Recording date:

What were Chinese children reading about Australia and the world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? Dr Shih-Wen (Sue) Chen uses the National Library of Australia’s rich collection of reading materials for children published by Protestant missionaries and Chinese reformers to discuss how texts and cultures were shared between Britain, America and China during a period of uncertainty and political unrest in Chinese history.

Dr Shih-Wen (Sue) Chen is a National Library of Australia Fellow, supported by Ryan Stokes.

Image: Yaquan Du, Hui tu wen xue chu jie1903 (detail),

*Speakers: Alex Philp (A), Sue Chen (S)

*Audience: (Au) – no microphone


*Date: 26 October 2017



A:        A man stands behind a lectern and a natural hush comes over the room. Good evening, everyone, my name’s Alex Philp, I’m the Director of Overseas Collections and Metadata Management here at the National Library of Australia. Before we start I’d like to acknowledge the Ngambri and Ngunnawal people who are the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today and I’d like to pay my respects to their elders past and present.

Now the Library’s overseen by a governing council and earlier this month we had our annual – the council session for Library staff. At that meeting one of the Council members, Kent Anderson, said that as he came over the bridge towards the Library that morning he reflected that this place has a timeless tradition of stewardship from the local Aboriginal people over countless generations. I thought that was a really nice, articulate way of paying respect to the local Aboriginal people and I’d like to echo that here this evening.

It’s an absolute delight for me to introduce this National Library fellowship presentation, Enlightening the Child, Chinese Children’s Literature at The Crossroads, 1875 to 1919. Dr Sue Chen is a highly credentialed scholar and one we’ve been delighted to have here at the Library over the last few months. Dr Chen was awarded a PhD from the ANU and holds masters’ degrees from the University of Canberra and the University of British Colombia in Canada and she completed her Bachelor of Arts degree at the National Taiwan University. She was a post-doctoral fellow at the Australia Centre on China in the World and has published widely on children’s literature, cultural studies and intriguingly internet humour and everyday life in China.

As the Collection Manager in Asian Collections I get super-excited about projects like hers. In her fellowship application she linked really exciting research threads with some of our most iconic collections, the London Missionary Society Collection and many others with Chinese titles that I won’t embarrass myself by trying to read out.

So the Library has been collecting Chinese material since the 1950s because it provides scholars with the resources to discover Asia in Asian languages. We’re really proud of our work over the decades and I’d like to pay tribute to those librarians and collection managers who’ve built those collections over the years. The cumulative effect of their efforts and skill has now placed us in the wonderful position of bringing world class scholars like Dr Chen to study here at the Library and to extend the boundaries of our understanding of our region. Lucky us.

I don’t want to take up too much time but before I introduce Dr Chen I will tell you briefly about how we came to acquire the London Missionary Society collection which is the heart of her research. The National Library acquired the collection in 1961 as part of its effort to develop strong research holdings on modern Asia. At that time the Library had a liaison officer in London. Now is Marie-Louise here? No. Well if she was I’d ask her to bring that position back and I know a guy.

In 1961 the London Missionary Society contacted our liaison officer in London about selling their collection. He sought advice from experts at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies as well as the British Museum then he wrote to our national librarian, Harold White, in the following terms. I have to report that the London Missionary Society has offered to sell to the National Library a collection of Chinese works of about 600 volumes. The majority of these works were published in the 19th and early 20th centuries and they cover a wide range of subjects. Some of the historic and literary material is of considerable value and rare. The most valuable items in the collection are the pamphlets relating to the Taiping rebellion. So Sir Harold got this letter and then he consulted several eminent Chinese scholars at the ANU. They supported acquisition of the collection which was duly purchased and sent to Australia on board a ship called The Carnatic in January 1962. So since then it’s been used by countless scholars and we’re now – digitised the entire collection so it’s available to anyone wherever they are. Please join me in welcoming Dr Sue Chen.


S:         Thank you, Alex, for your kind introduction. Before I begin I’d also like to thank Ryan Stokes for his generous support of my fellowship. I’d like to thank Robyn Holmes, Beth Mansfield, Dipin Ouyang, Xiaoli Li and the entire Chinese collection team for their help during my time here at the National Library. I’ve enjoyed each moment here and I wish I could stay longer, I’m sure there are a lot of other materials that I haven’t yet discovered because my research has taken me beyond the London Missionary Society archive and into others that I didn’t know about until I came here.

So first I’d like to address the question about why study children’s literature? Well according to noted American novelist, Joyce Carol Oates, books we read as children quote. seem to soak into the very marrow of our bones and to condition our interpretation of the universe thereafter. Children’s literature plays an important role in revealing national concerns and attitudes. French academic, Paul Hazard asserts quote, England could be reconstructed entirely from its children’s books. This statement suggests that by examining children’s books published in England one can gain a clearer understanding of English society and culture. I think his assertion could be applied to other countries as well because books can be seen as a repository of values that adults hope to pass on to the young.

