A Library... A Dream...
My name is Arthur GuoBin Yin, 3rd year history student here at the University of Manitoba. I come from Shenyang, a large city in China with a population of seven million. You may be surprised to learn that, despite the size of Shenyang, my fellow citizens living there do not have much access to an English-language library. In fact, books written in English have not been easily available in China for decades. The publications once brought in by missionaries and foreign visitors have deteriorated and are outdated while few books offered by government bookstores are too expensive for ordinary people to purchase. Therefore I would like to develop a public library of English-language books for Shenyang.
As we all know, China has developed its economy enormously during the last 25 years, but the need for knowledge, faith, and educational materials continues to grow ever faster. As an international student from China, I cannot forget my countrymen who are eager to study but have no chance to read books in English or the ones who have not yet realized that they need such an opportunity. In history, China is one of the four ancient civilizations in the world, and I believe nobody will deny that this profound culture had changed the world in all kinds of ways. Indeed China used to be strong, but we cannot survive on memory of a glorious past. We have to face the reality that China must now encounter the rest of the world in a new way.
A revolution of knowledge is inevitable and necessary. In Plato's Republic, Socrates spoke of a world where people were chained in a dark cave, seeing only shadows and hearing only echoes. Like my countryman with no access to western books, these people did not know the outside world was bright and wide. In Socrates' allegory, one day a man was unlocked and allowed to leave the cave. He was shocked to learn that he had been living in shadow all these years, but after learning all about the wonders of the real world he decided to go back to the cave and give his countryman the opportunity to escape the cave. That is why I want to build a western library in my city.
When I tell people my idea about a western library, they are often skeptical at first. They say: "Why?" "Would not you need millions of dollars to open a library in China" or "What is your real purpose? Is it for money?" These questions are not hard for me to answer that I have a desire to help my fellow countrymen. Although my energy is so limited compared to the number of people in the cave, I have decided to make a difference however I can. I know I will encounter all kinds of difficulties, but still I believe in the saying of Chairman Mao that "A little spark may kindle a great fire."
Professors are a special group in the society; they respect knowledge and science and wish to share them with others. When you stand in front of the class who are waiting for your knowledge, when you see your students benefiting society by using the knowledge passed on by you, teaching has become a living dream, instead of just a way of making a living. I respect this profession and one day I will pursue a life as history teacher myself. There is a close connection between this profession and what I am doing. We both want to reform society to a better tomorrow by offering knowledge and sacrificing ourselves. Therefore I believe professors must be the starting point of this campaign.
The world is not always fair. Sometimes I compare myself with the child in the picture in a cold classroom, bare of books. I have a feeling that is so hard to describe, and I know I will not forget his unhappy eyes. I will try to fill them with hope. As a Chinese I will try my best to assist my nation, as I think everyone wants to help their fellow humans. My parents are both retired and they want to offer their time and energy to build a "Western Library". They have applied to the government for the authorization to build such a facility in the vicinity of the four universities in Shenyang.
It is my hope to launch a book drive for China to solicit donations of books for this new library. I will visit universities from Newfoundland to New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and finally British Columbia. Books will be collected and taken back by Chinese International Students in their luggage and also by mailing and shipping. In terms of donations, you can offer a book; your papers; your own books; advice or anything you think could be helpful to us. You could also offer some donation for our shipping process. All kinds of works would be welcomed, academic books, classics, novels and fictions. As the library is developed we would keep our Canadian supporters informed of our process; a catalog of all donations and names of givers will be maintained.
Since Nov 2003, I have been visiting professors in University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg collecting books for China. In April 2004, during summer vacation, I found my way back to China with over 800 books. It is the best present I could ever bring back for my country. Although the number of books is still small comparing to the population of readers, the people have shown great interest in reading these books, especially the literary classics like Plato’s and Shakespeare’s works. As I observed, people have been extremely grateful when they found the sources of the books.
I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty. If you can help our project in some way we would be extremely grateful for all donations or assistance in spreading the news. Dreamers and visionaries have made civilizations. It is trying to do the things that cannot be done makes life worthwhile. With hard work, the dream of today becomes the reality of tomorrow. Last but not least, I want to say, "thank you" on the behalf of all those who may benefit from your kindness in the future.
With All Respect
Arthur GuoBin Yin
April 24th 2005