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Purpose This paper aims to provide a theoretical guide for preserving ancient books in China. Design/methodology/approach The paper reviews the history of the damage and preservation of ancient books in China, and analyzes the value attributes of ancient books: archaeological value, historical value and artistic value. Findings The paper proposes a preservation framework for Chinese ancient books. This framework is composed of three layers. The foundation layer is to preserve the physical entity of ancient books so that the archaeological values are preserved. The middle layer is to preserve the intellectual content of ancient books so that the values for historical research are preserved. The top layer is mainly about preserving the productions process of the artistic format of ancient books, so that not only the static artistic formats are preserved, the techniques and procedures to produce the artistic format are preserved as well. Originality/value The paper presents a framework that connects the value attributes of ancient books and the strategies to preserve those values, systematizes them and presents them as a whole. The framework can be used to justify government policies and help identify pitfalls in the preservation strategies for ancient books.
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A preservation framework for
Chinese ancient books
Mingjie Li
School of Information Management, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China, and
Jinfang Niu
School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville,
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
Abstract
Purpose – This paper aims to provide a theoretical guide for preserving ancient books in China.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper reviews the history of the damage and preservation
of ancient books in China, and analyzes the value attributes of ancient books: archaeological value,
historical value and artistic value.
Findings – The paper proposes a preservation framework for Chinese ancient books. This
framework is composed of three layers. The foundation layer is to preserve the physical entity of
ancient books so that the archaeological values are preserved. The middle layer is to preserve the
intellectual content of ancient books so that the values for historical research are preserved. The top
layer is mainly about preserving the productions process of the artistic format of ancient books, so that
not only the static artistic formats are preserved, the techniques and procedures to produce the artistic
format are preserved as well.
Originality/value – The paper presents a framework that connects the value attributes of ancient
books and the strategies to preserve those values, systematizes them and presents them as a whole.
The framework can be used to justify government policies and help identify pitfalls in the preservation
strategies for ancient books.
Keywords Books, China, Historical research, Collections management
Paper type Conceptual paper
1. Introduction
According to The Standard for the Restoration and Control of Ancient Books by China
Ministry of Culture (2006), Chinese ancient books are defined as “books written or printed
before 1912, with classical binding and layout forms” such as bamboo slips, silk
manuscripts, paper transcripts and rubbings, woodblock print books, movable
wooden-type books, stone lithograph books and so on. In China, the term “rare books”
usually refers to ancient books with high quality of collating, old block-printed editions or
hand-written manuscripts by famous people. It is a subjective concept, varying from
person to person during different historical periods. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279),
people identified rare books mainly based on the quality of the intellectual content. In the
Ming Dynasty (1368-1661), people identified rare books mainly based on printing styles
and formats. In the Tsing Dynasty (1636-1911), people decided rare books based on both
content and style. In the early 1980s when compiling the Chinese Rare Books Bibliography,
some scholars proposed another criterion for rare book identification: rare books need to
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/0022-0418.htm
This study is funded by the National Social Science Foundation Project of P.R.China (Item
No. 08CTQ005).
A preservation
framework for
Chinese books
259
Received 4 December 2008
Revised 1 June 2009
Accepted 22 July 2009
Journal of Documentation
Vol. 66 No. 2, 2010
pp. 259-278
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
0022-0418
DOI 10.1108/00220411011023652
have high archeological, academic and artistic value (Cao, 2007, p. 543). This is still a
subjective criterion and it requires high-level expertise to judge values. Many curators of
ancient books are not qualified experts to judge the values of ancient books. Therefore in
practice, a simple criterion for identifying rare ancient books is books written or printed
before 1795 (the 60th year of the Qianlong Emperor’ reign in the Tsing Dynasty).
However, as the history moves along, the value of some ancient books grows. Zhao (2004)
suggested re-defining the cutting point for “ancient books” and “rare books”. He
suggested to include documents with high values produced during the late Tsing
Dynasty (1795-1911) and the Republic of China period (1912-1945) in the category of rare
books. Owing to the subjective nature and the moving cutting point, people sometimes
debate whether certain books belong to the category of “rare ancient books”.
According to incomplete statistics, currently 27.175 million volumes of ancient
books are preserved in various libraries in China. If the collections in museums and
temples are included, the total number of ancient books is over 30 million volumes
(Zhang, 2007, p. 29). Among them, more than 2.5 million volumes of ancient books can
be identified as rare books (created before 1795). Many other ancient books are
scattered among individuals in China and abroad. Chinese ancient books are the
historical records and important carriers of Chinese cultural heritage. They deserve to
be well preserved. In this paper, we will review the preservation history of Chinese
ancient books. Then based on the analysis of the value attributes of ancient books, we
will propose a preservation framework for Chinese ancient books.
2. A review of the damage to, and preservation of, ancient books in China
Over history, books in China have been seriously damaged many times by political
conflicts, wars, revolutions and commotions. According to Du (2001, pp. 79-83), there
were 15 very serious disasters happened to royal or governmental books (as shown in
Table I) before 1911.
During the first half of the twentieth century, Chinese ancient books were looted and
destroyed primarily by the Japanese. For instance, in 1907, all the holdings of the
Bisong Library, one of the four most famous libraries in China at that time, were taken
away by the Japanese. Now the books are in the Jing-Jia Library in Tokyo, Japan.
During the Second World War, the Japanese took away even more Chinese ancient
books and documents, including 2,742,108 volumes of books in 23,675 titles, 15,166
units of paintings and calligraphies, 28,891 units of antiques, 9,378 pieces of inscription
rubbings and 56,128 maps (Yan, 2007, p. 2115). During the second half of the twentieth
century, the most serious damage to ancient books happened during the Cultural
Revolution (1966-1976). In the Smash Four Olds Movement [1], countless ancient books
were damaged and eliminated (He, 2006, pp. 44-7).
However, except for the damages caused by the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976),
China (since 1949) has made great achievements in preserving ancient books. These
achievements were made possible by the policy of, and financial support from, the
government. Here we will review the achievements in the following aspects:
restoration, bibliographic control, re-publication, microfilming and digitization.
