Richard C. Rudolph, 1909-2003
Richard C. Rudolph, father of Chinese studies at UCLA, dies.
Published: Monday, April 21, 2003Richard C. Rudolph, the father of Chinese studies at UCLA, passed away on April 9, just a little more than month before his ninety-fourth birthday.
The role Professor Rudolph played in establishing Chinese studies – and East Asian studies in general – at UCLA, and in crafting an environment for it to prosper, was enormous.
Building a Department
Richard C. Rudolph came to UCLA in the fall of 1947, and, with the assistance of Ensho Ashikaga (UCLA's first professor of Japanese) and Y.C. Chu (UCLA's first Chinese-language instructor), founded the Department of Oriental Languages (now called the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures), where he was the first chair and the first professor of Chinese. Professor Rudolph went on to serve UCLA with distinction for more than thirty years.
The first curriculum in 1947 consisted of eight courses in language, literature, and civilization; a total of 52 students enrolled for this initial offering. Ten years later, course offerings had risen to 21, including several in Arabic (which was later move to a new department, the Department of Near Eastern Languages), and enrollment had reached 157. A master’s degree program was launched in 1958, and a Ph.D. program in the 1960s. By 1964, undergraduate and graduate courses had grown to 39 and the staff, then with Ashikaga as chair, numbered 11. Students enrolled for courses in the department totaled 362; there were 22 majors in Oriental languages, of whom 15 were graduate students. (To put the number of majors in perspective: In fall 1964, UCLA had a total of nearly 24,000 students.) Instruction in the Mongolian language was offered in the fall of 1965, and Vietnamese was offered the following year.
Today, in 2003, the department (which was renamed the Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures in 1990) offers a wide range of courses in the languages, literatures, religions, and cultural heritage of China, Japan, and Korea, as well as India and Southeast Asia. The department offers training in many specialized fields such as archaeology, film, folklore, history, linguistics, literature, mythology, religious studies, and cultural studies. Courses prepare students for careers in business, government service, international relations, journalism, law, publishing, teaching, and academic professions. Course offerings now total nearly 250, the staff numbers over 25, and total majors, both undergraduate and graduate, are around 200.
A Book-buying Expedition: Establishing a Library
When Professor Rudolph arrived at UCLA in 1947, the university library had a few Western books on China and one, solitary volume in Chinese: a Shanghai telephone directory.
In 1948–49, Professor Rudolph traveled to China on one of the first Fulbright Fellowships, to study archeology – his specialization – and to fulfill a personal mission: to buy books to support Chinese studies at UCLA. With $1,000 in his pocket (later augmented by $9,000 from the library), Professor Rudolph boarded a plane for China (then a rare mode of transportation to East Asia). With civil war raging in China, books were cheap and available, but time was short: there was no assurance that when the Communists took over, books — and people — would be free to leave. Hurriedly combing through the bookstores of Beijing, Chengdu, and elsewhere, Professor Rudolph snapped up the standard reference works, anthologies, and other volumes that were essential to any decent Chinese library.
His purchases in the fields he was best acquainted with, archaeology and art history, were especially notable. Not wanting to miss a single opportunity, on his way back from China Professor Rudolph stopped in Japan and purchased still more books. On his trip, he had bought over 10,000 volumes.
In an 1983 interview, Professor Rudolph described his book-buying spree: “I bought like crazy. Vosper [UCLA’s librarian] later compared me to the drunken American sailor on leave, handing out money by the fistful.” Before Professor Rudolph’s determination, nothing could stand.
After I was [in Beijing] for about a month [Professor Rudolph continues]. . ., Americans were summoned to the embassy. They told us, “You’ve got to get out. We’re going to evaculate. You’re going back to the States.” This was the winter of ’48. The Communists were shooting up the outside of the city. You could hear artillery all the time The streets were jammed with wounded soldiers. . .
Well, anyway, the embassy said, “You’ve got to get out. You’ve got to go home.” And I said, “No. I have only been here six weeks and I came for a year and I do not want to go home.” We had a polite argument about it, and I finally had to sign a release saying that the U.S. government was no longer responsible for my safety.
