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The Center for Chinese Studies was established by action of the Regents in 1961 to coordinate a program of graduate training and research about China. In succeeding years, with the support of generous grants from the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Office of Education, the University of Michigan developed into one of the world's two or three leading institutions for the study of China.

Beginning in the 1930s, the University offered instruction in the Chinese language and courses on the Chinese economy and the art of China. During this period, the contributions of Charles F. Remer to the study of the Chinese economy and those of James M. Plumer, an outstanding authority on Chinese ceramic art, were known throughout the world. In the war years that followed, there were few instructional offerings on China. Since 1949, however, there has been a steady growth of Chinese studies at the University. The organization of the Department of Far Eastern Languages and Literatures, the establishment of a Far Eastern Studies Program, the receipt of the Freer Fund for the Study of Oriental Art, and the establishment of the Center made this development possible for Chinese Studies. Teaching staff in Chinese language, literature, and history of thought, were provided through the Department of Far Eastern Languages and Literatures.

The Far Eastern Studies Program made it possible for undergraduate and graduate students to pursue an interdisciplinary course of studies related to one of the major culture areas and nations of East Asia. The will of the late Charles L. Freer established a fund enabling oriental art experts from the University to engage in research relating to the Freer collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and to publish their results. Under the terms of the contract signed between the University and the Freer Gallery in 1949, the University's professors of Chinese and Islamic art were to hold concurrent posts of research fellows at the Smithsonian Institution, while their counterparts at the Freer were to be appointed research professors at the University. The Freer bequest also provided funds for library acquisitions and for a small number of graduate student fellowships in oriental art.

In 1949, in addition to Professors Remer and Plumer, the University had on its faculty a part-time instructor who taught the Chinese language, and it possessed some 800 volumes in Chinese in its General Library. By 1960-61, the faculty of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts had grown to include six full-time persons engaged in teaching and research about China in the departments of Far Eastern Languages and Literatures, Art History, Sociology, and History. In the Asia Library there was an uneven but promising collection of 30,000 volumes in the Chinese language. During the fall of 1960, an National Defense Education Act China-Japan language and area center began to operate at the University. The really significant growth of the Chinese studies program to worldwide stature has occurred since 1961, when the Center for Chinese Studies was established as a separate unit.

From a tiny handful of individual scholars in 1960-61, the number of Michigan faculty members who teach and conduct research about China has grown to a total of twenty-seven in the following departments and schools: Anthropology, 1; Economics, 2; Far Eastern Languages and Literatures, 9; Geography, 1; History, 3; History of Art, 2; Philosophy, 1; Political Science, 3; Sociology, 1; Residential College, 2; Education, 1; and Law, 1. Scholars who integrate their respective disciplines with a primary China-related research interest represent all the major disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities. The faculty associates of the Center (who are listed below as of 1974-75) have been a very stable group with little turnover, an indication of the strength of Michigan's program and the wealth of its research facilities.

The University of Michigan, An Encyclopedic Survey Supplement, pages 1-2

History of the University of Michigan

Center for Chinese Studies