2.1 Restoration
Shortly after the new People’s Republic of China was established, the Chinese
government started to gather ancient books scattered among individuals and to restore
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damaged ancient books. In the 1950s, with policy support from the government, libraries
recruited book restoration craftsmen from book and painting repair shops and from
second-hand bookshops. These craftsmen became the first generation of book restoration
professionals in libraries. Starting from the 1960s, the number of book restoration
professionals started to grow. A standard workflow and procedure for restoring ancient
books appeared. In 1995, there were about 100 book restoration professionals in China
(Wu, 2002). Despite the shortage of manpower, libraries have made great achievements
in restoring ancient books. For instance, in 1972, the Han Dynasty tomb was dug up and
many deteriorated ancient books were found in the tomb. Those ancient books were
Time Events Books destroyed
213 BC Burning of the books and burial of the
scholars by Qin Shihuang, the first
emperor of China
Only books about medicine, agriculture
and prophecy were left
23 War against Wang Mang’s reign Royal collections in the capital city were
burned
190 Moving of the capital city from Luoyang to
Chang’an
Many royal collections were lost on the
way of moving
311 Commotion caused by five northern
minorities
All royal books and antiques were
destroyed
554 Hou Jing Rebellion against the emperor The Emperor was forced to burn his
collections of about 140,000 items
618 Farmers uprising against the Sui Dynasty About 370,000 volumes of imperial books
were burned
756 An-Shi Rebellion against the Tang
Dynasty
Royal collections were burned
880 Huang Cao Rebellion against the Tang
Dynasty
Many imperial books in the capital city
were damaged
1126 Jingkang Incident at the end of Northern
Song Dynasty
All royal collections in the Capital city were
looted by foreign troops
1644 Farmers uprising against the Ming
Dynasty
Wen Yuan Ge, a royal library with
holdings accumulated over 200 years, was
burned down
1772-1781 Compilation of the Imperial Collection of
Four, the largest series book of the Tsing
Dynasty
Any books recognized with Han
nationalism tendency were banned or
destroyed
1796 Fire in emperor’s Palace of the Tsing
Dynasty
More than 400 titles of rare books produced
in Song Dynasty or Yuan Dynasty were
burned
1851-1862 Taiping Rebellion Uprising against the
Tsing Dynasty
Two copies of the Imperial Collection of
Four were burned and most documents of
southeast China were damaged
1900 Invasion by eight foreign countries Countless books, paintings and
calligraphies were burned or looted. The
Yung Lo Encyclopaedia was damaged
1907-1908 Theft of the Dunhuang Manuscripts Nearly 30,000 units of Dunhuang
Manuscripts were smuggled into England,
France, Russia, Japan and Germany
Note: This table was created by the authors based on the description in Du (2001, pp. 79-83)
Table I.
Fifteen disasters affecting
Chinese ancient books
213BC-1908AD
A preservation
framework for
Chinese books
261
restored. The Shanghai Library started to restore its 100,000 genealogy books in 1996. In
2000, Tsinghua University Libraries started to restore its ancient books. In April 2001,
Tsinghua University Libraries finished restoring its 2,358 volumes of books in 227 titles.
Between 1949 and 2008, about 200,000 volumes of ancient books have been restored by
National Library of China (Du, 2008), including many valuable ancient books, such as the
Dunhuang Manuscripts, Documents of the Hsi-Hsia Kingdom, Yung Lo Encyclopaedia
and Zhaocheng Jin Tripitaka.
2.2 Bibliographic control
In ancient China, there were no public libraries, they were privately owned by emperors,
high officials, and wealthy people. Public libraries in China appeared in the second
decade of the twentieth century. Very few libraries cataloged their collections before
1949. Since 1949, many libraries have cataloged their ancient books (as shown in
Table II). In addition, with the collaboration of many libraries, some large-scale union
catalogues of ancient books have been built, such as the China Series Books General
Bibliography (1959), Union Catalogues of Chinese Local Chronicles (1985), and Chinese
Rare Books Bibliography (1985-1996) (Wang, 2001). By November 2008, the first version
of the Comprehensive Bibliography of Chinese Ancient books has been finished and now it
is under review. This is the product of the first-ever nationwide census of ancient books.
The Comprehensive Bibliography of Chinese Ancient books gives each ancient book a
unique ID and provides powerful search engines for ancient books (Huang, 2008).
2.3 Re-publication
In 1958, the State Council of China chartered the Ancient Book Publishing Planning
Team to be in charge of the re-publication of ancient books. The Planning Team made
the Ten-year Plan of Collating and Publishing Ancient Books (1962-1972), Nine-year Plan
of Collating and Publishing Ancient Books (1982-1990) and Ten-year Plan of Collating and
Publishing Ancient Books (1991-2000). Since 1958, the Planning Team has collated and
re-published many ancient books. According to the Collation Catalog of Chinese Ancient
Books (1949-1991), 6,581 titles of ancient books were re-published during 1949-1991. As
China grows stronger, financial support for the management and re-publication of
ancient books grows stronger as well. In 1983, the budget for the management and
republication of ancient books was 1.7 million Yuan. In 2008, the budget grew to 20
million Yuan. By the end of 2006, more than 12,000 titles of ancient books had been
re-published (Lei, 2006, p. 15). Those re-published books include very famous ancient
books such as the Twenty-four Histories, Draft of Tsing History, Zizhi Tongjian, Chinese
Tripitaka, Turfan Manuscript and Collection of Dunhuang Manuscripts.
2.4 Microfilming
In 1985, the China National Microfilming Center for Library Resources was created.
The Center coordinated 37 provincial and municipal libraries[2] to microfilm their
books and documents published before 1949. These documents include newspapers,
journals, rare ancient books, old paperbacks and other historical records. During the
ten years between 1986 and 1995, 23,000 titles of ancient books were microfilmed (Pan,
1998, p. 16). In 1996 China Ministry of Culture issued the Plan for Microfilming Public
Library Collections (1997-2010). Following this plan, the Microfilming Center
coordinated public libraries to microfilm more ancient books. By the end of 2008,
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31,871 titles of ancient books were microfilmed. Of the books printed during the
Republic of China (1912-1949), 50,311 titles were not generally considered as ancient
books) were microfilmed as well[3].