While one can identify the values and knowledge that authors wish to transmit to their readers one cannot claim that readers accepted these values without questioning. Differences in social economic status, educational level and gender make it difficult to generalise about the reading practices of children at any given historical moment. Attempts at making generalisations are also hindered by the fact that the number of unrecorded acts of reading far surpasses the amount of available records. For example we have here a rare photo of a child sitting next to his mother who’s holding a copy of Xun er zhen yan, a Chinese translation of British author, Favell Lee Mortimer’s bestselling children’s book, The Peep of Day which was originally published in 1833.

So we’re not sure if the mother or the father in this photo read the book to the child or if the child read it himself or whether the child understood the content of the book. In my presentation I will highlight a few examples of Chinese authors and educators who recall their experiences reading some of the children’s periodicals that I’ll be examining but unfortunately the majority of readers’ responses to these texts will never be known.

In 1907 missionary John McGowan claimed quote, there is not today a single child’s book in China, no fairy stories for children, no household rhymes that can be bought at the bookseller’s and put into the hands of the little ones in the nursery. McGowan’s assertion, while exaggerated, highlights the perceived paucity of books published specifically for Chinese children in the late 19th and early 20th century when young readers were mostly memorising classics such as the Three-character classic, One Hundred Family Surnames or One Thousand Character Classic and these books functioned as literacy primers rather than fairy stories written to entertain children. And here on the slide you can see some of the earliest editions of these three texts that the National Library has from 1666.

Children also read the Twenty-Four Paragons of Filial Piety, Ershisi Xiao, which aimed to instil Confucian values in the reader through anecdotes of children demonstrating filial piety, a key virtue in Chinese society. And I also found some quite interesting versions of the Twenty-Four Paragons of Filial Piety in the National Library. First we have Er shi si xiao tu zhu xiao jing from 1912 and here is one from the early 20th century and it’s a bilingual version with a wooden cover that consists of 13 folded leaves and another different version, we have one here of 22 scrolls from the 1970s. This one is one of my favourites. It’s called Filial Sons of Old China and it was produced by the Self-Help Department of the Women’s Bible School established by the Chefoo Presbyterian Mission. You can see here it has a tapestry cover and inside are paper cut silhouettes for each of the stories.

So you can see from these examples that children didn’t really have much to read in the late Qing dynasty. It was in this context that Protestant missionary presses published texts specifically for Chinese children at this time. Before I focus on the texts themselves I’ll give you a bit more information about the social historical context in which these texts were produced.

After China’s defeat in the first opium war the Treaty of Nanjing was signed. This treaty allowed foreigners whose previous activities were restricted to an area called the factories near the Canton River to step outside the boundaries to conduct trade in five trading ports. And you can see here a painting of what the Canton factories looked like in 1847. The number of travellers to China greatly increased after the treaties of Tianjin were signed in June 1858 towards the end of the second opium war because foreigners were then given the right to travel to the interior of China, the Yangtze River was opened to foreign ships and Christian missionaries were allowed to do mission work in the inner provinces.

Before the signing of the treaty there were fewer than 200 Protestant missionaries in China. After the treaty “opened up” the Chinese Inland Missionary Society sent more people into the country. Initially the various Protestant mission presses established in cities such as Shanghai and Beijing concentrated mostly on printing Bibles, tracts and periodicals for adults with only an occasional translated children’s book but after the 1870s when the mission press became more secularised more attention was paid to publishing children’s periodicals, novels and textbooks.

And then importance of publishing a special literature for children is highlighted in two reviews of the Xiaohai yuebao, The Child’s Paper, in the 1870s. One published in The Chinese Recorder notes quote, the importance of periodical literature as a civilising power and that to write for children and to write well is perhaps one of the most difficult parts of this department.

Another review in The North China Herald states it is difficult to over-estimate the value of work among and for the benefit of children whom it is far easier to improve than the grownup Chinese. Both reviewers suggest that the Chinese need civilising and improving, reflecting Orientalist views of a backward East in contrast to a civilised West. The latter review also includes the assumption that children are far more easily influenced than adults, a view echoed by another review in 1882 that declares that The Child’s Paper would educate the young who will constitute this class in the next generation. Their minds are now plastic and those who wish to give them correct views should avail themselves of this opportunity. And this description of children’s minds as plastic coincides with English philosopher, John Locke's idea of the child as tabula rasa or blank slate and he notes that the child’s mind is quote, white paper, void of all characters, simply waiting to be imprinted.

Locke's thoughts concerning education were widely accepted by British and American children’s authors, including missionaries, from the 18th to 19th century. So missionaries regarded childhood as a crucial stage of life and hoped that children converted at a young age after reading Christian children’s literature and then they would grow up to establish a strong Chinese church. For example, John Farnham who was involved in American Presbyterian Mission Press wrote to the Board of Foreign Missions that quote, we must if possible reach and change the minds of the children or they’ll grow up to be as superstitious and ignorant as the present generation.

