Fuzhou’s University Town

An area of Fuzhou has a high concentration of universities all within a few miles of each other, hence the nickname the locals have given the area: “University Town”.

We visited five of the universities and their libraries: Fuzhou University, Fujian Agriculture & Forestry University, Fujian Medical University, Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Fujian Normal University.   Each university campus was impressive in its size (especially their large libraries!), but as we visited all of these places in the space of two days, it was a bit of a whirlwind tour.  Most of the libraries are either quite new or are being renovated.  Almost all have a large, professional-level auditorium/theater for lectures and staff development forums.  They tend to have grand lobbies, lots of glass, a large HD multimedia video display screen showing events or other messages and windows or doors that open wide to the air.  Here are individual the highlights:

Fuzhou University: Established in 1958, “Fu Da” has risen to the level of a highly ranked school and a member of the national 211 Program for higher education.  The library is beautiful and state of the art.  After Lori’s presentation on getting feedback from patrons, we took special note of a panel display outside the entrance promotlng the Library that was covered with handwritten post-it notes.  They told us it was library promotion month and the post-its were comments from students about the library service.

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Fujian Agriculture & Forestry University: This was an older building of very institutional style.  In China that means cold floors and white walls, little decoration and large functional rooms.  The Director said that they were in the middle of a project to “improve the environment”, which he said means making it more cultural and pleasing.  He mentioned hanging pictures on the wall and painting as part of the project.  Pat gave her presentation on Managing Digital Libraries to the library department heads and it was followed by a discussion in which they said they get most of their digital library materials from vendors.  We think they meant databases rather than books but sometimes we just weren’t sure!

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Fujian Medical University:  This was a newer building, built in 2011.  One of the common features of most of the academic libraries that we’ve seen is the number of print items they have – this is due to their accreditation process which requires that they have a certain number of volumes within the library.  At the medical library, this posed a unique issue, as they needed to keep their older print items for volume count, even though they have found that not many of their users use things that are older than 15 years.  They also had an interesting Museum of Life collection (no photos allowed) that let students and scholars study “real” human body parts and physical abnormalities in formaldehyde.

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Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine: This university served about 10,000 students.  They also offer some of their classes in English and you don’t have to be a full-time student to take their classes – so we briefly considered enrolling in a class.  🙂  What was most impressive about this campus was their wonderful herb garden.

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Fujian Normal University: This is a large university that has a broad scope and a big student body.  The Director wanted to show us two things: a glitzy touchscreen exhibit in the lobby of a book he published on the history of the school and the important rare Qing Dynasty books in the Special Collection Department.   Lori gave her presentation on Library Promotion through Social Media and got many questions on how their library could use similar social media tools available in China to market their library services.

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Saturday siteseeing in Fuzhou

On Saturday, we got to enjoy several local cultural sites in Fuzhou. First, we went to Yongquan Buddhist temple located high above Fuzhou on Gu Shan Mountain.  The temple is known as the cradle of Taiwan Buddhist monasteries snd was built in the 17th century.  There are beautiful stone carvings on rock walls above a dry creek and a library containing more than 20,000 books from the Ming and Qing dynasties.  657 of the books are written in blood to underscore the message!  Pictures inside the library are forbidden but we got to greet the monk/librarian and pose for pictures with him.  The library also contains a shrine with relics (teeth) of Sakyamuni.  Miss Yang, one of our hosts and a Horner Exchange librarian who visited us this past April, shared with us organic peanuts in the shell from her friend’s farm while we toured the temple.

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Next, we had dumplings for lunch.  The restaurant was located  in a local department store with a food court in the basement.  It was very popular – the line was out the door – probably because the food was delicious!

Later in the day we visited Zheng Hai Lou, a protective structure that shields Fuzhou from storms based on Feng Shui principles.  It is a beautiful traditional building located on a hill in town that has a fantastic view of the city.  The building is still used by the municipal government for ceremonial events.  It has large red lanterns hanging on the outside that are lit up at night and can be seen around the city.

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Sanfangqixian

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On Friday afternoon, we were taken to Sanfangqixian (Three Lanes, Seven Alleys), a cultural area in Fuzhou.  We were able to visit the home of Martyr Lin Juemin and local poet, translator, and writer Bin Xin.

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We also saw the traditional home of a government leader during the Qing dynasty, which included beautiful displays of embroidery panels and other handcrafts.  This was one of Lori’s favorite stops, as the detail and artistry of the embroidery and handicrafts was amazing.

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Our final stop was the memorial of Lin Zexu, a Qing official who banned opium trading in Guangzhou in 1840.

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As we travelled between each historical site, we were able to browse at local shops and vendors.

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Our evening was capped with dinner at local restaurant.

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Fujian Children’s Library

FPL Children's Library

We had a delightful time visiting the Fujian Children’s Library which has five floors of library materials, resources, and space for children, teens, and families.  The library was designed to resemble toy blocks and was built in 2011.  Construction cost 14 million RMB.  Library Director Zheng WeiGuang personally designed the interior, using standards and consulting experts in the field.

They have many wonderful features at this library, including a technology area for children, a section for the visually impaired, many different study, reading and play spaces, a computer lab, lecture hall, and multifunction room, just to name a few things.  China Telecomm donated the iPads and other gaming technology.  They use a self-help system for patron registration made by 3M.  One of the multifunction event rooms has a high-tech floor with memory made by a German company.  The entire building is constructed with green technology materials.

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We held a discussion session after the tour during which Director Zheng described his plans for next steps in the library’s development.  Being just 2 years old, the focus so far has been on getting the building open and operating.  The collection is still small and they have not had time yet to develop many library programs.  These are definitely on the agenda, as is beginning a program to support schools in Fujian Province.  Pat described MCL’s School Corps program and other outreach programs, which impressed them and gave them ideas.  They have 8,000 primary schools in the province to serve!

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As part of our tour, we were also able to see the remains of the original Fujian Provincial Library (built 100 years ago during the Qing dynasty) that resides on a corner of the property where the Children’s Library was built.

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Fujian Provincial Library

FPL self checkout

Today we visited the Fujian Provincial Library, where we were warmly and enthusiastically greeted by the library staff.  We were given a tour of the large library and an overview of their latest activities, which includes a national project sponsored by the Department of Culture to preserve cultural documents and artifacts from the Fujian Province and make them freely accessible to patrons.

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Lori and Angela gave their first presentation about Library Promotion through Social Media, which was received with great interest and many questions.  According to the FPL Library Director, this is a “hot topic” for many Fujian libraries.

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Later that evening, we were treated to a delicious banquet with the FPL staff and the External Culture Director from the Fujian Province Department of Culture.  We enjoyed many special dishes that Fujian is known for, including a crab dish, a “chicken” soup made with seafood, and a Chinese olive.

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Nihao Fuzhou!

We arrived today in Fujian!  Lori and Pat flew in from Shanghai after spending a few days braving the unseasonal record-breaking rains of Typhoon Fitow.  Angela arrived via Taipei.  Our first impressions of Fujian?  Relief at seeing the familiar friendly faces of Ms. Ye, Ms. Yang and Ms. Liu, friends made during their visit to Oregon in April.  And it’s green, tropical, sunny and bustling, not unlike a young Las Vegas set in HawaiI (without the casinos).  The late afternoon sun was beautiful. This was the view from the 13th floor of the Min Jiang Hotel.

Fuzhou at dusk