2.5 Digitization
Full text databases and retrieval systems started to appear in the early 1980s. Kunlun
Peng from the Jiangsu Province Academy designed the first machine-readable index
Curators
Publication years of
catalogs for general
ancient books
Publication years of
catalogs for rare ancient
books
Fudan University Library 1956, 1960 1959
Shanghai Library 1957
South China Normal University Library 1957
East China Normal University Library 1957-1958 1964
National Taiwan Library 1957, 1967, 1986
Guangzhou Institute of Philosophy and Social
Science 1958
Peking University Library 1958, 1999
Gansu Library 1959
Sichuan Library 1958 1989
Shanxi Library 1964
Hangzhou University Library 1964 1965
Institute History and Philology of Academia
Sinica, Taiwan 1970
Fung Ping Shan Library 1970
Taiwan University Library 1971
Nanjing University Library 1980
Beijing Library (National Library of China) 1982, 1990-2003 1959, 1987, 1996-1999
Beijing Normal University Library 1983 2002
Wuhan University Library 1982
Xinjiang University Library 1983
Guangxi Normal University Library 1983
Jiangxi Normal University Library 1984
Library of Renmin University of China 1991
Institute of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Literature 1993
Library of Chinese Academy of Science 1994
Hebei Library 1997
Shandong Library 1999
Museum of Chinese History 2002
Zhejiang Library 2002
Tsinghua University Library 2003
Sun Yat-sen University Library 2004
Shandong Normal University Library 2003
Chinese University of Hong Kong Library 2004 1999
Hunan Library 2008 1998
Shandong University Library 2007
Tianjin Library 2008
Note: This table was created by the authors based on a survey of ancient book catalogs in China
Table II.
Ancient book catalogs in
China (1949-2008)
A preservation
framework for
Chinese books
263
for the book Dream of the Red Chamber. Almost at the same time, the National Central
Library at Taipei created the MARC format for Chinese rare books and built the United
Rare Book Catalog of Taiwan. The Academia Sinica built several ancient book
databases such as the Full-text Retrieval System of Handian, Bibliographic Database of
Fu Ssu-nien Library and so on. The National Palace Museum at Taipei also built
several databases for rare books and family genealogies. The Chinese University of
Hong Kong built the Handa Ancient Book Database. The Digital Heritage Publishing
Ltd in collaboration with Unihan Digital Technology Ltd. created an electronic version
of the book Imperial Collection of Four (Li and Xiao, 2002, p. 26). In Mainland China, in
the early 1990s, Northeast Normal University created the first computer searchable
catalog for ancient books. Later, a group of provincial and municipal public libraries
created bibliographic databases for their collections of ancient books, such as Nanjing
Library, Liaoning Library, Zhejiang Library, Shandong Library, Shanxi Library,
Dalian Library and so on (Li, 2002, p. 23). So far, Shanghai Library has built an ancient
book bibliographic database with about 130,000 records. It also created the CD-ROM
version for full text images of those 130, 000 ancient books. The National Library of
China has compiled The MARC Manual of Chinese Ancient Books, participated in the
development of Cooperative On-line Cataloging Rules of China Academic Library &
Information System (CALIS), and built the Bibliographic Database of General Ancient
Books and Bibliographic Database of Rare Books, etc. (Dong, 2006). Nowadays, some
for-profit companies also have started to build full-text databases for ancient books.
For example, the Beijing Chinese Studies Communication Company has built a
database for Chinese Culture Literatures, which contains 4,000 titles of ancient books
produced between the Pre-Qin Dynasty (770BC-221) and Tsing Dynasty (1636-1911).
The Chinese Basic Ancient Book Database created by Peking University is the most
famous full-text databases for ancient books, which contains more than 10,000 titles of
ancient books from the Pre-Qin Dynasty to the Republic of China (770BC-1949). In this
database, the full text content of every book was provided. For very important books,
digital images were also provided (Wu, 2004). See Table III for an overview of ancient
book digitization in China.
Even though much has been achieved, the preservation of ancient books in China is
far from ideal. In the following section, we will analyze the value attributes of ancient
books and discuss problems in preserving these values attributes.
3. Values of ancient books
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) (1978)), “Movable Cultural Property are movable objects that are the
expression and testimony of human creation or of the evolution of nature and which are
of archaeological, historical, artistic, scientific or technical value and interest, including
manuscripts and incunabula, codices, books, documents or publications of special
interest”. Chinese ancient books have the values mentioned previously and are a type of
“Movable Cultural Property”. We categorize those values into three groups from the
preservation perspective: archaeological values, historical values and artistic values.
3.1 Archaeological values
When talking about archaeological values, we focus on the values of the physicality of
ancient books. Ancient books as physical artifacts are the carriers of intellectual
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Type and quantity
Producers Content of databases Bibliography (items) Full-text Images
National Library of China General ancient books 330,000
Rare ancient books 52,000
Chinese rubbings 23,000 29,000
Local chronicles & family genealogies 14,000
International Dunhuang Project 25,729
Hsi-Hsia documents 125 5,000
National Science Library of China Ancient books 500,000
Shanghai Library Ancient books 129,660
Rare book of the Song Dynasty and Yuan Dynasty 20 titles
Family genealogies 16,832 Some
Shandong Library Ancient books 30,000
Chronicles of Shandong province 581
Liaoning Library Ancient books 24,717
Shanxi Library Abstracts of local chronicles 1,024
Family genealogies of Shanxi province 95
Anhui Library Rare ancient books 5,418
Family genealogies of Anhui province 900 9
Capital Library of China Illustration database of ancient books 10,000
Building materials for the city wall of Peking between the Ming
Dynasty and Tsing Dynasty (1368-1911)
59 titles 358
Tianjin Library Images of rare ancient books 60 60
Nanjing Library Chinese traditional sports pictures 1,488
Images of choicest collections 23
Jinling Library Chinese ancient novels 428
Imperial Collections of Four 3,577
Continuation of Imperial Collections of Four 5213
Chronicle Collections 1,200
Series Collections 100
Dalian Library Novels of Ming Dynasty and Tsing Dynasty 40 titles
Ancient thread-bound books 8,910
Rare ancient books 1,710
Jinan Library Ancient local documents 51 titles 2,037
Stone rubbings 270 titles 5,000
(continued)
Table III.
