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Art and Archival Collections

The College of East Asian Studies houses and maintains small collections of East Asian art and historical archives as educational resources for Wesleyan's East Asian Studies Program. Both collections were established in 1987 (the year of the Mansfield Freeman Center's founding), with an initial gift of Chinese works of art and historical documents from Dr. Chih Meng (Founding Director of the China Institute in America) and his wife Huan-shou Meng. The CEAS collections currently include approximately 300 works of art in various media and 30 boxes of papers, documents, and historical photographs. Items are available for study and research by Wesleyan students and outside scholars, and are accessible through checklists of the two collections.

The art collection includes works of painting and calligraphy, prints and rubbings, rare books, textiles, ceramics, and other miscellaneous media, from China, Japan, and Korea. The majority of the works date from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Chinese holdings are the most extensive; noteworthy items include: calligraphy by Hu Shi (1891-1962), one of the most important literary and intellectual figures of the modern period; paintings by modern masters Ding Fuzhi (1879-1949) and Huang Junbi (1899-1991); a nineteenth century wardrobe-chest from the Imperial Palace in Beijing, and specimens of nineteenth century Manchu court dress; a volume from the 1726 palace edition of the Gujin tushu jicheng, the great classified encyclopedia produced under the emperor Kangxi from a bronze font of 250,000 pieces of movable type; and a complete set of the 1681 edition of the Shengyu xiangjie, an illustrated text produced by a government official to make the moral teachings of Kangxi's Sacred Edict accessible to the illiterate masses.

The archival collection includes papers, documents, and historical photographs, mostly relating to interaction between China and the West in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. In addition to a number of miscellaneous individual items, the collection includes the papers of Courtenay H. Fenn (a Protestant missionary in Beijing before and during the Boxer Rebellion) and his son Henry C. Fenn (China scholar and architect of Yale's Chinese language program); Harald Hans Lund (chief representative of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency in North China, 1946-47, during the Chinese Civil War); Dr. Chih Meng (Founding Director of the China Institute in America); Stuart and Hilda Pease (Pease was stationed in Shanghai from 1921-25 where he worked as a buyer for the Eagle Silk Co. of New York); and George B. Neumann (Wesleyan Class of 1905 and Prof. of Sociology and Economics at West China Union University, Chengdu, from 1908 to 1923). The Meng collection is especially rich; in addition to Meng's personal papers, it also contains historical materials that he collected relating to Chinese interaction with the West in the areas of technology, education, and cultural exchange. Particularly noteworthy is a collection of several boxes of original letters, papers, and photographs relating to the First Chinese Educational Mission in the U.S. (1872-1881).

The collections of the CEAS are educational resources which support teaching and research on East Asia in a number of disciplines. The documents, papers, and historical photographs of the archival collection offer primary sources for teaching and research in modern East Asian history, while the paintings, calligraphy, decorative arts, and other items in the collection of art and material culture afford primary source material for art historical teaching and research. Many objects in the art collection - especially works of calligraphy, painting, and rare books - also provide resources for teaching and research in the field of Asian languages and literatures.

The teaching and research supported by these collections takes four primary forms: 1) direct study of objects by small groups or classes; 2) direct study of objects by individual researchers; 3) interpretive exhibitions for the Wesleyan public, produced by the College's curator, often in collaboration with other Wesleyan faculty; and 4) interpretive exhibitions researched and produced by Wesleyan undergraduates for course credit.