A review of the Zhangzhou Municipal Archives (漳州市档案馆) and other useful research resources in Zhangzhou, Fujian Province.
This brief assessment of the Zhangzhou Municipal Archives is based on research completed about two years ago. The Zhangzhou Municipal Archives have several locations. In addition to the main archive in the city, which is located at No. 88 Daxue Street (大学路), there are a few smaller archives in the sub-counties, such as Longhai (龙海), which is about a 40 minute drive from the city. The main archive is open five days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with an hour lunch break from noon to 1 p.m. There are a few small restaurants outside the archive, where the staff members also order their lunches. There is an old computer in the reading room on which researchers can search the catalogue. The computer is a bit slow, so be patient. It is better to try different variations of the term you seek to see more research results. There are also many volumes of hand-written catalogues which researchers can use. They contain more content than the digitized catalogue, but using them is more time-consuming.
Since the archives were officially open to researchers only since 2008, very few people are aware of this resource. The building holds both the archives’ administrative unit and records unit. When I arrived, a staff member came out of the administrative office to help me. It was a sign that there had not been many regular researchers. A letter of introduction with an academic affiliation in China and a photo ID are needed. After checking your bags, registration comprises researchers stating in a few sentences their research topic as well as how they intend to use the materials (such as writing a dissertation or an academic paper). Cameras were not allowed. Photocopying was limited as well, depending on staff approval.
Most of the records held at the archives are for local history since 1949. Perhaps some of the most valuable sources are from the 1920s and 1930s, when the Nationalist Party (KMT) ruled the city. These include KMT party documents and administrative documents concerned with infrastructure, transportation, postal service, tax and finance, as well as health and sanitation. There are about 500 volumes of such documents and about 300 photos. There are also documents concerned with the KMT generals who once were based in Zhangzhou, such as Chen Jiongming. Researchers who work on China-Taiwan relations can also find useful resources in the archives, such as the records of the Haifangbu (海防部 Ministry of Maritime Defense). Due to Zhangzhou’s geographical proximity with Taiwan, the largest number of emigrants from Fujian Province to Taiwan originated in Zhangzhou.
The smaller archives in the sub-counties hold volumes of late Qing documents, but they are not catalogued and researchers must sift through them. If researchers intend to spend an entire day there, it is better to bring their own lunch. There were no trained staff at the smaller archives as they were more like custodians than archivists.
In addition to the Zhangzhou Municipal Archives, another resource in Zhangzhou is the Zhangzhou Municipal Library (漳州市图书馆), which holds various rare local newspapers. It is located on Datong Street (大同路) adjacent to the University of the Elderly (老年大学). The librarians are better trained than the staff at the archives and very helpful. The library also serves as an activity center for local people and some local amateur collectors often visit there. On one visit, some of them very enthusiastically introduced me to the second-hand rare book flea market nearby, which is another potential resource for researchers.
Another place worth visiting in a small city like Zhangzhou is the Local Gazetteers Writing Committee (地方志编纂委员会), which holds some rare manuscripts of religious history in Zhangzhou, such as the history of various western Christian missionary organizations in Fujian, the indigenous Minnan Presbyterian Church, Islam in Minnan, and Buddhism in Fujian, among others. The Committee is located on the second floor of a building that holds other danwei, at the intersection of Zhongfa Street (钟法路) and Shengli West Street (胜利西路), near the Zhangzhou No. 1 Middle School (漳州第一中学). The gazetteer writers who work in the office after they retire from their official university positions are another reason to visit the office. It is advisable to speak with the administrative staff at the office to obtain generally accurate information on what day and around what time the writers usually show up. If you can visit when any of the local historians is available, they are generally helpful and invaluable resources, and each has a personal library. The writer I finally found on my third visit was nice and even invited me for Gongfu Tea in his office, a popular way of tea drinking in Fujian.
The Minnan Normal University Library (闽南师范大学图书馆) (previously known as Zhangzhou Normal University) is another resource for researchers. It is located on No. 36 of Xianqianzhi Street (县前直街). They have self-developed databases such as “Minnan Special Local Culture” (闽南地方文化数特色据库), which can be useful to researchers working on local cultural specialties like paper cutting and lantern riddles, and the Collected Papers of Zhangzhou Normal University (漳师文库) for researchers who are interested in the history of teacher education in Zhangzhou.
There are frequent public buses from bigger cities like Xiamen and Fuzhou to Zhangzhou. To reach sub-county archives, researchers can simply take a taxi. The local transportation is inexpensive. There are also hostels, which are usually about US$20 per night. There are also better accommodations, if the budget allows. Zhangzhou is a small city, so no matter where you stay, it will not take too much time on local transportation.
Ph.D. Candidate in History
Image: Photo by Author.
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