Farnham’s sentiments reflect an adult anxiety about children’s innocence and their susceptibility to corruption influences. He asked the Board for 300 US dollars to support the circulation of Xiaohai yuebao which he describes as quote, well received on all hands and the circulation is increasing rapidly yet we must depend on contributions to help it for some time to come until a taste for such reading is formed. This statement acknowledges the difficulty in forming reading habits among the young Chinese but also ends on a hopeful note that once a taste for Christian literature was developed it would have profound benefits.

Because of their belief in the malleability of children, missionaries produced children’s periodicals and novels to supplement the primers that I’ve mentioned, hoping to inspire a love of reading among Chinese youth. In among these, The Child’s Paper or Xiaohai yuebao was the most notable. It played a role in disseminating western knowledge of astronomy, physics, natural history and other related fields of 19th century science. Farnham was the editor of The Child’s Paper which was first established in Canton by a medical missionary, Dr John G Kerr, in 1874. Kerr based it on the American Tract Society’s Child’s Paper which was a monthly periodical noted for its quality illustrations and large circulation.

In addition to editing the paper Farnham began to teach his students at Lowrie High School bookbinding, engraving, typesetting and stereotyping skills which provided them with the tools for entering the publishing trade. Four of these former students founded the influential Shangwu Yinshuguan or Commercial Press in 1897. These men continued the work of the mission presses in producing and shaping Chinese children’s literature and the press is still an influential one today with locations in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia and I’ll come back to the Commercial Press later on in the presentation.

Although Farnham encouraged students in the mission schools to send in their manuscripts for the paper it was only in later years that the monthly published more works by Chinese authors. Many of them were staff of the Chinese Religious Tract Society such as this man here, Zhong Zineng, who was also a teacher at Lowrie High School and later became editor of Xiaohai yuebao after Farnham. He was also the Assistant Editor of the Chinese Illustrated News.

There were several constraints on the establishment, running and circulation of children’s texts such as The Child’s Paper at this time including the number of electroplates available to illustrate the periodical, the lack of quality paper, limited financial resources, difficulty in finding quality translators and the cost of distribution.

Because these missionary publications were not issued with the primary goal of commercial profit these publications were often sold below cost price and even circulated for free. In fact Farnham insisted that The Child’s Paper be distributed freely to children because quote, the children have no means to pay for it. So the different tract societies contributed quite a lot in the initial years.

The distribution of literature was another concern. Before the child could hold the periodical in his or her hands it had to be distributed by colporteurs who were usually Chinese men hired by the mission presses to distribute Bibles and tracts. Here you can see a colporteur, surname Yieh, standing next to a boy in 1901. And what is interesting about the distribution of the Chinese Child’s Paper is that missionaries claimed to have brought copies of it to Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Japan, India, the Sandwich Islands, the Strait Settlements and other parts of Europe where Chinese communities resided.

So The Child’s Paper was noted for having numerous illustrations. Why were illustrations so important? According to another missionary quote, pictorial illustrations are such good educators and withal so pleasing to the Chinese they’ll be a useful agency in schools and also among the comparatively illiterate people who will learn something from good pictures and stories when they will learn it no other way. Considering that the literacy rate at this time was around 30 to 40% it is not surprising that illustrations were regarded as highly important. Also it should be noted that illustrated books were rare exceptions in the late Qing dynasty and those that existed targeted low and middleclass youth who would learn vocabulary for practical daily use from them. Although Chinese primers since the Ming dynasty included some illustrations noted writer, Lu Xun, recalls that he was reprimanded for looking at illustrated books and even suffered corporal punishment when his teachers caught him reading them.


In a letter to the Board of Foreign Missions Farnham describes his periodical as profusely illustrated because not only have the English and American Tract Societies made donations of cuts, he trained an engraver to make illustrations for it. By 1882 an estimated 900 to 1,000 engravings had been published in the Xiaohai yuebao and on this slide you can see one example of the donation made by the American Tract Society who published the American Child’s Paper and you can see that the quality of the illustration of the camel in the Xiaohai yuebao is much worse than the one in The Child’s Paper, probably because the woodcut had been used so many times prior to its arrival in China.

The importance of quality illustrations was highlighted in most reviews of The Child’s Paper. The North China Herald criticises the imperfections of the native sketches in the matter of perspective which was a common complaint that Europeans had expressed about Chinese art. But the reviewer also commended the publisher’s efforts to increase the market appeal of the magazine by incorporating Chinese-style illustrations which you can see here. Inferior paper affected the quality of the printed images but of course the repeated use of the engravings was also a contributing factor to the lack of visual distinctness in some of these illustrations. So you can see on this slide the Xiaohai yuebao illustrations is almost a silhouette of the original published in The Child’s Paper.

In the American magazine the illustration is located above a poem about a mountain and a squirrel where the former looked down upon the latter for its small size. Unaffected the squirrel replies talents differ, expressing contentment with its place in the world. In the Xiaohai yuebao article the grey squirrel is introduced as a diligent animal because although it is playful by nature it will first make its nest during the breeding season before scavenging for food and having fun. Although the texts associated with the image differ their didactic function is clear, children should be hardworking and content in all circumstances.

