.

With mainland China’s reform and opening in the eighties, researchers flocked to the mainland to learn from its experience. Taiwan, in its Cold-War role as torchbearer for traditional Chinese culture, was thus threatened with marginalization.

Taiwan has always possessed, however, a certain importance and irreplaceable advantages in the flow of exchanges between the cultures of East and West. Taiwan still employs traditional Chinese characters, retains many ancient and original manuscripts and cultural relics, enjoys an atmosphere conducive to free speech and ­publishing, and does not conduct censorship, and its people dare to challenge authority. Given these priceless treasures, if Taiwan were to fail to bring them to the world stage, this would represent a huge loss for Taiwan itself, for East‡West inter­action, and even in terms of global progress.

Six years, 31 resource centers

Although the number of Taiwan Academy sites has not increased since 2011, the NCL’s director general, Dr. Tseng Shu-hsien, recognized the importance of highlighting Taiwan’s contribution to sinology on the world stage. In order to persevere with the stewardship of the library’s concept of overseas promotion of “Chinese culture with Taiwanese characteristics,” and with support from the Ministry of Education, the library utilized the exchange of publications as its foundation for establishing the library’s own brand, “Taiwan Resource Centers for Chinese Studies” (TRCCS).

Beginning with Tseng’s personal inauguration of the first TRCCS at the University of Texas at Austin on Novem­ber 5, 2012, she has led her colleagues to venues in the United States, Europe, Asia and Oceania, where they have planted the TRCCS flag and established resource library sites comprising Taiwanese publications and items from the National Central Library’s plentiful collection.      

Over the past six years and more, the library’s pioneering cultural vanguard has proactively reached out to overseas scholars, and joined forces with Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff to successfully inaugurate 31 TRCCS sites.

Ancient Chinese texts, accessible online worldwide 

Besides establishing resource centers outside Taiwan, in response to technical innovation facilitating digital data the NCL has also constructed an international digitization platform. This platform shares its catalogue with bodies housing major sinology collections worldwide, thus permitting researchers in any location to access precious ancient tomes and documents via the library’s online platform.

Since the 19th century, a large number of priceless ancient books and original manuscripts have fallen into foreign hands, or have been looted or sold off internationally for large sums. Sinologists estimate that more than 3 million ancient Chinese volumes are currently outside Greater China. Their dispersal not only negatively impacts academic research, it has also deeply damaged the self-confidence of the Chinese people. For example, the British explorer Aurel Stein entered Central Asia on several expeditions in the 1920s and 1930s, and left with a haul of tens of thousands of scrolls from the Dun­huang Grottoes. This meant that the first scholars to earn a ­reputation as ­Dun­huang experts were European sinologists, not ­China’s. Even a scholar such as Chen ­Yinke noted ironic­ally, “The Dun­huang caves are located in China, but ‘Dun­huang Studies’ are located overseas.”

From the 1930s through the 1980s, the library’s status as one of the top institutions engaging in international book exchange was, according to ­Tseng, “rooted in the National Central Library’s collection of rare and ancient texts.” This collection followed on the heels of the Republic of China’s government when it set up in its capital, Nan­jing, then found its way to Chong­qing in China’s interior, relocated to ­Chengdu to avoid the disasters of war, and finally came to Taiwan in the late 1940s. “When our predecessors who served at the library talked about how they transported the books back then, it was breathtaking,” recounts Tang Shen-jung, secretary to Director ­Tseng. “It was accomplished literally at the cost of human lives.”

Digital rights from 80 libraries

The NCL established a cross-departmental workgroup to supervise development of its collection, cataloguing, curation of special documents, digital system development, international cooperation, and operation of the resource centers and other organizations under the library’s manage­ment. The NCL’s own collection of ancient books was digitized first; then, in 2008, it participated in the “World Digital Library” program, uploading digital images of some 160 rare books. In 2013, it took part in the “Inter­national Dun­huang Project,” for which it put digital images of 141 Dun­huang texts and annotations online. The NCL is the sole Taiwan-based body to take part in either of these world-class digitization projects. 

