Archives and Tech Tips

RAS Beijing archives are focused on significant encounters between China and the rest of the world.

Books donated by members and friends of RAS Beijing reside in the library of the Shijia Hutong Museum. Located on one of Beijing’s historic hutongs — traditional alleyways — the site at #24 once was part of a six-courtyard Chinese mansion that had hosted personalities prominent in Beijing’s literary and government circles, especially the performing artists. After 1949, the site which is now #20 Shijia Hutong became the headquarters of the Beijing People’s Art Theater of which Cao Yu was president. (Cao Yu, who is called China’s foremost modern playwright, died in 1996 at the age of 86.) 

The Shijia Hutong Museum was restored by the Prince’s Charities Foundation (China) and had been the mansion’s garden wing during the Qing Dynasty; after 1949 it had been used as a kindergarten and, briefly, as a factory producing electronics parts. RAS Beijing is grateful to its book donors and partners for creating such an evocative home for our modest collection.

RASBJ also has received donations of artifacts that illuminate significant interactions between China and the non-Chinese world. Included is a wax replica of a mango, its glass vitrine inscribed with a 1968 commemoration of what donor Freda Murck called “the brief sanctification of the mango”. While she was a research fellow in the Palace Museum in Beijing, Freda published a study of the 1968 incident in which Chairman Mao Zedong’s gift of mangoes from Pakistan to a team of Chinese workers became a turning point in the mass campaigns of the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution. Freda donated the rest of her “mango archive”, totaling 62 items, to the permanent collection of the Museum Rietberg (“Golden Mangoes: The Life Cycle of a Cultural Revolution Symbol”) in Zurich, Switzerland, just before she departed Beijing in June 2013.