The Collected Writings of the Master Archivist

About

The Him Mark Lai Digital Archive Project is an online resource that shares the broad scope of Lai’s scholarship. This project creates a single portal for accessing and understanding the master archivists’ research materials and methods while following the paths of his historical interpretations. 

It will allow the international scope of this preeminent Chinese-American figure to have worldwide impact through the internet.

Users will explore a wide array of research and interpretative materials include documents from multiple institutions including: the Bancroft Library, the University of California at Berkeley’s Ethnic Studies Library, and the Chinese Historical Society of America.

For the first time, this institutional collaboration will allow bilingual access (English and Chinese) to Lai’s extensive writings. Archived works range from collections of research materials, groundbreaking articles, books, audio recordings, film, etc.

The Chinese Historical Society of America aims to bring awareness and understanding of the depth of Lai’s contributions to Chinese American history.

In honor of his legacy, the Him Mark Lai Digital Archive Project creates an interface for worldwide access for today and future generations.

About Him Mark Lai

Him Mark LaiHim Mark Lai (November 1, 1925–May 21, 2009) was internationally known as “the dean of Chinese American studies” for his many years as a historian, writer, and community activist. He is, as The Chronicle of Higher Education proclaimed, “the scholar who legitimized the study of Chinese America.”

Him Mark was born in San Francisco’s Chinatown to immigrant parents who worked in a garment shop. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering from UC Berkeley in 1947 and worked at the Bechtel Corporation for more than three decades.

Against the backdrop of the social radicalism of the 1950s and ‘60s, Him Mark discovered his passion for historical research and wrote for the SF bilingual weekly East-West, marking the beginning of his career as a historical scholar. In 1965, Him Mark joined the Chinese Historical Society of America, using his bilingual skills to translate genealogies and his research skills to gather pivotal information.

In 1969, with Thomas Chinn, he published the widely used “The History of Chinese in America: A Syllabus.” That year, he co-taught the first Chinese-American history class in the nation with architect and fellow historian Phil Choy at San Francisco State College.

Him Mark’s involvement in study of Taishan emigrant villages by UCLA and Zhongshan University in Guangzhou inspired the “In Search of Roots” program a decade later for young Chinese Americans to learn about their ancestral history. Subsequent years also saw the publication of many books, such as Becoming Chinese American, Chinese American Voices: From the Gold Rush to the Present, as well as a feature role in the 2004 documentary Him Mark Lai: The People’s Historian.

Integral in founding the historical society’s annual journal, Chinese America: History and Perspectives, Him Mark also co-curated CHSA’s main exhibit, “The Chinese of America: Toward a More Perfect Union,” while publishing many notable books, including Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 and with Professors Gordon Chang and Judy Yung, Chinese American Voices: From the Gold Rush to the Present.

Posthumously, Him Mark Lai published Chinese American Transnational Politics (2010) and Him Mark Lai: Autobiography of a Chinese American Historian (2011). In 2011, the San Francisco Library rededicated the Chinatown/Him Mark Lai Branch Library in Lai’s honor.