An overview of ancient
book databases in China
(by 22 March 2009)
A preservation
framework for
Chinese books
265
Type and quantity
Producers Content of databases Bibliography (items) Full-text Images
Shaoxing Library Local chronicles of Shaoxing 8 titles 100
Local inscription rubbings 147
Family genealogies 553
Rare ancient books 698
Suzhou Library Rare ancient books 12 titles All
Wujiang Library Ancient local chronicles of Wujiang in recent 500 years 24 titles
Quanzhou Library Family genealogies 590
Cooperative On-line Cataloging Rules
of China Academic Library &
Information System (CALIS)
Chinese ancient collections of academic libraries 200,000 Some
Peking University Library Ancient books 135,000 Some
Tsinghua University Library Ancient books 20,000
Ancient science and technology books 13,000
Ancient science and technology books 100 titles
Library of Renmin University General thread-bound ancient books 300,000
Fudan University Library Classical literature (Biographies in the Tsing and Ming Dynasty;
Inscription index of ancient books; Ancient books collated in
recent 50 years; Index of Imperial Collection of Four; Ancient
books in Tsing Dynasty, Ming Dynasty and Yuan Dynasty)
Linking with other libraries in
China and libraries of Taiwan,
Japan and North America
Beijing Normal University Library Ancient books 9,000
China Agricultural University
Library
Agricultural ancient books of China Nine titles All
Wuhan University Library Rare ancient books 794
Center for Combinatorics of Nankai
University
Twenty-Five Histories 40 million
words
Lanzhou University Library Dunhuang Manuscripts 22,000 Some
Bamboo and silk book institute Bamboo and silk books 14
Bamboo and silk books 33 chapters
Northeast Normal University Library Special-collections 108 108
South China Normal University
Library
Ancient book series 29,909
Jiangxi Normal University Library Thread-bound ancient books 4,376
Beijing Chinese Studies
Communication Company
Collections of Chinese-Studies 2008 titles
(continued)
Table III.
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Type and quantity
Producers Content of databases Bibliography (items) Full-text Images
Beijing Erudition Digital &
Technology Research Center
Chinese basic ancient books 10,000 titles 10 million
Unihan Digital Technology Co., Ltd. Imperial Collection of Four 3,503 titles
Series of Four Categories 504 titles
Dragoninfo Technology Co.,Ltd Hytung Ancient Book Database 1,000 million
words
5 million
Digiark Information Corporation Ancient books 280 titles
Polaris Library ancient books 1,268 titles
National Central Library (Taiwan) Handian ancient books 37,169 9,097
ancient books in Ming Dynasty 17 titles Some
ancient books 610,000
Family genealogies of Taiwan 14,945
Inscription rubbings 6,462 12,462
Academia SINICA (Taiwan) Ancient books 374 million
words
Ancient books in Fu Ssu-nien Library 54,636
Images of Fu Ssu-nien Library 24,458
Government archives of Tsing Dynasty 218,818
Center for Chinese Studies Ancient books of Ming Dynasty 2,667
National Cheng Kung University Oracles 41,956
University Library System, The
Chinese University of Hong Kong
Handa Ancient Book Database 100 million
words
18,000
University of Hong Kong Libraries Ancient book series in Japan 947
Fung Ping Shan Library Rare ancient books 727
Table III.
A preservation
framework for
Chinese books
267
content and artistic format. In addition, as with many other archeology artifacts, the
physicality of ancient books tells a story about the social and technical environment in
which they were created. The texture of the paper, the quality of the ink, the look and
feel of the physical object delivers messages from history. With new technology, it is
possible to digitize the content and format, so that the values of intellectual content and
artistic format can be preserved. However, no one would say we should destroy the
original physical artifacts once the content and format is preserved. The physical
artifacts are undoubtedly valuable and need to be preserved.
However, currently in China, except very few extremely valuable rare books,
most ancient books are not preserved in appropriate conditions. Rare ancient books
are preserved in the same condition as ordinary ancient books or even in the same
condition as ordinary books. From the Applications for Key National Ancient Book
Collections submitted by 126 libraries (including 277 ancient book stacks), we found
that only 2.53 percent of the ancient book stacks are protected by anti-ultraviolet
equipments[4], only 7.58 percent of the book stacks are equipped with air
purification devices, and only 27.80 percent of book stacks are equipped with
humidity and temperature monitors (Table IV shows the preservation conditions of
277 ancient book stacks in China). Some ancient books were infested with worms
and rats (Su and Lin, 2006, p. 18). Others were de-accessioned mistakenly as
out-dated books. For example, several years ago, a famous library in Beijing
de-accessioned many old books and periodicals published during the time of the
Republic of China (1911-1949). More than 100 second-hand booksellers who know
the value of those books fought for those books (Zhao, 2006, p. 32). Furthermore,
some libraries even disposed broken thread-bound books as wastes and many of the
“wastes” were actually valuable ancient books.
Preservation conditions
No. of ancient
book stacks Percentage
Air regulation Air-conditioning 128 46.21
Air purification equipment 21 7.58
Light regulation Anti-UV devices 7 2.53
Temperature and
humidity monitoring
Both temperature and humidity monitoring 77 27.80
Neither temperature nor humidity monitor 44 15.88
Temperature monitor only 3 1.08
Humidity monitor only 2 0.72
Fire protection and
security
Automatic flood warning system 25 9.03
Automatic fire alarm system 97 35.02
Anti-theft alarm system 89 32.13
Automatic fire extinguishing system 85 30.69
Disaster prevention and reduction plans 48 17.33
Management and
restoration
Disinfection and pest control 81 29.24
Professionals for book restoration 46 16.61
Notes: This table was created by the authors based on the data in Applications for Key National
Ancient Book Collections (duplicated copy) submitted by 126 libraries all over the country; n¼277
Table IV.
The preservation
conditions of ancient
book stacks in China
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3.2 Historical value
There is no doubt that historical facts recorded in ancient books are primary references
to historians. On the other hand, the evolution process of books themselves tells stories
of high historical values as well. Many ancient books were re-written or re-printed with
revisions, notes and illustrations by the original authors or subsequent readers.
