Sing-wu Wang (1920–2004), also known as Sidney Wang, was born in Wenling, China, and was a graduate of the National Zhejiang University. In 1945 he joined the National Central Library as the head of cataloguing and helped to reopen and rebuild the library after years of war. In 1948–49 he was involved in moving rare books and artworks to Taiwan. He was librarian at the Yang-Min Shan Institute and in 1955 he was appointed director of the Taiwan Provincial Library in Taipei. In 1959–60 he went to the United States on study leave, where he was based at the Cleveland Public Library. In his nine years as director of the Provincial Library, he succeeded in having all the printed collections catalogued for the first time and saw the first stages completed of a new library building.

In 1964 Wang was recruited by Harold White to be the chief librarian of the Orientalia Section of the National Library of Australia. He remained in the position until his retirement in 1985. Under his leadership, the collection grew from 40 000 to nearly 330 000 volumes. In 1973 he visited Beijing and established close relations with the National Library of China, which led to an influx of both current and retrospective Chinese publications. As well as building up great strength in East Asian materials, the collections of Indonesian and other South-East Asian publications also grew rapidly. Wang was a genial and scholarly presence in the Orientalia Reading Room and was known to generations of Asian studies students and scholars.

Following his retirement, Wang and his wife continued to live in Canberra. They were founding members of the Chinese Christian Church in Canberra. In 2003 a plaque was placed in one of the Asian Collections reading rooms to commemorate the work and dedication of Wang.


Early in 2004, Wang formally offered his books and papers to the Library. They were received from his family shortly after his death in October 2004.


Printed Materials

The Wang Collection contains about 4000 books, mostly in Chinese. They were nearly all published in China, Taiwan and occasionally elsewhere in the period 1950–2000. They include many modern editions of works written in earlier centuries and also a number of Chinese translations of Western books. The great strength of the collection is in historical works, covering the whole span of Chinese history and including historical geography and biography. In particular, there are many books on the Taiping Rebellion. Other subjects represented in the collection are ethnology, legends, law, politics and government, foreign relations, communism, travel, shipping and navigation, Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism (Taoism), Islam, Christian missions, overseas Chinese, medicine, philosophy, antiquities, art, pottery, language, poetry, fiction, literary criticism, publishing, bibliography and librarianship. There are also a large number of dictionaries and atlases.

The Chinese language component has some strength in the history and politics of Taiwan and of central Asia, Mongolia, Tibet, Japan, Vietnam and South-East Asia. There are also a number of Chinese books on Australian history, literature and society.

In addition, the Wang Collection contains about 1800 English language books and many serials. The subject matter is similar, including translations of Chinese classics, the history of China, Taiwan and South-East Asia, Chinese foreign relations, migration, Australian history and biography, travel, Biblical studies, librarianship and language. Among the serial holdings are long runs of:

Journal of Asian Studies (1969–2003)

Asian Studies Review (1991–2002).

Personal Papers

A large part of the archive consists of files relating to Wang’s work in the Library and his involvement in organisations such as the East Asian Librarians Group of Australia and the Asian Studies Association of Australia. In particular, there are files on the administration of the Orientalia Section, acquisitions, relations with other libraries, his visits to China in 1973, 1980 and 1983, his visit to Taiwan in 1980, and his survey of East Asian language collections in Australia (1984). Other papers include family and personal correspondence from 1948 onwards, diaries kept in his later years, notes made while working in the United States in 1959–60, research material for his Master’s thesis, newspaper cuttings, and papers concerning the Chinese Christian Church in Canberra.

The collection includes a copy of Wang’s Master of Arts thesis, The organisation of Chinese emigration, 1848–1888, with special reference to Chinese emigration to Australia (The Australian National University, 1969). The thesis was published by the Chinese Materials Center in San Francisco in 1978.


The books in the Wang Collection are kept together in the Asian Collections.They have been catalogued individually. The call numbers have the prefix WANG. The Wang papers are held in the Manuscripts Collection at Acc 05/104. The collection has not yet been arranged and listed.


Gosling, Andrew, Obituary of Sidney Wang, East Asian Library Resources Group of Australia Newsletter, no. 47, June 2005.

Wang, Sing-wu, Recollections of My Working Life in Chinese, American and Australian Libraries, Association for Asian Studies Committee on East Asian Libraries Bulletin, no. 101, December 1993, pp. 124–32.