Friday, January 9, 2015

A Memorable Day in London

Back in 2000, when I gave a seminar in UK, I got a temporary library card to visit the British Library. After the seminar, I went to the library. The librarian in charge of the Chinese reference books section was an old English gentleman. He asked me what particular books I wanted to read. I told him I wanted to do a little research on Shao Yong’s work. He took my business card and asked me to write my name in Chinese on it. I wrote:

He put his thumbs up, “What a good name!” He then wrote with beautiful calligraphy:

and asked, “Which way do you like me to address you?”
I looked into his eyes, which was blinking with wisdom and humor. We burst into silent laughter together.

“You must be a sinologist.” I said.
“No,” he shook his head with his grey hair almost dancing, “I am just a lover of Chinese culture. Sinologists are westerners who do research work on ancient Chinese the western way. I don’t like the flavor and that is why I am not one.”
“I love to enjoy Chinese culture through books, visiting China and communicate with Chinese scholars.” He added.

He then showed me my seat and asked me to visit other places of the library, “Come back in 1 hour, and the books you want will be on your desk. We have the complete Si Ku Quan Shu 四庫全書 and Shao Yong’s work is in the Zi section Shu Shu Category子部 術數類.”

 I was impressed as he did not have to go through any catalogue or computer. It was all in his mind.