Therefore different editions of a book appeared. Those different editions are the
footprints of the evolving process of the content of the book, authors’ life experiences
and ideas. They can be used as historical evidence. For example, Sikong Tu was a
poetry critic in the Late Tang Dynasty (827-907). In the mid-1990s, some scholars
doubted Sikong Tu was the author of the book Twenty-four Poetic Styles even though
the book bore the name of Sikong Tu. The doubts of those scholars were
understandable because no prior editions of the book were found produced during the
Song Dynasty and Yuan Dynasty (960-1368), and that book seemed to appear suddenly
during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1661). Those scholars thought somebody in the Ming
Dynasty wrote the book and claimed it as work of Sikong Tu. The doubts were
resolved when prior editions produced in Song Dynasty (960-1279) was found in 2007.
These more complete evolution records of that book are evidence that Sikong Tu was
the author of that book.
New historical materials could lead to new discoveries. In this sense, ancient books
that were very rarely seen and never re-published in history are more valuable for
researchers. According to the Capital Museum of China (2003), currently China has
over 45,000 titles of ancient books that have only one copy and 4,100 with only two
copies but they have not been preserved well. In addition to problems in technical
strategies, inappropriate policies of some small libraries have caused conflicts between
preserving archaeological values and preserving historical values. Theoretically there
should not be conflicts between these two, because preserving historical values is the
reason and the purpose of preserving the physical artifacts. However, some small
libraries do not provide copies of ancient books for use and they restrict users to read,
replicate and copy rare ancient books for the protection of the physicality of the books.
The “Suzhou Library event” in 2005 was a typical example of such a conflict (Qi, 2005).
A scholar from Peking University requested several times to copy a rare ancient book
in Suzhou Library, but was rejected by the library staff every time he requested.
3.3 Artistic value
Many ancient hand-written books and rubbings include calligraphy. The artistry of
block-printed books includes carving techniques, decoration techniques, paper use,
font, ink color, overprinting, Gonghua[5] and so on. Those techniques were very well
developed in Song Dynasty and were inherited and evolved in several following
Dynasties. The style of those techniques changed from elegant in Song Dynasty, to
flexible and plain in the Yuan Dynasty and to solemn in early Ming Dynasty. In the
Late Ming Dynasty, even though the collation quality of block-printed books was on a
downward trend, ancient books printed during this time were of higher artistic value
because overprinting and Gonghua techniques for illustrations and Huapu were
invented. Block-printed books of Tsing Dynasty were unique in the form of artistic
expression, because most of the prints were hand-written by famous calligraphist (Xu
and Wu, 1996). Table V gives us a brief overview of the development of Chinese
printing technologies between 618 and 1911 (Li, 2008).
A preservation
framework for
Chinese books
269
Artistic ancient books are not only art references for designing book layout and
bookbinding but also a component of ancient Chinese publishing culture. Preserving
the artistic value of ancient books is important to inherit and carry forward this
cultural heritage. However, compared with the physicality and content, the artistry of
ancient books received less attention. Strategies to preserve the artistic values were
limited to phototaking and photocopies. The techniques to produce and preserve the
artistic format, such as the carving techniques, bookbinding designs, restoration skills
and identification methods[6] were not preserved well.
4. Proposal for a multi-layered preservation framework for ancient books
in China
4.1 Significance of this framework
Although China has made great achievements in preserving ancient books, there is still
a long way to go to preserve all ancient books well. Fortunately, the government knows
this and is providing stronger support for preserving ancient books. Today in China,
the preservation of ancient books is about to enter into prime time due to government
support. In September 2006, Chinese central government issued the Eleventh Five-Year
Plan for National Culture Development. As a part of the plan, in March 2007, the
General Office of the State Council of China issued the Suggestions on Further
Reinforcing Ancient Book Preservation, which specified main tasks and targets in
preserving Chinese ancient books (General Office of the State Council of China, 2007).
In May 2007, the National Preservation Center for Ancient Books was created as a
branch of the National Library of China. The mission of the center includes surveying
collections of ancient books all over China; creating Chinese Ancient Book Union
Catalog and promoting the digitization of Chinese ancient books; building A National
Catalogue of Rare Ancient Book[7] for all ancient books in China, setting standards for
book-stacks for ancient books; ranking institutions based on the importance of their
Dynasties Time Description
Tang 290 years (618-907) Woodblock printing technology was invented but
handwriting copies were still popular
Five 54 years (907-960) Woodblock printing was used to print Confucian
classics by Imperial Academy for the first time
Song 320 years (960-1279) Woodblock printing became more widely used and
four engraving book centers appeared. Movable-type
printing was invented
Yuan 98 years (1271-1368) Woodblock printing industry had been developed
rapidly in academies of that time
Ming 294 years (1368-1661) Woodblock printing industry thrived but the
printing quality decreased. During this period,
technologies of Chromatograph and Gonghua were
invented
Tsing 276 years (1636-1911) Woodblock printing industry was in the heyday and
numerous books were published
Table V.
Development of Chinese
printing technologies
(618-1911)
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collections and the performance in preserving their collections; training ancient books
preservation and restoration professionals (National Library of China, 2007).
It is good to have government policies to guide ancient book preservation. However,
it is also important to understand why the government is doing these and think about
whether something more needs to be done to preserve ancient books. In China, libraries
and other ancient book curators receive orders from the government and do what they
are required to do. Not many people think carefully about why they are doing what
they are required to. Here we propose a preservation framework for ancient books in
China (as shown in Figure 1) based on the previous analysis of the values attributes of
ancient books.
This framework is composed of three layers. The foundation layer is to
preserve the physical entity of ancient books so that the archaeological values are
preserved. The middle layer is to preserve the intellectual content of ancient books
so that the values for historical research are preserved. The top layer is mainly
about preserving the productions process of the artistic format of ancient books, so
that not only the static artistic formats are preserved, the techniques and
procedures to produce the artistic format are preserved as well. This framework
connects the value attributes of ancient books and the strategies to preserve those
values, systematizes them and presents them as a whole. It can be used to justify
government policies and help identify pitfalls in the preservation strategies for
ancient books. So that people in this field have an overview of the values of
ancient book and what need be done to preserve the values. In the past, even
though people may know implicitly about the three value attributes of ancient
books, nobody has ever pointed out the connection of these values and the
preservation strategies for ancient books. Although people may be actually doing
some work to preserve each value attribute in practice, many of them did not
realize that is part of the preservation of ancient books, especially the preservation
of the production techniques of ancient books. Actually, none of the government
initiated ancient book preservation efforts was about the preservation of the
production techniques.