Not only did the Xiaohai yuebao reproduce illustrations from the American Child’s Paper it also borrowed images from a famous Chinese travel book called Hongxue yinyuan tuji or Tracks in The Snow. From 1879 to 1884 the publishers published excerpts from this three-volume memoir by a non-Christian Manchu government official named Linqing. The texts contained illustrations by Linqing’s friends including Wang Yingfu, Chen Jian, and Wang Qi. The excerpts that were chosen introduced readers to the culture and geography of different parts of China and you can see on this slide one example from a page that I found in the 1847 edition the Library has and the reproduction in The Child’s Paper. And I also found an English translation of some of the sketches from 1879 here in the Library.

While the religious nature of the American Tract Society’s Child’s Paper is reflected in this masthead of Jesus surrounded by a group of children with the caption, “suffer little ones to come to me”, it is less overt in the Xiaohai yuebao. The model of Xiaohai yuebao printed on its back cover was moral, religious, scientific, instructive and amusing. Because it was modelled on the American Child’s Paper it’s not surprising that these adjectives, moral and religious, are listed first. However the percentage of religious content was less than its scientific articles which accounted for over 60% of each issue. Thinking that Chinese readers would be more receptive to these articles rather than straightforwardly religious content editors placed heavy emphasis on science in these – in this periodical and it was under this cultural context that Xiaohai yuebao was evaluated against the amount of scientific knowledge provided in its pages.

In 1879 the North China Daily News reported that The Child’s Paper is useful in quote, imbuing Chinese youth with western ideas and knowledge. The practical nature of its contents ranging from how to take care of your gums, the importance of brushing your teeth and how the digestive system works is praised in the report. And one of the regular columns in The Child’s Paper was Lessons in Physiology written by Dr Henry D Porter of the American Board who was stationed in Tianjin. The serialisation was later published in book form. It was listed as one of the most popular books of 1907 according to the monthly bulletin of the Educational Association of China and on this slide you can see volume – the cover of volume 1 of the 1908 edition – there were nine volumes in total – and the 1920 edition published as one volume. And in the middle you have someone who worked very diligently to identify the different parts of the human body. There’s no clear record of which textbook this work was translated from but I found some of the illustrations in the 1920 edition are the same as the ones used in a book called Physiology for Boys and Girls by an American doctor, Albert F Blaisdell, and you can see some examples here.

So before I look more closely at other content in The Child’s Paper I need to introduce two other important periodicals. First we have Mengxue bao known as The Children’s Educator and then Qimeng huabao or Enlightenment Pictorial. These two periodicals were published by Chinese reformers who were concerned about China’s survival and considered children as hope for China’s future. The Children’s Educator was launched by the Mengxue gonghui or the Society for Enlightenment Education in 1897, a time when Chinese intellectuals began to reinterpret traditional views of children and question dominant educational practices.

It was the first children’s magazine to be established by Chinese editors and it was modelled on Farnham’s magazine but without the religious content. Each issue of The Children’s Educator was approximately 50 to 60 pages with many lithographed illustrations. In the first issue the editor states the periodical would consist of six main columns including language and literature, history and events, geography, natural science, mathematics and ethics. Each column was further divided into subtopics suitable for different age groups.

Next we have the Qimeng huabao. It was a short-lived but important pictorial published in Beijing which was established with similar aims as the Mengxue bao. Both of the periodicals emphasised the appeal of illustrations for children and contributed to the establishment of a new visual culture for Chinese children. The Enlightenment Pictorial was a monthly in the first year then published fortnightly and then every 10 days. It was established by Peng Yizhong who was an activist for vernacular literature and illustrated by Liu Bingtang who was a famous artist at the time. The length of each issue varied. Some were more than 100 pages long and others were shorter. Columns include ethics, physics, math, geography, zoology, parables, news from different countries, Q and A and translated novels, most notably the translation of the bestselling novel of the 19th century, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. So both periodicals used baihua which is vernacular/colloquial Chinese which was easier for children to understand compared to the classical Chinese that I mentioned at the beginning which were featured in the primers.

So a little bit more about the historical background. The Children’s Educator was first published in 1897, two years after China’s defeat in the first Sino-Japanese war, an event that heightened anxieties about China’s future. This war was preceded by losses in the two Opium Wars which I’ve mentioned and also the Sino-French war. Despite attempts during the self-strengthening movement to modernise China reformers and intellectuals such as influential writer, Liang Qichao, who had close ties within Society for Enlightenment Education argued that if China was to progress and resist colonising forces the education system needed to be changed and new textbooks should be written. According to Liang the main reason China was behind other nations was because of the problematic Chinese education system which forced children to stifle their creativity by emphasising rote memorisation. These memorisation exercises were designed to prepare boys for the civil service exams which were taken by young men across the country who aspired to become high-ranking officials.

