T.H. Tsien, one of the world’s renowned scholars of Chinese bibliography and paleography, passed away in his home April 9, 2015. He was 105 years old.
Before becoming curator of the University of Chicago’s Far Eastern Library, Tsein was a young librarian in China during the Japanese occupation (lasting from 1931-1945). Tasked with keeping a trove of precious volumes from falling into the occupiers’ hands, he risked his life to get the books out of China. He saved over 30,000 books by shipping them to the U.S. under the guise of new inventory purchased by the Library of Congress. When asked why he took on such a grave risk, Tsien simply stated, “It was my duty.“
His own works include “A History of Writing and Writing Materials in Ancient China” (1975); “Written on Bamboo and Silk: The Beginnings of Chinese Books and Inscriptions,” published in a revised edition in 2004; and “Collected Writings on Chinese Culture” (2011).
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