Damage Report: China Box Disaster 2009

I have been doing research in Asia for two years and during this time I have sent back about twenty boxes to the US. Most of these have contained books and a few, especially from Korea, contained important documents that I photocopied in the archives.

Before sending them, I take pictures of their contents, make a little inventory, and in the case of documents, create an index with each document numbered.

I am very happy about the fact that since 2004, none of the many boxes I have sent back from Japan, Korea, or Taiwan have been missing, or their contents suffered more than the occasional dented book spine.

This year, however, I had a bit of a disaster. I sent two boxes back from Jinan, China. I sent them in official China Post boxes to New York state via sea.

Altogether my boxes contained about 60 books, with padding of a blanket and a few sweaters. Many of the books make up a series on Shandong during Sino-Japanese and civil wars. Perhaps half of them were out of print used books I had spent several days hunting down in various used book sellers in Jinan.

Neither of the original boxes arrived. Instead two new, smaller and very much lighter boxes arrived, containing a collection of about 20 mangled and, in some cases, ripped books. It was stamped “Arrived damaged, New Jersey”

I guess I should be grateful that about 20/60 of my books arrived. I’m also very glad that I hand carried the 20 or so volumes of published but long out of print and restricted distribution (內部) historical documents most important for my dissertation.

While the US postal system is hardly worthy of praise, I have never had more than bruised corners on the many other boxes I have sent back from Asia. Thus, a warning to those of you studying in China: hand carry out the most important stuff.

6 thoughts on “Damage Report: China Box Disaster 2009”

  1. That’s terrible.

    At least you’re good about indexing and cataloging: it might be possible to recreate some of it, if you’ve got contacts back in China who would help.

    When we came back from Japan, we actually paid movers to pack our stuff. It wasn’t a lot, of course, but we had acquired stuff (like our full 88-key electronic keyboard) that would have been nearly impossible to mail, and the added security for my boxes of photocopies was worth it.

  2. That’s unfortunate.

    I have to admit I’m really curious as to the specifics of how exactly 40 books get destroyed/lost and 20 others get mangled during shipping.

  3. Indeed. Apparently must have happpened around same time. Some mangled books from one box got mixed with books from the 2nd box too. Some were wet too. In my mind I imagine two neglected boxes of mine sitting on a wet pier exposed to the elements.

  4. I realize I’m late on this post but I just want to say that I am officially terrified of sending my books from Korea to America. Thanks for instilling confidence ^^

    Seriously though I appreciate your blog and hope to learn from your experiences!

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