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Andrew Watson Rural China Collection

Donated to the Library in 2015, and covering the period 1949 to 2010, the Andrew Watson Rural China Collection comprises more than 1,500 books, journals and papers related to the development of rural China.  Some were acquired during Andrew’s initial stay in China (1965-67), however, the majority were collected whilst he was conducting field work and on many of his visits to the country after 1978.  Others were obtained during Andrew’s time as Representative of the Ford Foundation in Beijing (1999-2008).

During these sixty years, the Chinese countryside went through many periods of profound change: land reform; the formation of cooperatives and collectives; the ‘Great Leap Forward’ and the establishment of the People’s Communes; the ‘Cultural Revolution’; the introduction of household contracting; decollectivisation; the reopening of rural markets; the growth of small-scale rural enterprises known as township and village enterprises; the rapid growth of rural-to-urban migration; and the entrenchment of large regional differences.  These developments brought significant transformations to the economy and daily life of farmers.  Land reform made them independent peasant farmers, but the subsequent changes took away their land and tied them to their collective, with low incomes and little opportunity of leaving.  The opportunities offered by the reforms after 1978 gave them the chance to diversify and to gain a new mobility.  The administrative distinctions between urban and rural citizens introduced during the planned economy period, however, created a dual population, with different rights and opportunities.  This legacy still affects rural people.  At the same time, the family planning system reduced family size, and the changes after 1978 created new forms of social stratification.  Materials in Andrew’s Rural China Collection reflect these processes and their outcomes.

Specific research projects are also a focus of the collection and include materials related to the household contracting system; township and village enterprises; migrant labour; land ownership issues; the reform of agricultural product marketing systems; sheep and wool production (especially in Xinjiang); and studies of Shaanxi province.

Items collected during the Ford Foundation period also include several related to experiments with the emergence of non-governmental civil society organisations and to broader issues of economic and social reform and change.

Numerous books are signed by the authors and refer to Andrew’s Chinese name of Hua Ande (华安德).  These include books by Su Xing (苏醒 former economics editor of the Party journal Red Flag), Liu Guoguang (刘国光 a senior reform economist), Guo Shutian (郭书田 former director of the Policy and Law Department of the Ministry of Agriculture), Han Jun (韩俊 a senior official for agricultural policy), Song Hongyuan (宋洪源 former director of the Rural Economics Research Institute under the Ministry of Agriculture), and Xia Yong (夏勇 former director of the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), among others.

The Rural China Collection is further supplemented by Andrew’s personal manuscripts, also related to rural China.

In addition to this material, Andrew donated to the Library in 2018 a small collection of Lianhuanhua: (连环画:literally ‘combined pictures’ or ‘comic books’).  These are also known as xiao ren shu (小人书:kid’s books) and became common at the beginning of the 20th century in Shanghai and spread steadily thereafter, especially after 1949.  They are a small book format, fitting comfortably into the palm of the hand, with the story told in pictures and a simple text appropriate for young people or those with limited literacy.  Their content includes established literature, tales and fables, film plots and topical issues.  After 1949, and especially during the Cultural Revolution, they became dominated by political themes.  They commonly feature fine line drawing or wash (sometimes in colour) and can achieve a distinguished quality of illustration.  Today they are considered collectibles, with holdings existing in several major libraries around the world.

Rare Books & Special Collections

The University of Adelaide
Rare Books & Special Collections
Level 1, Barr Smith Library
South Australia 5005


Phone: +61 8 8313 5224