Stanford vies with family members for Chiang Kai-shek diaries

Oct. 10, 2013, 1:18 a.m.

The U.S. District Court in San Jose will now decide the rightful claimant to the diaries of former Chinese Nationalist Party leader Chiang Kai-shek and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo. Fifty-one boxes of their writings were loaned to the Hoover Institution, where they have been preserved, archived and made available for scholarly research.

Ever since Chiang Ching-kuo’s daughter-in-law lent the diaries in December 2004, nine other family members have come forward to claim ownership of them.

Courtesy of Stanford News Service
Courtesy of Stanford News Service

On Sept. 20, Stanford filed a motion requesting the district court’s assistance in resolving a family feud over the documents’ legitimate owner. The court motion filed by Stanford names the claimants as the children and grandchildren of Chiang Ching-kuo, amongst others; they are scattered across Taiwan, Mainland China, the United Kingdom and California, complicating efforts to resolve the dispute.

“For the last several years, the Hoover Institution has tried to work with all the claimants to reach an agreement on the status of the deposit, which is crucial to understanding 20th century history,” said Eryn Witcher, Bechtel Director of Public Affairs at the Hoover Institution, in a written statement. “Despite our attempts, we have not been able to resolve the dispute amicably and so are reluctantly turning to the court for assistance.”

The diaries span over five decades of Chiang Kai-shek’s life, from his early rise in the Chinese Nationalist Party to his twilight years ruling Taiwan in exile. They provide an intimate look at Chiang’s time as the Chinese head of state from 1928-49.

The diaries draw hundreds of scholars every year, making them one of Hoover’s most popular collections.

Hsiao-Ting Lin, curator of Hoover’s East Asia collection, emphasized the scholarly value of the diaries’ deeply personal nature, contrasting their content with the many official documents from the time period.

“The diaries bring us into the inner world of one of the most famous world leaders in the past century,” said Lin, who is also a research fellow at Hoover. “They provide scholars with not only details of major historical events but also insight into the human element of history.”

Lin uses the diaries to supplement his own research. He recently completed a manuscript on U.S.-Taiwan-China triangular relations during the early Cold War.

“The diaries reveal how personal events played a crucial role in Chiang Kai-shek’s management of China and Taiwan’s foreign affairs,” he said.

The Chiang Kai-shek diaries complement Hoover’s vast East Asia archive, which includes over 800 archival collections and has become one of the preeminent holdings for papers on modern Chinese history.

The court deliberation could determine whether these diaries will stay at Hoover, although the motion doesn’t indicate whether any family member has requested that the diaries be relocated. The motion does note, however, that claimants have “given differing instructions regarding the handling of the [diaries],” which may impact how they are redacted and handled even if they remain at Hoover.

“It has been a great privilege for the Hoover Institution to be the home to the Chiang family material,” Witcher said. “We hope that a resolution can be found soon.”

Contact Lindsay Funk at lfunk ‘at’

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