The Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies mourns the passing of Weiying Wan, long-time Head of the U-M Asia Library. Mr. Wan passed away in Ann Arbor on Thursday, March 3, 2016 at the age of 83. A colleague and friend to many, he will be missed
Mr. Wan first held the position of Head of the Asia Library 1964-1966, and again from 1969 until he retired in 2003. With the support and encouragement of Professor Albert Feuerwerker, then Director of the U-M Center for Chinese Studies, Mr. Wan initiated a large-scale expansion of the Chinese language resources at the library to support ambitious research projects and instructional programs at the University of Michigan. Notable additions included a microfilm copy of the Peiping Library Rare Book Collection and the National Central Library microfilm copy of over a thousand titles from its rare book collection. Two thousand reels of files from the Yu Lien Research Institute in Hong Kong, microfilm copies of 19th century British diplomatic archives from the British Public Records office, a nearly complete back file of all major Chinese newspapers both national and provincial on microfilm and rare private collections from Taiwan and Hong Kong all were acquired. Through his efforts the Asia Library became not only one of the nation's major collections but one of the few that were specifically created for primary research needs. The collection has supported years of research by U-M faculty, students and visiting scholars, as well as drawing scholars from other institutions who would not otherwise have access to these materials. It stands as one of the largest collections of resources on China in the United States, and we wish to acknowledge his invaluable contribution to the field of Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan and beyond.
Donald Munro, Emeritus Faculty of Philosophy, shared with us the following remembrance. When he was making some comments at Albert Feuerwerker's memorial service on June 29, 2013, he forgot to say the following: Among the ways in which Al's early leadership of the Center benefited many of us, was his identifying and then recommending Wan Weiying to be Asia Librarian. Long ago he told me that Mr. Wan not only knew where every book was, but also what was inside it. That is striking, considering there are over 400,000 books in the collection, but the important thing is the dramatic degree of truth it contains. In all of my years of using the library, there never was a case in which, my need for a certain text, was not met by Mr. Wan's rapidly knowing where it was, and on the way to it, as he escorted me, he would tell me about its content. And he was right!
I never expected, as I was researching the role of ritual in early Chinese funerary art, to stumble across a worm-eaten 1750s edition of the Song dynasty work Etiquette and Rites Illustrated (Yili tu). But thanks to Mr. Wan's acute eye and web of connections in China, there it was -- a stunning treasure in the stacks of the Graduate Library! Besides his acumen in building a great China collection, Mr. Wan was unfailingly gracious -- truly an old school Chinese gentleman -- erudite, ever helpful, and ready with a smile. I was so sad to hear of his passing and send my thoughts to his family. Terre Fisher, Dual MA in History and Asian Languages and Cultures (Chinese Literature), 1993.
Mr. Wan's office door was always open, and he was unfailingly kind and knowledgeable. He helped me to appreciate and mine the rich resources in the Asia Library. Looking back, I am all the more grateful for the guidance that he, the head librarian with a very busy schedule, gave to me, a young graduate student. Sophia Lee, Ph.D. in History, 1996.
For more information on Mr. Wan’s life and work, please access the obituary that published in the Ann Arbor News on March 13, 2016.