Rare discovery at East Asia Library

December 7, 2017
Joshua Capitanio
Minli bao

With a patron's help, Zhaohui Xue, Chinese Studies Librarian at the East Asia Library, has discovered some particularly rare materials within the library's collections.

A professor from a local Bay Area university has been doing research into an early twentieth-century Shanghai newspaper entitled Minli bao 民立報, the official publication of the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance 同盟会 and one of the most influential newspapers at the time, which is a critical resource for studying the Revolution of 1911. A Taiwanese publisher has produced a reprint edition of this publication; however, that reprint is missing a number of pages from issues published in March of 1911.  After learning that Stanford holds an original copy of the newspaper from this period, the professor came to view the issues at the East Asia Library, where he made a surprising discovery.  The missing pages consisted of a section of fold-out inserts containing illustrations and hand-written text.  As the paper explains, on March 6, 1911, a fire had broken out in the Minli bao offices that interrupted their regular printing process.  On March 8, the paper issued a hand-written illustrated supplement in place of their regular printed edition, and continued publishing these supplements until March 20, when they resumed printing of the regular publication.  These several weeks of hand-written editions were not included in later reprints of this title, and are extremely rare.

By way of explanation to their readers, the pubishers of Minli bao placed on the first page of their illustrated supplement a short comic strip illustrating the events of the fire:

Minli bao illustrated supplement

"A heartbreaking conflagration."


 Minli bao illustrated supplement

"Typesetters fleeing for their lives from the fire."


 Minli bao illustrated supplement

The scene at the Minli bao offices before (R) and after (L) the fire.


Due to their rarity, these materials have been placed into the queue for future digitization projects, and the East Asia Library hopes to eventually make digital images available to the broader scholarly community.