The Early Textbooks Special Collection, established by Wang Gungwu Library (Chinese Heritage Centre) of Nanyang Technological University in 2010, aims to collect, manage, and preserve early textbooks in Chinese used in Southeast Asia.
Benefiting from donors such as Indonesian Chinese Professor Eddy Hermawan, Nanyang Girls’ High School, and Singapore Chinese High School, the current collection consists of about 2000 textbooks and related study and teaching materials that were used in Mainland China and Chinese schools in Southeast Asian countries during the twentieth century.
This bibliography aims to facilitate research by gathering, organising and sharing publication details of the early textbook collection.
The earliest textbook dates back to the beginning of twentieth century, and the most recent one was published in 1987 – the year that all the four language educational streams in Singapore were unified.
The majority of the collection comprises textbooks used in Singapore and Malaysia from the thirties to the seventies. The rest are textbooks used in Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries. Subjects include Chinese language, history, geography, mathematics, physics, chemistry, civic education, Buddhist studies, Chinese compositions, etc.
How to use
This bibliography records a total of more than 1200 textbooks. Readers can search by title, author, or subject. They can also browse the whole collection by author, year, content level, subject heading, keyword, and place of publication. The selected records can be saved, sent by email or printed.
Call for donation
This textbook collection was created primarily from donations. The collection is therefore small, fragmented and not very comprehensive. We welcome any book or monetary donations. Donated books will be managed and preserved properly, and made available for research. For enquiries, please email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Early Textbook Bibliography Editorial Team
Professor Zhou Min
Director, Chinese Heritage Centre, Nanyang Technological University
Chinese schools have historically served as one of the three pillars of Chinese diaspora communities (the other two being family or clan associations and the Chinese language press) and have always been an important subject of inquiry in Singapore and Malaysia Chinese historiography. For a long time, historians and scholars have taken a macro socio-political perspective in their research and relied heavily on official or semi-official accounts to the neglect of primary data sources, such as local school publications, textbooks and curricula, newspapers and periodicals, inscriptions, association documents, and personal diaries and letters. The oversight may be due to researchers’ theoretical or methodological approaches, it may also due to the limited availability and accessibility of primary data. In fact, primary data do exist, but they are too voluminous and too widely scattered to become readily useful and accessible to more researchers.
Early Chinese school textbooks are an important source of primary data. The Wang Gungwu Library (WGWL) at the Chinese Heritage Centre has now held a collection of some 3,000 volumes, which were donated or curated in the past few years. The WGWL has also set up a special collection room in 2011, equipped with an online bibliography, to preserve, display, and promote this valuable collection. We are planning to digitize the contents of the whole collection and make it available to a global audience.
There is still a lot that needs to be done to enlarge and improve WGWL’s collection of early Chinese textbooks. We hope that, by collaborating with like-minded collectors, curators, and institutions locally, regionally, and globally, we can continue to build up our collection. Our goal is to expand this collection into a national database that is comprehensive, easy-to-use, and full-text searchable. Such a database will promise easier and broader access and minimise possible biases, while changing the way research is carried out.
April 8, 2014