Teaching with the Collection

by Prof. Bonnie Cheng, Art History, and Prof. Ann Sherif, East Asian Studies

The Shansi Archive Collection contains a rich range of sources useful in courses in a variety of disciplines.  In addition to the fields of history, East Asian studies, and religion, the Archives’ documents (letters, essays, scrapbooks, newsletters, maps), photographs and films may be relevant to classes in politics, environmental studies, art, anthropology, and education.  The collection includes materials of interest to students in urban studies (early villages, walled cities, marketplaces), early 20th century Chinese history and politics (student troupes, families, CCP, the Nationalists); Sino-Japanese relations, US-Sino relations, the family, early sports; ritual; performance (limited theater & new year’s and funeral processions); and missionary history. Students in gender studies will find interest in the early twentieth-century approaches to coed education, the conflict between Chinese female teachers’ views of women’s education and those of the College. Classes in the history of science & technology, medicine, and agriculture, furthermore, will find materials concerning the schools’ emphasis on modern agricultural and science.

The Archive contains a wealth of primary documents waiting to be mined by students.  For example, missionary letters and the Shansi rep’s “Dragon Tracks” newsletter track missionary responses to the changing history of early 20th century China. Politics or religion course could explore the educational philosophy and practice of the American missionaries and the Chinese teachers and students, and the role of religion and politics in shaping the school. The archives contains letters, maps, and photographs documenting the flight of the staff and students of Mingxian school from Taigu to Chengdu via Xi’an during the Japanese invasions in the late 1930s. Students can deepen their understanding of the tumultuous years from the end of WWII, when the school moved back to Taigu, and the fate of the school, its staff, and the missionaries after the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949.  Market and town scenes in films and still photographs could be used in courses on early 20th century China to showcase agriculture, commerce and daily life in the city and countryside.

For students of art, religion, history, and architecture, photographs, blueprints, and maps of buildings and sites, offer interior and exterior views of early 20th century architecture in urban and rural settings.  Short films feature local pagodas, cave-temples, family compounds (e.g. Zeng family near Chengdu), and city walls prior to their later demolition or destruction in Maoist China. In particular, old photographs and films give a proper sense of scale and activity of buildings, residences, and religious sites.