Rare Books from NCL Go to Poland—The Imprint of Civilization: Ancient Books from the National Central Library, Taiwan at the National Library of Poland
On December 9, 2022, National Central Library (NCL) and the National Library of Poland (NLP) collaborated for the first time in co-hosting the opening ceremony of “The Imprint of Civilization: Ancient Books from the National Central Library, Taiwan” at NLP. The exhibition was open from December 9 to 29. Apart from displays of oracle bone characters, bronzeware rubbings, and other replicas of rare books, the exhibition showed the evolution of printing techniques and the most exquisite books in both libraries collections. In addition, in an effort to correlate with the unique holdings in NLP, a new section was added to the exhibition called “Connections between Chinese and Western Civilizations.” Books on astronomy, calendars, herbology and plants from the 17th century and on were on display showing the influence of interaction between the two civilizations.
NCL Director-General Shu-hsien Tseng stated that the special exhibition was at the National Library of Latvia in in 2015, at the National Széchényi Library in Hungary in 2016, and at the National Library of Estonia in 2021. Now it once again came to Europe. The Imprint of Civilization has indeed become Taiwan’s branded image in international cultural exchange. The reception has been very good, resulting in a strong reputation passed by word of mouth. This is the fourth time of putting it on. It is hoped that through joint planning with NLP, it can be a beginning to an energy-filled cultural exchange between the two countries. Doing so will achieve the dual aim of promoting library education and increasing cultural exchange between the two countries.
The opening ceremony to the exhibition was held at the new NLP building. Taiwan representative to Poland, Bob Chen, was invited to attend and to speak during the opening ceremony. Ambassador Chen thanked NLP for their help with this exhibition, and highly praised the important significance that this exhibition has on cultural exchange between the two countries. NLP Director General Tomasz Makowski thanked the special guests from different sectors of the Polish society for their support of the exhibition and stated he hopes the two libraries, and even the two countries, can enjoy a closer and deeper collaboration.
In an effort to deepen relations, in 2022 the two libraries decided to collaborate on this exhibition, giving the knowledge in NCL’s rare collections an opportunity to come to Eastern Europe. Director-General Shu-hsien Tseng mentioned that a major draw for this exhibition was the book Flora Sinensis that NLP has in its collection, which was written by 17th century Polish missionary, Rev. Michał Piotr Boym. It was the first book in Europe to show what plant life existed in the Far East. This book was the impetus in adding in the “Connections between Chinese and Western Civilizations” area. NCL added the ancient book Forms of Metals, Minerals, Insects and Plant and An Overview of Astronomy and others from its collection, with the hope that attendees would gain a better appreciation of the contact, collision, and merging of the two civilizations. The two libraries resembled Rev. Boym in that they worked together to construct a bridge for East-West cultural exchange. This not only lessened the distance between library and patron, but also allowed the Polish people to gain an understanding of the beauty Taiwan’s ancient books and the long process of book development.
During the opening ceremony, a Taiwan Corner book donation also occurred. Director-General Shu-hsien Tseng highlighted the fact that in an effort to spread knowledge of Chinese and of Taiwan’s culture and people among average citizens abroad, NCL teams up with outstanding libraries around the world to establish Taiwan Corners. Each year, top quality books, children’s story books, and books on learning Chinese published in Taiwan are donated to the Corner with the hope that these will help develop a new generation of good readers and inspire people overseas to be interested in Chinese and improve their Chinese reading ability. Moreover, these books can increase an understanding of Taiwan. This Taiwan Corner was gifted more than 50 books on Taiwan’s history and customs, natural world, literature and art, etc. with the aim of NLP being a medium by which the Polish public can come to know Taiwan.
That day a Taiwan Lecture on Chinese Studies given by Dr. Li-chi Chen from the East Asian Languages Department at Kazimierz Wielki University. His topic was “Wit and Humor in Chinese Characters.” He spoke about the reasons many characters make people laugh, and showed this humor through visuals and the shapes of characters.
The opening ceremony of the exhibition and the lecture attracted many people. The exquisite design of the exhibition and the sheer number of items on display surprised the Polish public. The Chinese New Year picture stamps and the auspicious stamp making activity was popular among visitors. To augment the content of the exhibition and the interaction of those in attendance, an interactive electronic postcard station was set up to provide visitors a chance to take a picture with a special background and then turn it into a postcard. The opening ceremony attracted many special guests, who were eager to experience the digital options in the exhibition.