Tuesday, September 04, 2007

East meets West, and shows it what's what

We had a visit on Friday from four Chinese librarians, touring Oregon libraries as part of the Horner Library Staff Exchange Project. Eager to take the opportunity to tap into their expertise to help identify some of our Chinese items, I pulled out a few books (including Chen and Gong) and a set of figurines from our Medical Museum Collection.

The figurines were particular posers: we knew we had received them from Ada Doernbecher Morse (yes, of that Doernbecher family) but we had no note of when Ada donated them or how old the set itself was. Our visitors were able to tell me that the set is a traditional representation of the modes of transportation in China; that the artistic style is Cantonese; and that, judging by the clothing and hairstyles, the set probably dates from the late Qing dynasty--so, at least a hundred years old. They even corrected my improper poses, moving several pieces from one area to another to make four scenes out of my assumed five.

The librarians, themselves from the Fujian Province, were also interested to see the books, since one of the authors was a physician from Fujian. The two books were printed from carved wooden blocks, one per page--no moveable type at that time--although our translator first described the blocks as stone. That would have been something to see!

We finished up with a little look at Western medicine's take on Chinese pulse diagnosis (represented in our collection by Floyer), and some discussion of the CAM research going on here at OHSU and at our neighbor school, NCNM. All in all, a fascinating and productive meeting of minds!

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