The UC Irvine Library highlights materials from I-Ching to Astro Boy in their East Asian collection

UC Irvine’s East Asian collection celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2020 and has expanded its exhibition program to November 2021 in honor of the anniversary.

A preview of Orange County’s largest collection of items related to China, Japan and Korea will be shown in the virtual exhibit “From I-Ching to Manga: UCI’s East Asian 30th Anniversary Collection”.

The collection was established in 1990 to serve research and teaching on campus. Ying Zhang, exhibition curator and research librarian for Asian Studies, said that East Asian studies were expanding in the United States at that time, and many students were coming from China.

In 2017, the Los Angeles Times described the campus as “located in what was once a largely white Republican community that is now home to so many Asians that people joke that UCI stands for University of Chinese Immigrants.”

Zhang’s predecessor, William Wong, was the first Asian Studies librarian to be hired to create the collection, and he had an emphasis on poetry, novels, and short stories. Initially, the library held 8,000 volumes of Chinese books, and the collection has expanded to more than 120,000 volumes in multiple languages.

Zhang said the manga stories from Shonen, a popular Japanese magazine, are significant because they contain issues from 1959 to 1995 and are considered a rare complete collection in the United States. Readers can follow cultural and economic changes over generations in the manga collection.

Life sciences research librarian Zhang and John Sisson jointly hosted an online discussion Thursday on how anime and manga are drawing the attention of students and the surrounding communities to the collection.

“More and more students are genuinely interested in this scholarship and trying to understand what has happened in the last 10 or 20 years,” Sisson said. “A 20 year old manga is like the dark age to them, and the fact that we are tracing these collections back to the 1950s allows people to go in depth.”

Astro Boy was a robot character created by Osamu Tezuka, who was influenced by Walt Disney and DC comics.

(Courtesy UC Irvine Libraries)

“Astro Boy”, originally known in Japan as “Tetsuwan Atomu” or “Mighty Atom”, is a manga series written by Osamu Tezuka in the 1950s and 1960s and adapted as a predominantly black and white animated series. It is considered to be first anime and was adapted for NBC in the USA in 1963. The Astro Boy series was also remade in 1980 and 2003.

“In Japan, Astro Boy was for kids in the 50s and then became a nightly TV hit in the early 60s,” Sisson said. “Forty percent of households [children and adults] in Japan we saw Astro Boy in the evening. “

Astro Boy, the main character, is the robot invention of a scientist who created him in 2003 after the death of his own son. The manga follows Astro Boy as he battles crime and saves both humans and robots. Serious issues such as discrimination, slavery and technological caution were covered.

In one episode, Astro Boy went to Vietnam to stop the bombing of villagers.

The exhibit was supposed to be on view at the UCI’s Langson Library, but was closed during the coronavirus pandemic due to home-based restrictions in the county. The virtual exhibition is available online and free events can be registered over the next few months.

On February 8th, Hyong Rhew, professor at Reed College, will discuss the meaning of “I-Ching” (“The Book of Changes”) and a new translation. On March 9th, Brian Yecies will discuss the book “South Korea’s Webtooniverse and the Digital Comic”, which he wrote with Ae-Gyung Shim. Finally, a manga drawing event is planned for April 14th.

The collection has an item wish list. Zhang said the pandemic is hindering priority item collection and the library is looking for e-resources and e-books from Korea and Japan.

When you watch

Working with magical symbols in ancient Chinese fortune telling

When: February 8th from 6.30pm to 7.30pm

Where: virtually



South Korea’s Webtooniverse and the digital comic revolution

When: March 9th from 5pm to 6pm

Where: virtually



Manga virtual drawing event

When: April 14th from 5pm to 6pm

Where: virtually



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