This announcement really amazes me. You see, I used to live in Shanghai in the early 1980s, when China was first being opened up to foreign businesses. This was only a few years after the end of the Cultural Revolution that caused great upheavals within the country. At that time, the Communist government actively discouraged the study of one's ancestry, labeling it a bourgeois activity.
The same Communist government is still governing China, but there have been some major changes. With government approval, the Shanghai Library has now announced that it expects to complete the world's largest genealogical database, containing about 50,000 Chinese family trees, by the end of this year.
The database, comprising tens of thousands of Chinese characters, contains Chinese families' lives and histories going back 1,000 years, said a spokesman with Shanghai Library, China's second largest public library. The Shanghai Library contains the most extensive collection of original genealogical documents.
"The idea of collecting all Chinese family trees was approved by the Ministry of Culture in 2001 because more Chinese people, including overseas Chinese, come to the library for information on their families," said Wang Heming, head of the library's historical document institute.
The announcement says that "Shanghai Library has also received contributions from the Genealogical Society of Utah and from overseas Chinese libraries in Singapore and Holland, libraries in Taiwan Province, as well as similar institutions in other places."
NOTE: "Taiwan Province" is a term unique to the mainland Chinese government, which has never recognized the government of Taiwan. The Peoples Republic of China still claims that Taiwan is an "unliberated province" that belongs to mainland China.
The genealogical documents in the library cover 335 common and 90 rare surnames. The database will be available online so that the public will be able to research family documents from home.