4.2 The first layer: primeval preservation of the physicality of ancient books
The physicality of ancient books is the medium and carrier of intellectual content and
artistic format. The protection of the physicality of ancient books is the foundation of
Figure 1.
A multi-layered
preservation framework
for Chinese ancient books
A preservation
framework for
Chinese books
271
all other protection. Preserving the physicality of ancient books relies on
environmental control and the restoration of damaged books. Considering the fact
that some small libraries cannot afford high standard environmental control for
preserving rare ancient books, we believe it is economically more efficient to centralize
the preservation of rare ancient books. There are two possible ways to centralize the
preservation of ancient books. First, build a national museum for rare ancient books,
and then move all rare ancient books from all over the country to this national
museum. Before the transition, paper and digital copies of these rare books should be
made so that local users are able to use those substitutes. Second, build a hierarchy of
national museums, with an administrative unit on the top and many branches around
the country. The top-level administrative unit can be a division of the National Library
of China. This hierarchy is less centralized than the national museum model, but is
more centralized than the current scattered distribution of rare ancient books.
Currently, some small libraries have only several rare ancient books. With this
hierarchy, rare books from very small libraries will be centralized to a local branch. We
believe these two centralized models are feasible because of two reasons. First,
according to current incomplete statistics, there are only 2.5 million copies of rare
ancient books. That is manageable by a single centralized repository. Some libraries
may be reluctant to give away their rare ancient books. An incentive mechanism could
be developed to motivate those libraries to give away rare books. For example, even
though the preservation is centralized, the original curators will be recognized or
compensated financially. Second, with a centralized political regime in China, and with
the power of laws, it is possible to order the transition of rare ancient books from local
libraries to the centralized national museum.
The environmental control for ordinary ancient books is not as expensive as that for
rare ancient books. Therefore ordinary ancient books can stay where they are. But the
book stacks should meet The Standard for the Repository of Ancient Books and Special
Collection of Library (China Ministry of Culture, 2006). A new evaluation mechanism
should be built to re-evaluate ancient books after a period of time, so that more rare
books could possibly be identified and transferred to the national museum.
In China, the library community follows three principles in ancient books
restoration: originality (preserve the original look and feel of ancient books), least
intervention (make the restoration procedure as simple as possible) and reversibility
(when new restoration technique appears, ancient books can be reversed to its original
status and then be restored using the new technique). China Ministry of Culture (2006)
issued The Standard for the Restoration and Control of Ancient Books, WH/T23-2006,
and The Standard for Distinction of Disrepair of Ancient Books (WH/T22-2006). These
two standards laid foundation for the standardization of ancient book restoration.
However, they did not specify the details for ancient book restoration. To supplement
those two standards, we believe it is necessary to create detailed documentation for the
restoration of every ancient book. The documentation includes information about how
damaged the ancient book is, plans for restoring it, the process of restoring it, photos
and videos for the book before and after it was restored, evaluation of the quality of
restoration and lessons learned from restoring the book. The documentation is
important for the reversibility of ancient book restoration, for accumulating lessons for
ancient book restoration and for creating new restoration techniques. It can also be
used as text books for training restoration professionals.
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4.3 The second layer: regeneration preservation of the contents of ancient books
The values of ancient books for historical research mostly lie in the intellectual content
of books. Therefore the strategy to preserve historical values is to re-generate the
content of ancient books. The aforementioned re-publication, microfilming and
digitization of ancient books are all means to re-generate content. Even though China
has made great achievements in re-generating content, what has been done covers only
a very small percentage of all ancient books existing in China. On the other hand,
though the Ancient Book Re-publishing Team and the China National Microfilming
Center for Library Resources has their own planning of re-generating the content of
ancient books, there is a lack of collaboration between them. As a result, there are lots
of repeated titles of ancient books re-generated. Currently in China, various
organizations are involved in digitization of ancient books, including public libraries,
some for-profit technology providers and research institutes. However, they do not
collaborate or coordinate their work either. Consequently, there is duplicated effort and
waste of resources in digitizing the same books, there is no standard format for
digitized ancient books, and there is no standard encoding method for Chinese
characters. Digital ancient books produced by different organizations are not
compatible and require different software to read. We propose to solve the problems in
re-generating the content of ancient books in the following ways:
First, ensure the re-generation of ancient books. We suggest to create a
re-generation schedule for every ancient book and to guarantee the re-generation of
every ancient book. The preservation of the physicality of ancient books should not be
used as an excuse for not re-generating content. On the contrary, re-generating the
content is important for preserving the historical values of ancient books. It is
important to explicitly to specify this in China Library Laws. To avoid damaging
ancient books during the re-generation process, re-generation procedures and
techniques should be carefully decided.
Second, create rules for managing content re-generation. These rules include:
.coordinating the re-generation of ancient books and broadcasting most recently
digitized ancient books to avoid duplicated efforts;
.charging for the use of the original copies of ancient books, and use the revenue
earned to support ancient book preservation; and
.keeping the digital files of ancient books created for publication.
When needed, those digital files can be re-used in creating full-text databases for
ancient books.
Third, standardize the content re-generation of ancient books. Today in China, there
are national standards for the re-publication and microfilming of ancient books. But
there is no national standard for the digitization of ancient books. The standardization
of the digitization of ancient books should cover the following aspects: the selection of
editions to be included in full text databases should be conducted by ancient book
experts; to ensure high quality content, full-text databases should have error detecting
mechanisms such as rigorous proof-reading and/or feedback mechanism between
databases producers and users so that errors found by users can be reported and
received by data producers; adopt the international standard ISO/IEC10646 as the
encoding method for Chinese characters; include images of ancient books to preserve
the look and feel of ancient books; in designing interfaces for ancient book databases,
A preservation
framework for
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273
the special characteristics of ancient books should be considered; use thesauri and
authority control when different formats of the same book title, place name or author
name exist.
