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Lao She Collection

The Towery-Lao She Collection





Above are five of the over 100 participants who attended The International Lao She Conference honoring the centenary of Lao She's birth. The Conference was held in Beijing, Feb. 3-7, 1999. Left to right, Shu Yi (Lao She's only son, Beijing), Paul Body (professor, University of Paris, France), Britt Towery (writer, Waco, Texas, USA), Dr. and Mrs. Peter Li (professor, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA).


The Towery-Lao She Collection contains books and materials regarding the life and work of China's greatest storyteller, Shu Qingchun, best know by his pen name, Lao She.

This Collection (the largest in the Western Hemisphere) was donated by Jody and Britt Towery to the Special Collections of DeGolyer Library of Southern Methodist University (SMU), Dallas, Texas, USA, December 9, 1998. Dr. David Farmer, then director of the DeGolyer Library, did all the behind the scenes work in order for th Collection to be ready for use by students and scholars in the fall of 1999.

The Towery-Lao She Collection was officially dedicated and opened for students, scholars and the public with a symposium at SMU, Oct. 28-29, 1999. SMU President Turner spoke of the importance of learning about our world and having closer ties with Asian nations. Charles Ku, SMU Asian Studies Advisor, spoke and Shu Yi, son of Lao She, and others spoke briefly at the Grand Opening in the Special Collections section of the DeGolyer Library Thursday afternoon, October 28, 1999. Acting Director of SMU's Asian Studies, Lisa Chang Ahnert, and Jasper Neel, Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature of Dedman College, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, hosted the international symposium on Lao She.

The Towery-Lao She Collection, has quite a history. In the 1960s Towery began collecting the works of Lao She for his own personal enjoyment. At the time Towery was teaching New Testament theology and evangelism at the Hong Kong Baptist Theological Seminary. He also taught the first (1968-70) Television Production courses in Hong Kong Baptist College (now University). He also organized the Baptist Communication Center in the Hong Kong Baptist Convention offices.

Towery was director of Baylor University's Asian Studies Program in 1991-95. The Collection was kept in his Carroll Library office and later in the International Studies wing of Baylor's Poage Political Library.

The Collection was widely used in the Asian Studies Program courses Towery taught at Baylor from 1991-1996. The Towery-Lao She Collection found a permanent home at Southern Methodist University in December, 1998.

Towery's collection of Lao She items grew over the years and was noticed by students of modern Chinese literature as a useful way to introduce the writer to Western readers. There is something in the spirit of Lao She that is not completely lost in translation. His stories speak to the human heart. That drove Towery to write the 1999 book Lao She, Master Storyteller.

William A. Lyell, professor of Chinese in the Asian Studies Department of Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, and a translator of Lao She stories, says of Towery's book on Lao She that it is "Written for the layman in an effort to popularize Lao She's writings beyond the academic community . . . Lao She, Master Storyteller is presented in a clear and straight forward style that should endear Lao She to a whole new generation. In order to attract the general reader to Lao She's works, Professor Towery offers a great deal in terms of cultural and historical contextualization of the works."

Perry Link, professor of Chinese language and literature at Princeton University and author of many books on China and Chinese literature writes about the book, Lao She, Master Storyteller: "Among the broad array of writers in twentieth-century China, Lao She will be known in history as one of the most gifted and distinctive. Future historians will find his humanism, sincerity, and loveability second to none among his fellow writers. Britt Towery does us all a service in weaving together this concise account of his life and times."

Peter Li, professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey adds the following about the book Lao She, Master Storyteller: "Towery's lively, readable study of Lao She and his works shows great understanding and sympathy for China, modern Chinese history and politics, and one of China;s beloved writers, Lao She. He brings up to date much of recent scholarship on Lao She who died tragically in 1966 at the start of the Cultural Revolution."

Towery has been priviliged to have had many visits with Lao She's son, Shu Yi, Director of China's Modern Chinese Literature Museum and Archives, and Lao She's daughter, Shu Ji, curator of the Lao She Hertiage Home. Both were kind enough to each write a Preface to the book Lao She, Master Storyteller. Madam Lao She, Hu Jieqing, now in her mid-90s and still an honored artist, has also been a great inspiration with what she has shared of her years with Lao She.

Shu Yi and Shu Ji both presented papers at the Lao She Symposium on the campus of SMU. Yu Bin (Mrs. Shu Yi) reported on the activities of this centenary year of Lao She's birth. In addition to conferences and exhibits in various countries 66 books about Lao She and his works have been published in China during the year.

Shu Yi gave lectures on modern Chinese literature in 1994 at the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University, Baylor University, Texas A&M University, Columbia University, and Harvard University. It was his first visit to the United States. He was primarily visiting places where his father had been during 1946-1949 stay in the United States.

The Towery-Lao She Collection contains over 260 works by or about Lao She and his times in Chinese as well as English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, and Hindi.

Three of the most recent books donated to the Collection are: (1) A German translation of Hongqi Zhixia (Beneath the Red Banner) translated and donated by Silvia Kettelhut; (2) a rare Italian edition (1964) of Chinese short stories, that includes a Lao She story, donated by Gioia Ottaviani of Rome University; (3) a rare first edition (1952) of the English translation of Gu Shu Yi Ren (The Drum Singers).

In addition to works by and about Lao She in many languages, there are several priceless art pieces by his widow, Hu Jieqing. One of her poems in her own hand can be seen on the Lao She Home Page. Another priceless addition is a beautiful scroll (3x4 feet) of one of Lao She's poems in the personal calligraphy of Taiwan scholar, educator, pastor and friend, Dr. Chow Lien-hwa. This piece has special meaning since it was done by a Christian theologian for Lao She, who was also a Christian. A fact generally not known about him. That story is in the new book Lao She Master Storyteller. For more on that episode of Lao She's life fine the journal "Missiology" for January, 1994, and Towery's article, "The Contribution of Lao She to the Three-Self Principle and the Protestant Churches of China."

As time permits and if Tao Foundation funds grow more of Lao She's works will appear on these pages. Presently only an introduction to Si Shi Tong Tang (Yellow Storm in English) and the short story Xi sheng (Dr. Mao in English) are on these web pages. His works in the original Chinese need to be made available. It would be ideal if Lao She's works in Chinese could be on this web site. But that takes a special software and tech knowledge the Tao Foundation does not yet have!!

--(This section updated Sept. 26, 2003)--

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