Reformers argued that learning by mechanical memorisation was harmful to children because they didn’t understand what they were regurgitating. Liang went further to assert that if China wanted to survive children’s brain power needed to be developed. The founding editors of The Children’s Educator were eager to promote Liang’s ideas of educational reform and they produced this periodical which aimed to educate Chinese children so they could contribute to making China a powerful country when they became adults.

And these concerns can be summarised by applying what anthropologists and as Ann S. Anagost has observed about contemporary China, that quote, investment in the child is complexly linked to the concerns about the future of the Chinese nation and its ability to transcend its status as inferior, whether in terms of quality – the quality of its population, its living standards or its political power on the world stage.

And this sense of urgency about China’s future can be seen in several texts, for example in issue 2 of The Children’s Educator we find an article called Ertong yaobing or Glorious Child Soldiers and it features six children playing different roles in the army, from the captain to the foot soldiers to the military band. It highlights children’s play as well as pointing out the importance of self-strengthening. This article reflects the ideology that reformers had that they wanted to – the children to mature intellectually and also train physically to help save China.

Because the children are depicted as having fun, pretending to be soldiers, the message is less overt but clear nonetheless. There is a threat of more war and conflict in the future so children should train to become fighters for China. A similar sentiment can be found in a textbook from 1901 called Be Good, A Child’s Book in Five Character Sentences and Pictures which you see here on the left.

In 1912 we find in the primary school textbook published by the Commercial Press a lesson called Game of Troops where boys take bamboo knives and wooden guns and pretend to be a military troop. Children were also taught about national humiliation. In Hui tu fu ru san zi shu from 1900 the young readers are told it’s humiliating for a country to be weak and that the next generation should never forget this.


In the Enlightenment pictorial I found an interesting article called Japanese Child Knows About Humiliation which tells the young Chinese reader about a Japanese boy who refused to take a piece of fruit offered by a Russian. It says even a child knew about the humiliation that Japan suffered at the hands of Russia and rejected the food from this Russian man. It’s implied that Chinese children should also do the same if they encounter enemies of China.

So who read the children’s periodicals? Well we have here two that I could find, one was poet, author and Professor Wu Mi who recalls reading The Children’s Educator when he was nine years old and we also have educator, Yu Ziyi, who read the periodical as a child and learned math from it and he later became a math teacher. Then we have philosopher and teacher, Liang Shuming, who recalls reading the periodical and that it was in baihua, vernacular Chinese and that it was full of woodcut illustrations. He lists the different columns in the paper and particularly mentions the inclusion of Aesop’s fables which he enjoyed. Writer Guo Morou also read it with great delight as a child. He even copied the illustrations and coloured them in and he put them on the wall of his bedroom.


Okay so what were the Chinese readers learning about Australia in these periodicals? We’ll go roughly in chronological order. First we have of course the kangaroo which appears twice in The Child’s Paper. The longer article on the right talks about the love of a mother for her child, using the kangaroo as an example. It states that the female kangaroo’s pouch is a source of protection for the baby. One day a mother and her son are out for a walk and they spotted a big kangaroo with a small kangaroo. The son asked the mother about the pouch and she suggested that he clap his hands to scare the baby kangaroo to see what happens. The frightened kangaroo jumps into the mother’s pouch and disappears. And of course the mother kangaroo also jumps away. So the mother reminds her son that she’ll be like this female kangaroo and use her body to protect her son if he’s ever in trouble.

The article on the left published earlier in 1875 describes the size of the kangaroo and talks about the difference between the front and the hind legs. And I also found the same image was used in an illustrated geography book by American missionary, Richard Quarterman Way from 1856 and I’ll come back to this idea of the repeated use of the same image for different purposes in the latter part of my talk. Then we have in 1902 an article called Odd Marsupials and it tells the reader that kangaroos have short forelegs and long hindlegs, their tails are very strong, helps them to jump very high. The fur’s expensive but the meat is delicious.


And then we have the lyrebird and it says the peacock feathers – oh sorry, the feathers are similar to the peacock’s, the wings are small and round and that the male lyrebird’s tail is upright while the female bird’s is downward-facing. And the colour of the male and the female plumes differ. What’s interesting here is that the feathers are actually – of the male are incorrectly displayed. And this is actually a common mistake made by artists in the 19th century who had never seen a live lyrebird before.

Then we have the platypus, talks about it being 60cm, the fur on the tail is thick, it looks like an otter and quote, its mouth is like a duck’s. How strange but it is not a bird nor an animal, it is a bird and an animal. And then we have the cockatoo, something interesting I found, that it says it recognises people so that people want to keep them as pets and it doesn’t want to leave its owner’s. We have the emu, smaller than an ostrich, endemic to central Australia and an - interesting story about how an Australian hunter took his dog hunting and the dog saw this emu coming towards them. The dog rushes over but the emu kicks the dog away forcefully.

