Society Stories: exploring the Luo Zhenyu Collections

Wednesday, Oct 3, 2018

Guangchen Chen, Cotsen Fellow in the Society and a scholar of comparative literature, spent this past summer in China and Japan to gather new materials for his book project “Collecting as Radical Conservatism: Materialistic Interventions into Literariness in 20th-Century China,” with support from Princeton’s University Committee on Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences. His research trip focused on Luo Zhenyu (1866-1940), an accomplished philologist, epigrapher, antiquarian and avid collector of precious ancient artifacts. Luo’s influence on twentieth-century scholarship both within and outside China was considerable, however, his collections have never been thoroughly studied. Guangchen explored the Dalian Library and Lüshun Museum in Dalian, China, where a majority of what remains of the Luo collection is held. He surveyed manuscripts and other materials, such as calligraphies, paintings, oracle bones and ancient bronze vessels, not available elsewhere.  During his travel to Japan, Guangchen visited the Tokyo and Kyoto National Museums, to which Luo donated and sold objects during his decade in Japan (1911- 1919). Compiling a catalogue of artworks, archeological objects and rare books in his possession sheds light on Zhenyo’s scholarly focus during that time. Through his research, Guangchen is hoping to raise awareness of Luo Zhenyu's hitherto neglected contribution to intellectual history, and attract more attention to the importance of the culture of collecting.

image of ancient wine vessels

Ritual wine vessels (1300-771 BC), Luo Zhenyu Collection, Lüshun Museum, Dalian, China

Image of the inside, first floor of the Dalian Library

Dalian Library, Dalian, China