“Reflections on Diversity:” Highlights from the Eugene Chen Eoyang papers

“I began thinking about diversity in an almost visceral way.  It puzzled me why people forget their diverse origins time and time again…”

-Eugene Eoyang, The Coat of Many Colors: Reflections on Diversity by a Minority of One

Eugene Chen Eoyang is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and of East Asian Languages and Cultures and was a part of Indiana University for more than twenty years, teaching in both the Department of Comparative Literature and the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures.

The Coat of Many Colors: Reflections on Diversity by a Minority of One, 1995

Born on February 8, 1939, in Hong Kong, Dr. Eoyang came to America at a young age with his family and attended school in New York.  He received his B.A. in English Literature from Harvard University in 1959, his M.A. with high distinction in English Literature from Columbia University in 1960, and his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Indiana University in 1971.

Dr. Eoyang worked as an editor at Doubleday & Company before coming to Indiana University in 1969, eventually becoming a Professor of Comparative Literature and of East Asian Languages and Cultures, as well as chair of the East Asian Languages and Cultures Department.  In 1985, he founded the East Asian Summer Language Institute at Indiana University, which he was director of for five years.  In addition, Dr. Eoyang is a former board member and chair of the Kinsey Institute, as well as Associate Dean for the Office of Research and Graduate Development at Indiana University.

Newspaper highlighting the publication of The Coat of Many Colors: Reflections on Diversity by a Minority of One, January 29, 1995

This Indiana University Archives exhibition, open through February 14, 2018, hosted by the Office of the Bicentennial, examines both the institutional teaching and personal research of Dr. Eoyang, highly focused on the areas of translation theory and practice, Chinese literature, Chinese-Western literary relations, globalization, cross-cultural studies, and literary theory.

Some of the items featured in this exhibit include photographs, presentation notecards, conference booklets, correspondence, conference papers, and book publications.  These materials will provide the viewer with an inside look into the diverse work and outreach of an internationally renowned scholar in the field of comparative literature and translations.

“If the rainbow has been part of American’s neglected past, and if it is the unrecognized backdrop for America’s present, it will also be a critical part of America’s future…The multicultural rainbow is in America’s past, present, and future.  The rainbow is no sentimental symbol: it is the American reality.”

-Eugene Eoyang, The Coat of Many Colors: Reflections on Diversity by a Minority of One

East Asian Summer Institute, Earlham College, undated; Pictured: Eugene Eoyang, third row from top, fifth from left

The entirety of the Eugene Chen Eoyang papers has been processed and can be viewed in person by appointment by contacting the IU Archives!  To learn more about this exhibition, refer to the brochure or view the exhibition in person at:

The Office of the Bicentennial

Franklin Hall 200

Hours: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; weekdays

601 E. Kirkwood Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47405

Toyoaki Uehara: Unboxing 38 Years of Correspondence (Part 3)

This is the final installment of a series of posts intern Jeannine has written about her work on the late Toyoaki Uehara papers. See also Part 1 and Part 2

There are so many interesting items tucked in among the Toyoaki Uehara correspondence files that it is almost a shame to only post images of a few.  Having gained “pen pals” from around the world, Uehara consequently received numerous cards from people who just wanted to keep in touch.  Amongst the usual Christmas greetings, standard birthday wishes, and humorous cartoon postcards are a few gems, hand-printed objects both colorful and beautiful, representing art and craft from various countries.  Some are simple, such as the postcard embossed with a Japanese scene and highlighted in watercolor.

Kiyumizu Temple, embossed watercolor postcard,  1962.

Others are more complex and detailed, like the small but lovely greeting card showing an image of a waterfall (left). Created using Japanese woodblock printing  techniques, these images are refined over a series of stages as different colors are added.  Time-consuming to make, quality woodblock prints are true works of art. There are several examples of this kind of work within the collection.

Waterfall, woodblock print on cardstock, ca. 1972.

Another intriguing item is the pipal leaf skeleton painting from India.  The pipal (also spelled peepal, peepul or pippal) tree holds special significance in Indian mythology, and is sometimes known as the Bodhi tree.  Its leaves are frequently skeletonized and painted, and the images framed or attached to greeting cards and bookmarks.  Typically paintings include particular themes, such as figures from Hindu mythology, animals, and scenery.  These leaf skeletons are exceptionally delicate, and this particular example has held up very well considering how it was stored, fully intact and retaining its original vibrant colors.