As well as participating in these prominent digital collection projects, the NCL has acquired digital rights from 80 libraries worldwide. This effectively grants the library access to a shared catalogue of digital images for more than 730,000 ancient books.

Perhaps in the near future, the bold prediction made by scholar Qian Mu in his work Essays on History and Culture will come to pass: “A new form of human civil­iza­tion will emerge… from interaction between the cultures of East and West.”                

Relevant articles

Recent Articles

繁體 日本語



文‧黃淑姿 圖‧林旻萱







豐富的國際交流經驗,使國家圖書館在2011年時受命推動海外實體機構「漢學書房」(Resource Point)。當時,中華民國政府要向世界推廣「具有台灣特色的中華文化」,在海外設置「台灣書院」(Taiwan Academy),選擇美國紐約、休士頓、洛杉磯三地,在當地的僑務中心規劃實體書房空間。國家圖書館精選台灣編印的人文社會類圖書陳列在漢學書房中,邀請著名學者主講「台灣漢學講座」(Taiwan Lectures on Chinese Studies)並舉辦古文獻展,吸引當地僑胞與學術文化界人士前往參與。



文化也是如此,如瑞典漢學家施舟人(Kristofer Marinus Schipper)所言:「文化帶來交流,交流帶來文化。」兩、三百年前的歐洲,曾經掀起一股中國熱,源自明、清時期,利瑪竇、湯若望、南懷仁等西方傳教士抵達中國,因能流利使用中文而進入中國朝廷權力中心,頻繁與士大夫交往。傳教士將西方科技帶入中國,也將《論語》、《老子》等中國經典帶至歐洲上流社會與知識份子圈中流傳。








因此,雖然2011年後台灣書院據點並未增加,但國家圖書館館長曾淑賢已經意識到將台灣漢學推上世界舞台的重要性,延續當初接掌國圖時所設定的「在海外推廣具台特色的中華文化」主軸,在教育部支持下,繼續以國際出版品交換為基礎,於海外籌建國圖自有品牌「台灣漢學資源中心」(Taiwan Resource Center for Chinese Studies, TRCCS)。





近代中國大量珍貴古籍、善本流落海外,遭逢掠劫或被重金收購,根據漢學界初步調查,海外中文古籍總量超過三百萬冊,除日本、美國、英國、法國、俄羅斯等主要藏國的書況清楚,其他國家則仍有待釐清。中文古籍四散,不只影響學術研究,也重創民族自信,如英國探險家斯坦因(Marc Aurel Stein)在1920至30年代進入中亞帶走大批敦煌古籍,使得最早研究敦煌學有成者,不是中國學者,而是歐洲漢學家,以至於學者陳寅恪曾有「敦煌在中國,敦煌學在海外」的辛酸點評。









文・黃淑姿 写真・林旻萱 翻訳・笹岡 敦子






豊かな国際交流の経験から、国家図書館は2011年に海外における実体機関「漢学書房」(Resource Point)の推進を命じられた。当時、中華民国政府は世界に「台湾の特色をそなえた中華文化」を広めるべく、海外に「臺灣書院」(Taiwan Academy)を設置していた。ニューヨーク、ヒューストン、ロサンゼルスの3拠点を選び、現地の在外国民センターに図書空間を設けた。国家図書館が台湾編纂の人文社会類の図書を漢学書房に陳列し、また台湾漢学講座(Taiwan Lectures on Chinese Studies)では著名研究者を講演に招き、古文書展を開催して、現地在住の本国人や研究者を呼び込む。











そこで、2011年から台湾書院の拠点は増えていなかったが、国家図書館館長・曾淑賢は台湾の漢学を世界の舞台に上げることの重要さを意識していた。国家図書館の仕事を引き受けた当時設定した方針「海外における台湾の特色をそなえた中華文化の推進」を継続し、教育部の支持を得て、引き続き国際出版物交換を基礎に、海外に国家図書館のオリジナルブランドである「台湾漢学リソースセンター」(Taiwan Resource Center for Chinese Studies, TRCCS)を打ち出すことにしたのである。











X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!