Richard Rudolph in 1983
As one of his colleagues put it, “Thanks to Richard Rudolph’s determination and dedication, we went from 0 to 10,000 [volumes] in one year.” With this excellent nucleus, in 1948 the UCLA Oriental Library opened its doors, in the basement of what is now the Powell Library. In the apt words of a library publication, the Oriental Library “provided both a basic reference collection and a cultural retreat for faculty and students.” In 1965, Professor Rudolph was responsible for doubling the storehouse of the Oriental Library in one fell swoop by persuading the Monumenta Serica Research Institute to house its collection at UCLA. Divine Word Missionaries (S.V.D.) from Germany whom Professor Rudolph had met in Beijing in 1948 had assembled this collection, and moved it to Japan after they left China in 1949. They came to UCLA in 1962, where they edited the journal Monumenta Serica until 1972, and taught in the Department of Oriental Languages.
In 1971, after the second phase of the University Research Library building was constructed, the library moved to its present quarters – the second floor of the Charles E. Young Research Library. In 1981, in recognition of Professor Rudolph’s seminal contribution, the Oriental Library was renamed the Richard C. Rudolph Oriental Library, and in 1990 it was renamed still again as the Richard C. Rudolph East Asian Library.
The East Asian collection has certainly grown since its youth. Today, the holdings consist of over 450,000 volumes (including 250,000 in Chinese). The library currently receives over 2,700 serial titles. When the library celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1998, Professor Rudolph was there, speaking with enthusiasm of the library’s strengths: it is now a leader in Chinese archaeology, Buddhism, pre-modern history and classical literature, and fine arts. Special efforts have been made in recent years to strengthen local historical materials and Chinese statistical yearbooks. The East Asian Library holds the most comprehensive collection of primary sources related to the imperial civil service examinations, 1400-1900, outside of China. In the Han Yu-shan Special Collection are some 1,500 Ming and Qing dynasty examination papers and many printed works on the Chinese academies dating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries.
A Teacher and Scholar
Richard Rudolph, a native Californian, received his higher education at UC Berkeley: B.S. in 1932, M.A. in 1936, and Ph.D. – with a dissertation on the Shiji (the first universal history of China, ca. 100 B.C.) – in 1942. He spent the war years as head of the Chinese section of the U.S. Navy Language School at the University of Colorado, and then became a professor at the University of Toronto and served concurrently as Assistant Keeper of Far Eastern Antiquities at the Royal Ontario Musuem. As was mentioned, he came to UCLA in 1947 and spent the rest of his career here, retiring in 1976.
As those who took courses with Professor Rudolph (including this writer, who took an undergraduate class in Chinese culture) will attest, as a teacher Professor Rudolph was serious, sincere, and thorough. In his lectures, he did not hesitate to take insights from a wide variety of disciplines and approaches: archaeology, history, literature, and others. Use the best tools available to get the job done — those words could describe his approach. Professor Rudolph thus brought actual artifacts into class — this writer recalls a magnificent Song-dynasty miniature pagoda that he shared with the class — had students read from classical Chinese works, recounted folk tales, and otherwise presented an extraordinarily rich experience.
In his research, Professor Rudolph exhibited a similar, remarkable breadth. He specialized in archaeology of the Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220), and published several important works on that subject, but also published on Manchu manuscripts, Chinese riddles and puzzles, Chinese porcelain in Mexico, Chinese avian iconography (as well as numerous other subjects that touch on art history), Japanese maps, and more than a dozen other subjects. He co-authored what was probably the best textbook on literary Chinese of its time (Literary Chinese by the Inductive Method, University of Chicago Press, 3 vols., 1938 – 1960), which went through at least a couple of editions, and from 1968 to 1973 directed the American Council of Learned Societies project “Abstracts of Chinese Archaeology.”
Professor Rudolph was one of the first U.S. scholars to return to China following President Richard Nixon’s trip there in 1972. In 1973, Rudolph was a member of a delegation of American specialists in Chinese art and archaeology who took a 30 day, nine-city trip through China under the auspices of the Committee on Scholarly Communication of the National Science Foundation. Professor Rudolph had a chance to revisit one of his favorite haunts in Beijing, the Liulichang book quarter, which in the 1940s was brimming with bookstores. Sadly, in 1973 only one bookstore survived, and its shelves mostly contained the predicable propagandistic tracts. But Professor Rudolph was nonetheless heartened by what he saw in China: Under the People’s Republic, archaeology was receiving tremendous attention, which continues to this day.
And, in a development that Professor Rudolph vigorously applauded, archaeology of China has also received tremendous attention at UCLA.
It is always sad when a pioneer passes from the scene, but especially so when that pioneer made such a large and lasting contribution to our university.