Librarians-in-Residence: Acquisitions


Ye Funa

Recent acquisitions highlight - June

In this month's acquisition update, Ye Funa highlights a selection of newly acquired books in our library as part of the Librarians-in-Residence programme, Get Low, Like Bumpkin Cannon (土炮之书), which reexamines the intricate relationships between copying, appropriation, parody, and shanzhai (山寨, imitation).

China's greatest modern writer Lu Xun once wrote that stealing books isn't truly theft[1]. This reflects a deep-seated belief that the pursuit of knowledge transcends material concerns. In mainland China, independent publishing often follows an underground path, operating among a network of self-publishing friends who sneak books across borders and print them in secret, akin to the ancient idiom of 'stealing light through a crack in the wall' (凿壁偷光).

The underground dissemination of books has evolved from handwritten and mimeographed copies to Risograph printing introduced to small southern towns after the economic reforms of the 1980s. With the advent of the internet, this network expanded to various resource websites, self-burnt CDs, PDFs, and seed downloads for pirated movies. Underground publishing, with one foot in the history of piracy and the grey market, forms part of the grander narrative of a group of people cultivating interests, desires, and ideals. Today, some of us still download learning materials from illegal or copyleft resource websites, purchase out-of-print editions from second-hand book websites, and appreciate the wild, remade books in self-publishing.

Marcus Boon, In Praise of Copying, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010

1. In Praise of Copying by Marcus Boon

This book argues that copying is a fundamental human activity worthy of celebration. It challenges contemporary copyright issues by considering non-Western philosophies like Tibetan Buddhism.

Ben Schwartz, UNLICENSED. Bootlegging as Creative Practice, Valiz, 2023

2. UNLICENSED: Bootlegging as Creative Practice by Ben Schwartz

Bootlegging has evolved from illegal activity to a creative act, influencing everything from underground record labels to high fashion. It examines the blurred lines between homage, appropriation, and theft in the modern art world.

sharpparadox_catherine92295829, Sharp Paradox: The Selected Work of a Young Ghostwriter (《尖刻的謬論:一位文藝槍手的選集》), Display Distribute,

3. The SECOND(hand)MOUNTAIN(fortress) Series by Display Distribute

This series includes bootlegged and second-hand editions, each dedicated by independent practitioners. It explores the concept of Shanzhai, or creative counterfeiting, in Chinese culture.

Ghosts and Spirits of Teochow, published by Onkino

Ghosts and Spirits of the Miao People, published by Onkino

4. Reprint Series by Onkino

Featuring books like Ghosts and Spirits of Teochow and Ghosts and Spirits of the Miao People, this series revives forgotten texts on folklore and ghost stories. These reprints highlight the richness of regional cultural heritage in China. ARC ZIne Series

5. ARC Zine Series

A project translating and publishing important contemporary academic works, discussing topics like human-computer relations and technology. It is part of a broader research on 'Chinese word processors: writing, power, capital, and technology.'

Lothar Ledderose, Ten Thousand Things, published by Joint Publishing, 2020

6. Ten Thousand Things by Lothar Ledderose

Citing ancient and modern examples of Chinese artistic production, Ledderose explains how artists used complex systems of mass production to assemble extraordinary objects from standardized parts or modules, and how these modular patterns of thoughts run through Chinese ideas about personal freedom, bureaucracy, religion, and philosophy.

[1] Lu Xun, Kong Yiji (《孔乙己》) , 1919