4.4 The third layer: intangible cultural heritage preservation of the artistic format and
production process of ancient books
To preserve the artistic values of ancient books, we need to preserve both the static
artistic formats and the techniques and procedures to produce those artistic formats. We
propose to build a National Digital Museum to preserve the static artistic formats of
ancient book editions produced during the Song Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty, Ming Dynasty
and Tsing Dynasty. In addition to the full-text content, the databases would contain the
images of ancient book’s front cover, block brand, volume label, format design, collection
seal, preface and postscript. In the database, all editions of ancient books in the Song
Dynasty and Yuan Dynasty will be included because the number of ancient books
printed in those two dynasties is small. Only a representative sample of ancient books
printed in the Ming Dynasty and Tsing Dynasty will be included, because ancient books
printed in those two dynasties is very large. The sampling strategy should make sure
each edition type should be well represented. The edition types include: hand-written
copy, block-printed copy, movable type printed copy, rubbing copy, etc. Different from
other databases for ancient books, the main purpose of this museum is not to digitize the
content of ancient books. Instead, it is mainly to preserve the artistic formats.
We propose to conduct a nationwide census on the techniques of producing and
restoring ancient books such as carving techniques, bookbinding designs, restoration
skills and identification methods. Currently in China, these techniques are on the verge
of extinction. They are preserved in only a few special publishing houses. For example,
the Guangling Ancient Book Press at Yangzhou preserves the complete block printing
process of ancient books, which includes more than 20 procedures such as writing,
engraving, printing and bookbinding (Guangling Ancient Book Press, 2008). The block
printing of Guangling Ancient Book Press of Yangzhou, the block watermarking of
Rongbaozhai, the Buddhist Scripture printing of Jingling Buddhist Academy and the
Tibetan block printing of Dege Scripture Printing House in Sichuan province have
been identified as the first sets of National Intangible Culture Heritage (State Council of
China, 2006). The ancient book restoration technologies of National Library of China
and the wooden movable type printing of Rui’an in Zhejiang province have been
identified as the second set of National Intangible Culture Heritage (State Council of
China, 2008). More techniques for producing ancient books may be found after the
nationwide census. After we found other techniques for producing ancient books, we
can videotape the production process. We can also apply to register them as National
Intangible Culture Heritage. Once listed as National Intangible Culture Heritage, these
techniques will be in a better position to be preserved well.
A more effective way to preserve those techniques is to preserve them in people’s
memory and practice. We can teach those skills in professional schools and colleges.
Currently in China, the demand for professionals for ancient book restoration is high,
but the supply for that kind of professionals is low. Approximately more than 10
million volumes of ancient books are in urgent need of restoration but fewer than 100
professional restorers are available in the whole country. If on average a person can
restore one volume of ancient book per day, it will take 800 years to restore all books in
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need of restoration (Bao, 2006). Fortunately, in August 2003, the Ministry of Education
and the Ministry of Culture issued the Notice on Further Training for Restoring
Ancient Books. Following that guidance of government, some schools have started to
offer those courses, or created a concentration for restoring and identifying ancient
books. Table VI is an overview of concentrations for restoring and identifying ancient
books in Chinese schools.
Part-time training for ancient book curators is also an option. For example, the
National Preservation Center for Ancient Books and Nanjing Library offer several
part-time training courses about restoring and preserving ancient books. On February
19, 2008, the undergraduate curriculum of Identification and Preservation of Ancient
Books, created by National Preservation Center for Ancient Books, Ancient Book
Department of National Library of China and Chinese Department of Peking
University, formally started at Peking University (National Preservation Center for
Ancient Books, 2008). We believe the lack of ancient book restoration professional may
be relieved in several years. The previously mentioned schools mostly teach courses in
restoring and identifying ancient books, we believe it is necessary to train other skills
in producing ancient books, including carving techniques, bookbinding designs.
5. Summary and discussion
In this paper, we have reviewed the damages and preservation history of ancient books
in China. Then based on the analysis of the three value attributes of ancient books,
namely the archaeological value, the historical value and the artistic value, we proposed
a multi-layered preservation framework for preserving ancient books. In this framework,
the preservation of the physical entity of ancient books is the foundation layer. It is to
preserve the archaeological value of ancient books. Content re-generation of ancient
books is the middle layer. It is to preserve the historical values of ancient books. The
preservation of the artistic format and production process of ancient books is the top
Schools Concentration
Starting
time School system
Jilin Institute of the Arts
Academy
Restoring and mounting
ancient painting (including
ancient books)
2002 Four-year undergraduate
Nanjing Mochou Technical
School
Restoring ancient books 2004 Three-year secondary school
2005 Five-year junior college
Jinling Institute of
Technology
Restoring ancient books 2004 Three-year junior college
2008 Four-year undergraduate
Chinese Department of
Peking University
Related courses in the
Classical Philology Major
2007 Four-year undergraduate
National Library Branch
Campus of the Associated
Capital Staff University
Restoring and identifying
ancient books
2008 Two-year junior college
Taiyuan University of
Technology
Identifying and restoring
cultural relics (including
ancient books)
Unknown Three-year junior college
Table VI.
Schools that provide
training for ancient book
restoration and
identification
A preservation
framework for
Chinese books
275
layer. It is to preserve the artistic values of ancient books. This framework is consistent
with the content of the Chinese Ancient Book Preservation Plans issued in 2007. That
justifies the validity of this framework. On the other hand, this framework is only a high
level theoretical guidance for preserving ancient books. To implement it in practice, the
framework needs to be enriched by detailed plans and specifications. This framework
was proposed for preserving ancient books in China. However, we believe it applies to
the preservation of ancient books in other countries as well. Even though ancient books
in different countries are different in language, style, production process, etc. The three
value attributes are common to ancient books in all countries. And it is the common
desire of all countries to preserve all the three types of value attributes.
Notes
1. As part of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the Smash Four Olds Movement was a
movement to eradicate old customs, old culture, old thoughts and old habits.
2. These are all public libraries.
3. Details are available at: http://swzx.nlc.gov.cn/zxjj.htm
4. Ultraviolet light would reduce the mechanical strength of the paper dramatically.
Anti-ultraviolet protection is the most basic requirement for preserving ancient books.
Ideally, 100 percent of ancient books should be protected by ultra-violet light. The same is
true for other preservation equipments.
5. Gonghua is a Chinese traditional 3D-printing technique applied to print pictures of flowers,
birds, insects, fish and so on. A concave wood block and a convex wood block carved with
the same picture are incused and the picture is printed onto the paper in the middle. Pictures
printed using this technique of ancient books protrude out from the paper.
6. Identification methods are to decide when ancient books were written or printed with what
kinds of printing technology.