Man harvesting, pipal leaf painting on cardstock, ca. 1970.

I also discovered a beautifully detailed and gorgeously colored wood postcard depicting a scene on a Japanese river.   The vibrant red stamps on the reverse side are equally crisp and attractive.  Postcards made out of wood became popular during the 1950s and 60s, and vintage American cards are easily come by.  Size, style, thickness and quality vary widely, as do the themes of the designs.  This lovely example has been carefully rendered onto a shaving of wood barely thicker than a piece of paper, fragile to the point of brittleness, that somehow made it safely to the United States via airmail in 1969!


Some items are more humorous and have a great amount of personal charm.  22 For me, the nicest ones are the letters and cards from Dr. Uehara’s son, Osamu.  One charming piece is a brief letter that includes a drawing and some dialogue from a little story titled “Grettings (Greetings) from the Sea.”  This is probably the most elaborate example we have from Osamu, and it seems like perhaps he was trying to impress with his excellent storytelling abilities.

In the image below, one of several examples of ink drawings from the same correspondent, two crying bunnies on the hill seem sad to see the O’Brien family go, and drawn in on the trailer among the books and “sweet memories” are “hickory nuts” and “black walnuts.”  Though we will likely never know the specific significance of these little details, it’s nice to think that this sweet drawing made Dr. Uehara and his family smile when it was received.

Christmas greeting. Ink and watercolor on cardstock, 1971.

Well, this marks the final chapter of my Uehara experience.  Thirty-eight years and sixty-six total folders of correspondence are now behind me.  I hope our blog readers have enjoyed following along on my journey with this rich and varied collection!  While my internship is up, I will be continuing to work in the archives as I complete my coursework so I look forward to more adventures with you!

Description and arrangement of the Uehara papers will get wrapped up in the next few months and the finding aid added to ArchivesOnline. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this or any other Archives collection, please contact the Archives staff!

Toyoaki Uehara: Unboxing 38 Years of Correspondence (Part 1)

As a graduate student in the Archives Specialization in the Department of Information and Library Science, one of my degree requirements is to intern for a semester with a special collections repository. To fulfill this requirement, this fall I have interned at the University Archives where I have primarily focused on processing collections of University records as well as the personal papers of IU faculty and alums.

For the last month, I have been wrestling with a rich and varied collection of correspondence, sound recordings, and manuscripts of the late Toyoyaki Uehara, a longtime member of IU’s Department of East Asian Languages and Culture. Dr. Uehara moved from Japan to Los Angeles, California in 1951 on a scholarship, where he studied, taught, and founded a TenrikUeharayo church.  He began working as an assistant professor at Indiana University Bloomington in 1963 and remained until his retirement in 1990.  A respected professor and scholar, a significant portion of the collection consists of correspondence with Uehara’s former students and colleagues in the United States and Japan. Uehara also traveled frequently, and while away, exchanged letters often with his wife, son, brother, and a number of relatives over the decades.

There are ways and ways to maintain and organize correspondence. As a university professor and scholar, knowing that it was possible these materials could be deposited in a repository for preservation and research, it might be assumed that his letters would be organized in some way, perhaps in the same order as they were received, or alphabetically by correspondent.  Not in the case of Toyoaki Uehara, or rather, of his wife. Kiyoko Uehara organized and stored her husband’s personal correspondence in a rather unconventional manner – inside tissue boxes. Sometimes, she wrapped the letters in paper and tied them all neatly with Christmas 4ribbon. Compiled by year (thankfully!), in some instances more than a hundred letters were crammed into these less-than-forgiving cardboard boxes.

A quick overview of the materials shows that it will clearly take some time to open these items and arrange them in folders fit for perusal.  As one might imagine, 38 years of exchanges adds up to a fair number of letters, cards, notes, postcards and telegrams.  Any item that did not fit easily into the tissue box was likely damaged in some way – bent, torn, or crushed to varying degrees.  Delicate airmail and rice paper letters and envelopes that have been deformed and compressed for o1ver 50 years need to be carefully unfolded to avoid tearing or damaging them further (and will eventually make their way to our wonderful paper conservation folks at the Preservation Lab!).  It’s going to be a bit of an adventure bringing these missives to light, but it will certainly be interesting discovering what is hiding inside these curious containers.