Then we have here a geography book which was already in its fifth edition by 1906 and it was first published in 1892. And we have many of the Australian animals that I’ve already mentioned but also the Tasmanian wolf, cassowary, echidna, wombat, frilled lizard and bird of paradise. You may also notice on the top a kiwi bird and a beaver rat from New Zealand. Although these are pictured they’re not introduced except of course one sentence about the kangaroo. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed but there’s nothing about koalas so I haven’t found anything about koalas in these periodicals which I found quite interesting.

What about geography? Well in 1890 the Children’s Educator briefly mentions Australia in relation to Australasia. The article lists the different islands that comprise Australia and points out the separation of Tasmania and Australia because of the Bass Strait but there are no maps here. In contrast there are several maps in the Enlightenment Pictorial. I won’t read you the entire translation but the article talks about how the British came to Australia because of the vast land and convicts and poor and unemployed people came to be sheep farmers and later people came because of the gold rush.

The article also mentions that recently the people in Australia are talking about federation and a federal government has been planned for establishment in New South Wales. Tasmania is specifically mentioned on the second page of the article. Again I won’t go into the details, it talks about Tasmania being a beautiful – with lakes and mountains, the land is fertile and it is the paradise of the southern hemisphere. They also talk about farming and whaling in Tasmania and what I found interesting is that they list the other islands around it, Maria, Macquarie and so on.

But what about the Australian people? I didn’t really find many articles about the people. In Mary Posey’s Geography which is formatted in the Q and A format we find one thing here that I found interesting. What kinds of people live in Australia? We have three. Aboriginals, British and Chinese. There are two articles about Aboriginal people in the Enlightenment Pictorial. One is about the custom of Aboriginal widows in Queensland. It is said that when their husbands die they will spread a mixture of charcoal and oil on their face and take a sharp stone to cut their skin until it bleeds. The narrator states that although this ritual is strange it is comparable to Chinese widows who disfigure themselves and that this is something commendable and worth knowing. The second article is more disturbing so I won’t go into the details but it’s not a positive description of indigenous Australians. What I notice about these articles is that Australia is presented as an exotic place with odd animals, vast landscape and great resources.

Now moving away from Australia let’s go back to the question of how authors used the same image for different purposes. So you can see here we have a man drinking from a water fountain. Let’s start with the story from the Picture World for Children which was a periodical published by the American Sunday School Union. The story was published in 1888 but if you notice the date on the drinking fountain is 1876 and then on the other two, 1856, I think so these dates don’t really correspond with the date of publication.

So in the one published in the Picture World for Children basically it’s a Sunday school lesson, the title is Infant Class Lesson, The Smitten Rock from Numbers chapter 20, verses 1 to 13. What I found interesting is that the narrator addresses the reader directly. Do you ever get thirsty? How would you feel if you didn’t have any water to drink? The Israelites were altogether at Kadesh and there was no water for them. They began to find fault with Moses and Aaron. They said we wish we had died and so on and so forth. Then it says you know how hard it is to be scolded. How do you think Moses and Aaron felt when the people found fault with them? And then the lesson goes on.

Now let’s look at the one in the middle which is an article in The Child’s Paper and it starts off with talking about the dangers of opium. It says opium will make you lose all your possessions and you would have wasted your life. Even if you’re very talented and gifted, as soon as you’re under the harmful influence of opium you’ll be looked down upon by society. And then it mentions drinking alcohol will also cause you harm. The narrator starts that he has seen the effects of alcohol on people and the loss of family and they died so the article begins by mentioning opium, hoping to draw readers in by pointing out something that they would be familiar with. Of course opium was a debated issue in China but then it becomes a temperance article.

So it talks about this man named Baoguan who loved drinking and his father was very rich and did good deeds and was very generous but he spoiled his son. And his parents died when he was 20 but he continued to spend lavishly and drink lavishly. No matter what his wife said he refused to listen. When he was 30 years old he even sold his wife’s jewellery for his addiction to alcohol caused him to lose everything. One day as Baoguan was sitting in the bar drinking he saw a woman and two girls pass by. They were dressed beautifully. He asked the proprietor of the bar, who are they? The owner replied they’re my wife and children. Baoguan came to the realisation that he was the one who gave all this money to the bar owner and he vowed never to drink again. He said to the owner I used to be rich while you were poor, now you are rich and I am poor.


So he goes home, he makes an oath to God that he would stop drinking and he goes to a place called Tianquan meijiangor Heavenly Spring and he drank its water out of a bamboo cup. Since then he was cured of his alcoholism. He decided to become frugal and start a business. He eventually made back the money he lost and became a rich man once again. The narrator warns the children reading the story, you have to work hard and not take to drink.

And finally we have an article in the Chinese Illustrated News on the right. This magazine was not targeted at children and the illustration accompanying an article about a suggestion to build a water supply system to get water from the Yellow River into people’s homes. So this is a much more scientific article and doesn’t moralise at all.

