Chinese Language Book | Archives and Special Collections

Chinese Language Book - Archives and Special Collections

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Chinese Language Book

Dorothy E. Ryder, Chief Librarian, in her report to Mr. E.T. Wiltshire, Supervisor of Public Libraries, Cultural Activities Branch, Government of Alberta noted: Of indefinite age is a Chinese book presented by Mrs. H.H. Sharples in 1952. Accordian-pleated, with exquisite illustrations, the book is of type which has been in use in China for centuries. (Dorothy E. Ryder’s scrapbook, The Library, University of Alberta, Calgary, 1957-1965)

In all references and articles, the donor of this significant gift is known as Mrs. H.H. (Mrs. Herman Hoopes) Sharples, reflecting the custom of the times in which she lived. Mrs. H.H. Sharples contributed to the cultural heritage of Canada, especially the musical heritage. Jeanette Mary Sharples (née Smith) was born in 1875 near Melbourne, Australia. She received musical training and by age 16 was singing with the comic opera company in Melbourne. This interest continued throughout her lifetime and was shared by her husband whom she married in 1896. On their wedding trip they sailed around the world. Without specific documentation to confirm the fact, one can only speculate that she may have purchased this exquisite book on that wedding trip.

Mr. and Mrs. Sharples came to Canada in 1912 and remained throughout their lives. She is quoted: It was 1912, and we were just coming to Banff for the summer. We’ve been here ever since, and I love Calgary more every minute that I live in it.(Calgary Herald, December 20, 1941)

Their only son, Eric, was killed during World War One. Mr. Sharples passed away in 1949. Jeanette Mary Sharples passed away in 1966. During her life-time she received recognition for many of her accomplishments and Her home [was] always open house as far as musicians and music lovers go, and there [was] generally a crowd of young people about, singing and playing.

(Naomi Lang, Calgary Herald, December 20, 1941)

The original covers of the book were in disrepair and the jade amulet which Mrs. Sharples had also donated became separated from the text. Courtland Benson of Victoria, British Columbia, restored the cover, strengthened the pages along the folds, and created a box which now houses both the book and the amulet.

As with so many early texts, one of the charms is to find evidence of other people through whose hands the text has passed. In this instance the verso of some pages contain images and words by unknown hands.

Jane Zhang from the University Archives has provided tremendous assistance by contacting Professor Li Qianbin, Curator of Guizhou Provincial Museum, China, who has indicated: that this illustrated book is a depiction of a minority people in Guizhou Province. In the Qing Dynasty, [1644-1911], quite a few such books appeared. They had various page numbers and different titles. Modern researchers generally refer to them as “One Hundred Miao Pictures” [Illustrated album of the Miao people in Guizhou].

Based on my preliminary investigation, this illustrated book might have been painted in the late Qing Dynasty. It depicts the lives, work, marriage, religion, clothing and customs of the Miao people at that time through paintings and poetry. The book contains rich material for research on Guizhou minority nationalities in the Qing Dynasty and provides important historical evidence of multiculturalism. Therefore, this book is valuable as an historical document.

From what I know, there are over thirty copies of “One Hundred Miao Pictures” recorded in the world to date. They are all hand-painted, different from each other, and therefore each copy is seen as a unique copy. Of those thirty, more copies have illustrations accompanied by prose text rather than being accompanied by poetry…[reprinted with permission of Professor Li Qianbin] Apollonia Steele, Special Collections Librarian

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