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Go Sian Lok collection

Identifier: ubl153

Scope and Contents

This collection reflects the interests of a Chinese literate peranakan family in Eastern Java in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The collection comprises many subjects, including: the Chinese classics, traditional and modern schoolbooks, religion and divination, history, medicine, Chinese language and writing, and much literature (poetry, prose, fiction). The wide variety of subjects makes this collection especially valuable. The collection contains 237 block prints, 43 lithoprints, 5 typographic prints, one other print, one photocopy, and 16 manuscripts; in total 303 different items. Some of these comprise not more than one leaf (Go 91.4 a, b, c), others are multi-volumed books (Go 133). Although many books have forewords dating from before 1800, most of these are nineteenth-century reprints.


  • Creation: 1741-1930
  • Creation: Bulk 1800-1930

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Use

Regulations that apply during the use of these materials can be found on the website of Leiden University Library.

Biographical / Historical

Go Sian Lok 吳善祿 (1874-1943) was a peranakan Chinese of the fourth generation. He was born and educated in Jombang in Eastern Java, but from 1905 onwards he lived with his wife’s family in Malang. His great-grandfather Go To left China from Haicheng 海澄 (in Hokkien dialect: Haiding) near Xiamen around 1800 and came to the Netherlands East Indies as a private schoolteacher. The family tradition of a good Chinese classical education was continued until his great-grandson Go Sian Lok, who received a Chinese education and could both read and write Chinese very well. Before 1905, he was a member of the board of directors of the Chinese school in Jombang; similar modern-style Chinese schools were established in the Indies in many places beginning in 1901. He worked as a businessman, and after moving to Malang in 1905 he took over his father-in-law’s business, supplying groceries to the local barracks and prisons. He was a member of the Sin Khie Hui Chinese Funeral Association, and the Go Clan Association (Bang Society) in Malang. The latter’s members were mostly Chinese who had newly arrived from China (sinke), with whom he could communicate well because of his good command of written Chinese and Hokkien.


273 numbers (303 items) (Ca 17 metre)

Abstract in Dutch

De boeken behoorden oorspronkelijk aan Go Sian Lok 吳善祿 (1873-1943) en zijn familie. Zij weerspiegelen de belangstelling van een geletterde Chinese familie in Oost-Java in de negentiende en het begin van de twintigste eeuw. De collectie beslaat de volgende onderwerpen: de Chinese klassieken, traditionele en moderne schoolboeken, religie en waarzeggerij, geschiedenis, medicijnen, Chinese taal en schrift, veel literatuur (poëzie, proza, fictie), en andere onderwerpen.

Abstract in English

The books originally belonged to Go Sian Lok 吳善祿 (1873-1943) and his family. They reflect the interests of a Chinese literate family in Eastern Java during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The collection comprises the following subjects: the Chinese classics, traditional and modern schoolbooks, religion and divination, history, medicine, Chinese language and script, much literature (poetry, prose, fiction), and many other subjects.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

A list of books in the Go collection is available, as well as an introduction and subject index. A list of all items can also be accessed via the online catalogue, searching for call number (signatuur) "sinol. go?".

Custodial History

Not much is known about the origin of these books. Go Sian Lok probably inherited a large part of it from his ancestors. Some classical (before 1900) and modern (1900-1926) schoolbooks have up to nine copies of the same book, showing that they originally must have belonged to a private school teacher or a Chinese school (Go 1-4, 6, 9). Some books may have belonged to one of the Reading Clubs (Soe Po Sia書報社) which were popular at the beginning of the twentieth century, since they contain the seal of the Nanyang Xunmengguan Reading Club南洋訓蒙館 in Singapore (Go 197, 207; Chan, p. 43). Some twenty books, mostly lithographed novels, have a seal with the name of Go Sian Lok’s nephew Go In Han 吳雲漢(1894-1937). Other names on seals can be found in Chan’s catalogue.

After Go Sian Lok passed away in 1943, his library remained in Malang and was well taken care of by his fourth daughter Mien Go Gwat Tjing 吳月精 (1913-2006). In the 1970s, after most of Go Sian Lok’s descendants had emigrated to the Netherlands, the family sought a new destination for the library, where it would be accessible to the public and where its safety would be guaranteed. After contacting Dr John T.J. Ma, librarian of the Sinological Institute from 1976 to 1985, the family decided to sell the collection to that Institute. It was shipped to the Netherlands and arrived in Leiden shortly after 1985.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

In 2016 the collections of the East Asian Library were transferred to Leiden University Library.


No future additions are expected.

Related Materials

Other books on similar subjects can be found in the VGK Collection and the KNAG Collection.


  • Chang, Liang Wai, The Go collection of the Sinological Institute at Leiden University. A survey of a peranakan Chinese businessman’s book ownership. [MA thesis Leiden]. Leiden 2003.
  • Kuiper, K., The Go Collection. Introduction and catalogue. Leiden 2010.


The material can be requested in the online catalogue. It can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Processing Information

In the late 1980s, the books were probably arranged according to subject and numbered 1-273 by Mr. Truong Van Binh, who then made a card catalogue. Most books comprise several volumes, and for better conservation all books were kept between boards that were bound together with ribbons. In 2003, Ms Liang Wai Chan made a description and analysis of the collection in her MA thesis (Chan 2003); in an appendix, this work also contains a complete catalogue of the collection. In 2008-2009 the whole collection was described in Chinabase, the on-line catalogue of Chinese books. On the basis of this description, a new printed catalogue was made (Kuiper 2010).

Collection guide of the Go Sian Lok collection (1741-1930)
Collectie Go Sian Lok
Koos Kuiper, 2010
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het Engels.

Revision Statements

  • 14 October 2016: latest update

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

Witte Singel 27
Leiden 2311 BG Netherlands
+31 71 527 2857