7. This National catalog is different from the union catalog mentioned earlier. It covers rare
ancient books only and provides more detailed descriptions for each book than the union
catalog. The National catalog of rare books is used mainly to introduce rare ancient books to
readers. The union catalog covers all ancient books and is mainly used to show the holdings
of libraries.
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Corresponding author
Mingjie Li can be contacted at: lmjiewd@163.com
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Purpose The study is an endeavour to find out the preservation status of rare documents in Srinagar. The rare documents, here, mean the manuscripts and rare books, journals, reports, magazines, archival documents, etc. These resources are available in private libraries of individuals and religious institutions in Srinagar. This study aims to find these private libraries of individuals/families and religious institutions, which are unknown to the scholarly world and observe the preservation status of rare documents. The main focus is to document their present preservation status to give an opportunity to the stakeholders, particularly the government organizations, to take appropriate action before they are lost forever. Design/methodology/approach Before conducting the survey, the investigator interviewed 114 persons including literary persons, faith leaders, librarians, faculty members from various prominent institutions in Srinagar to get leads regarding the persons/families and religious institutions in possession of rare documents. The investigator gathered data through two different schedules and later analyzed the same in this study after carrying out a pilot study to make necessary changes to the schedules compiled for the study. The investigator visited personally each family/individual and religious institution to gather the data for months together. Findings An arduous job was carried out in which around 111 individuals/families and religious institutions were found to be having such rare resources. However, the data gathered reveals a dismal picture of private libraries and religious institutions, in possession of rare documents, as almost all caretakers/ families are devoid of any knowledge regarding the maintenance of these important sources of knowledge. Further, the traditional methods of preservation are still in vogue in some private libraries. These traditional methods have opened new areas of research while at the same time can prove detrimental to the collection if they are useless. Originality/value The study is the first of its kind in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir i.e. Srinagar. The study gives an idea of preservation status of manuscripts and rare documents including books, magazines, journals, archival documents, etc. so that the same are taken care of for posterity. The study is an eye-opener for the policymakers, conservators, archivists and others interested in historical documents. The study will help in furthering the research process as it needs to be ascertained whether the traditional methods of preservation are fruitful. In short, the study is quite helpful in understanding the nature of collection in Srinagar so that appropriate steps are taken by all particularly the Government in J&K. The paper will surely help in the policy formulation in the future.
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As an integral part of society, public libraries have been functioning as community centres that help enhance personal and professional skills development as part of an individual’s lifelong learning process. To that end, public libraries are sometimes regarded as the ‘people’s university’. Using a Shanghainese context, this study seeks to understand the effects of Shanghai Library in creating human capital for the local community. Through a quantitative questionnaire survey, this study focused on examining the perceptions and usage patterns of three different financially independent user groups – white-collar workers, executives/professionals and educators/cultural administrators – and, in particular, how Shanghai Library contributed to the lifelong learning of these three user groups. A total of 429 responses were collected for the study. The findings reveal that a majority of the respondents from all three user groups used Shanghai Library mainly for learning and studying, as well as enhancing job-related skills. In fact, the majority of the respondents regarded Shanghai Library as an ‘indispensable place’ for lifelong learning. This study offers a glimpse of how public libraries in China might build human capital for their local communities.
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The purpose of the article is to summarize the information on the state of collections of ancient and rare books in the library institutions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by the beginning of the 21st century, to consider the content and the course of implementation of the state programs of the PRC in the field of registration, cataloguing, conservation, restoration, preservation and promotion of the national book heritage monuments. The author presents definitions of the terms “Ancient books” and “Rare books” used in China. All manuscript books and printed publications created before 1912 are considered Ancient books. Rare books include all books dated back to the period before 1795 and editions published in 1796—1912 that have outstanding historical, cultural, art and aesthetic value, as well as publishing products and documents from the period of the Republic of China (1912—1949). Chinese publications often use the term “Rare ancient books”, which refers to all manuscript books and printed publications before 1795. There are about 27 million 175 thousand copies of ancient books in the country’s libraries, including 2,5 million books created before 1795; and about 45 thousand ancient books have been preserved in a single copy. The article focuses on the programs developed with the participation of the National Library of China (NLC) and approved by the PRC Government in 2007—2018. The author reveals the main provisions of the “National Plan for Preservation of Ancient Books” (2007), as well as the powers and tasks of the National Centre for Conservation and Preservation of Ancient Chinese Books (NC), which has become the lead agency responsible for the implementation of the Plan. The paper considers the system of regional and local centres for the conservation and restoration of ancient and rare books, headed by the NC, that has developed in the PRC at present, shows the role of these centres in the field of identification, registration and cataloguing of book heritage monuments, in the creation and maintenance of a normative storage regime in old library buildings, ensuring the activities of restoration workshops, digitization of documents, preparation and online publication of full-text databases of ancient and rare books. The article emphasizes the importance of the National Museum of Classical Books, opened in July 2014 at the NLC, for promoting the national book heritage. The author notes that the priority task for the coming years is the construction of three new buildings of the National Book Depository in Beijing and Chéngdé (Hebei Province). The article concludes that over the past ten years, owing to the government support and targeted funding, China has managed to organize systematic activities in the field of conservation, preservation and promotion of the national book heritage.
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To preserve historical documents and mine precious knowledge involved, a knowledge-based archive management system (KB-AMS) is introduced in this chapter. From a socio-technical perspective, the system is designed as a both human centered and IT-based system which not only provides access to archives but also facilitates knowledge sharing and creation and therefore enhancement of knowledge services. Based on the conceptual model, people, resources, processes, and technologies within the system are described and analyzed by introducing a practical case in the context of historical archive preservation.
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In this paper, we propose a discrete-time model with dependent classes of business using a time-series approach. Specifically, premiums and claims of all classes are supposed to satisfy a multivariate first-order autoregressive time-series model. A constant interest rate is also included in the model. A Lundberg-type inequality for the ruin probability is deduced. We also give an example with constant premiums and two classes of claims for which an expression as well as an exponential bound for the ruin probability is given. A simulation study is provided to help understanding the model.
Tingting Protection of the Chinese ancient paper: it needs 100 people continue working for 800 years
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Study of Chinese Ancient Book Editions
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Suggestions on further reinforcing ancient book preservation
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Introduction to the production process of block printing for thread-bound books
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