Finally we have these three images. Let’s start in the middle. So this is an article in the Xiaohai yuebao called Female Friendship. And the narrator says that it’s actually extracted from a longer narrative based on a true story called Two Girls but in fact it’s actually from Martha Crawford’s tract called Sange guinu which you see on the left. So this scene features two girls from Shandong province engaged in a serious conversation about a book. There is also a toddler with two pigtails on the floor who’s the brother of one of the girls, named Sufang. And because Sufang needs to take care of her brother during the day her mother does not allow her to go to school. Her kind friend, Susen, offers to teach her what she learns when she returns home and the two girls grow up quickly and become young women of God. However Susen marries a poor man while Sufung becomes the wife of a rich businessman. Remembering her friend’s kindness towards her she helps Susen out financially.

Because of this you know they live happily ever after so it highlights the role Christianity plays in the friends’ adult lives and the story also emphasises the importance of friendship, the benefits of female education and the idea that kindness will be rewarded. And as I’ve mentioned the story’s actually an abridged version of Martha Crawford’s Chinese story, The Three Maidens which was first published in Shanghai dialect in 1856 and then in Mandarin Chinese in 1892. And the third maiden of the story, Xilin, is cut out entirely in the Xiaohai yuebao version of the story. There are also several illustrations in the Crawford book which are left out and these are western-style illustrations that feature Jesus and different Bible stories. So the one that we see here, this image, is probably the only one that was engraved by a Chinese artist.

And finally we have Du Yaquan, Elementary Literature with Illustrations published by the Commercial Press. He uses this illustration to accompany an article about the importance of female education. The text states that literacy rate among girls is too low. It is important for mothers to educate their children from a young age because good, virtuous girls grow up to be good wives and good wives become good mothers. Good mothers raise good sons and grandsons. And you can see here that the Chinese text doesn’t mention religion at all and Du Yaquan was the editor of the periodical, Eastern Miscellany which was published by the Commercial Press from 1911 to 1920 and he was a reformer intellectual who quote, had translated several books into modern science and philosophy but was unwilling to embrace total westernisation.

So because the Commercial Press had close ties with the offices of the Xiaohai yuebao it is not surprising to find this illustration about the girls studying in a primer by Du Yaquan and as I’ve mentioned the founders of Commercial Press were former students of Farnham’s and they learned their printing techniques there. So this transfer of knowledge proved to be helpful for the production of the Xiaohai yuebao in later years because in 1911 the Chinese Religious Tract Society reported that the Commercial Press actually loaned them electrotypes and also halftone engravings. This example demonstrates that the Chinese apprentices who were trained by the missionaries could take this new knowledge and utilise it for their own profit as well as to assist their former teachers. So as I’ve mentioned the Commercial Press still exists today while the American Presbyterian Mission Press no longer exists.

To conclude, this presentation has highlighted the role Protestant missionaries and Chinese reformers played in introducing Chinese children to new knowledge about Australia and the world and pointed I hope to their influence on print culture for children. The mission presses shaped Chinese children’s literature in the late 19th and early 20th century by introducing new narratives through translation, highlighting the importance of visual images by importing lithographic prints and wood engravings from the United States and Britain, training Chinese students with new techniques that enabled them to establish their own publishing houses and this transfer of knowledge continued because the founders of the Commercial Press also had close international connections with other places and that their skills and knowledge were transferred from China to other geographical locations.

And Farnham’s Child’s Paper inspired Chinese reformers to produce their own periodicals such as the other Children’s Educator. For these Chinese intellectuals children’s literature was regarded as an educational tool for a new type of education system that promoted developmental learning. They also believed that children were China’s hope for resisting colonial powers and overcoming the country’s crisis. Despite this serious motivation for publishing these texts the children’s editor - sorry, the Children’s Educator and Enlightenment Pictorial editors respected their child readers by using colloquial language that was easier to understand, providing numerous illustrations to make the content more visually appealing, injecting humour into their stories and introducing them to children’s texts from other countries.

So I hope these examples of children’s – Chinese children’s literature at the crossroads has piqued your interest in the National Library’s wonderful Chinese collection and that you check it out for yourselves. Thank you.


A:        Oh look, Sue, that was fantastic, thanks for bringing those wonderful images to us. It’s a real treat for me on evenings like this to see pictures from our collection up next to those from say the Bodleian and I think we’d all agree that it increases the prestige of the Bodleian to be up next to us. The fellowships program is fantastic at the moment, we’re really growing it and last week we saw our creative arts fellow, Michelle Aung Thin give a really great presentation on her creative process, looking at a collection we acquired at roughly the same time as the London Missionary Society and to see that presentation up against yours one week later where it is a really – a deep look into this you know the historical themes you’ve shown us about today, it shows how rich and diverse our collection is and how good the fellowship program is doing to bring the collections to light.

Now we have time for questions. Oh great, right up at the front here, fantastic.

Au:      <inaudible> 47:23.

