T. H. Tsien 錢存訓

The professor T. H. Tsien, an elderly Chinese man wearing a suit and glasses.

Tsuen-Hsuin Tsien 錢存訓, Professor Emeritus in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and Curator Emeritus of the East Asian Library of the University of Chicago, was born in 1910 in Taixian 泰縣, Jiangsu, China, as he says in the first line of his memoir, “during the reign of the last Emperor of the Imperial Dynasty.” Over the course of his extraordinarily eventful life, he has made numerous contributions to the study and preservation of China’s literary heritage. After graduating from Jinling University in Nanjing in 1932, he worked first as assistant librarian of Jiaotong University Library in Shanghai and then as director of the newly opened Engineering Reference Library at Nanjing, a branch of the Beiping Library. In 1941, during China’s War Against Japan, he risked his life to ship 30,000 volumes of rare books to the United States for safe-keeping. In 1947, he moved to the United States, beginning a career at the University of Chicago that would span eight decades: as a student (he received his Ph.D. from the University in 1957), professor (he was promoted to professor in 1964), and librarian (he was appointed librarian in 1947, and held the post until his retirement in 1978). The author of several monographs and more than 150 scholarly articles, Professor Tsien’s Written on Bamboo and Silk: The Beginning of Chinese Books and Inscriptions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1st edition, 1962; 2nd revised edition, 2004) and the Paper and Printing volume (Volume 5.1) for Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilisation in China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984) are regarded as classics of Sinological scholarship and have been translated into Chinese, Japanese and Korean. The teacher of two generations of Chinese librarians in America, Professor Tsien resides in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.