S:         I knew someone was going to ask about the print runs so here, I have some numbers. Okay so with The Child’s Paper it was up to 5,000 copies which is not a lot, 5,000 a month. With The Children’s Educator it was less, about 3,000 to 4,000 and with the Enlightenment Pictorial I so far haven’t found any numbers. I do know that the – it was published in Beijing but it was distributed in all parts of China but as I’ve mentioned at the beginning it’s quite hard to see what the impact was because there are no – there aren’t a lot of written accounts of people reading these periodicals but I think it’s safe to say that they probably didn’t have a big influence because the circulation was quite small. With The Child’s Paper of course it was restricted to probably students who went to the mission schools you know whose parents were Christians or the children of the missionaries themselves.

The missionaries did mention that some of the Chinese preachers actually used the content of the periodical in their sermons so – but that’s an anecdote. And they did have a few missionaries who wrote to The Child’s Paper saying oh you know the boys at the school look forward to its coming and things like that. There was a letter from the US from California asking them to translate the table of contents because the people who were teaching the Chinese children there in the Sunday schools didn’t understand Chinese themselves so they asked for just you know a translation of the table of contents which in the later issues you see at the back.

And with the – sorry, The Children’s Educator, the Chinese reformers, they tried to distribute it widely but they also ran into financial difficulties and with the Enlightenment Pictorial you’ll notice that it was a very short run, only two years because the editor actually was involved in three periodicals in all so he had two other periodicals and he wanted to focus on those and he thought well you know this children’s one is not as important so that’s why he decided to stop publishing the Enlightenment Pictorial. So it was restricted to quite a small audience, I would have to say, but I think considering that it did influence some people who later went on to become you know important educators and reformers, I think it’s still worth looking at.

Au:      <inaudible> 51:14.

S:         That’s a good question. I'm not sure, actually, it did gradually increase but I think because the civil service exams, the imperial exams that I’ve mentioned were abolished in 1905 and that was only after that that they really started to think more about you know elementary education for all children including girls and so the Commercial Press published a lot more textbooks at the time. And then gradually you know after – so my talk ends in 1919 ‘cause that’s when the May 4th movement happened and it was after that that you know people - people who look at Chinese children’s literature usually say oh you know there was nothing before 1919 or nothing before the May 4th movement, it only happened afterwards but what I'm trying to demonstrate here is that even though you know the majority of the Chinese children probably weren’t reading these it still did exist, yeah. But I’ll look into how that changed.

Au:      <inaudible> 52:21.

S:         Well I have to say I did buy several copies of the animal books for my friend’s children so – but I haven’t seen the Chinese – I think I noticed the Chinese translations on Xiaoli’s desk, I think, so I’ll be curious to buy or to know more about how the Chinese children receive those.

Au:      <inaudible> 45:05.

S:         Alex mentioned that there are over 600 items and the Taiping rebellion ones I’ve seen on display. That’s very, very interesting, very rare. What I did is that I actually looked at the catalogue or the finding aid and looked at the key words you know related to education, literature and things like that to find the materials that I needed but I haven’t really had a chance to look at the other rich texts in this collection and I think that if you have the opportunity you definitely should because the finding aid really does help because they’ve categorised it by different subjects so - and all of them have been digitised so it’s easy to find online as long as you know what the call numbers are, things like that.

A:        Can I just add something?

S:         Yeah.

S:         So Sue’s right, we do have a lot of information about it on the website. I know it covers Chinese, Korean and Japanese and some works in English and a couple of other languages as well but covering a really broad range of topics and some pamphlets and other kind of ephemeral material as well but it’s a really rich resource. But do look at the website and we’ve got at least some more information about it there.

Au:      <inaudible> 55:57.

A:        Yeah, it’s one last one before we go.

Au:      <inaudible> 58:14.

S:         Oh okay, it’s support for my book. That’s very – I have a book contract with Palgrave McMillan and I’m hoping to you know publish my findings. I’ve conducted research in other libraries and archives as well and just looking more broadly at the children’s print culture of the time so looking at periodicals, looking at transla – I didn’t talk about the translated tracts and translated novels, also the textbooks. The Library does have a wonderful collection of the Chinese textbooks which of course I didn’t have time to get into but yeah so talking about that textbooks, the translated literature, this idea of how the images were used, I want to focus on the use of these images – repeated use of these images for different purposes and yeah just basically looking at what it was like for children reading at this time so that’s what - yeah, what the book is going to be about, yeah and I hope that I’ll finish it next year and wish me luck.

A:        And I’ll make sure my staff buy a copy for the Library. Look, thanks again, Sue. Just before I let you go into this beautiful Canberra evening look, I’ll just shamelessly spruik another event here at the Library on Saturday. It’s an event called Where’s Miranda? Fifty Years of Picnic at Hanging Rock and it’ll be from 1:30 at the Library. You do need to book and there’s a $20 charge but there’s going to be discussion about the novel and the film as well as some dramatised readings of the book and I think a delightful afternoon tea but please do come along to that but thank Sue Chen for me, thank you.


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