XULA Library Blog

Library news and other content.

April is National Poetry Month!

(Vasiliy Tropinin, Portrait of Alexander Pushkin, 1827.)

Xavier library users may already know about poetry anthologies on the shelves and in our databases, but there are also plenty of great free, online resources accessible to anyone with no logins required. Check out these sites:

The Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress: including information on past and present Poet Laurates. 

Poetry Foundation: from the publishers of Poetry magazine.

Poets.org: Academy of American Poets’ official website.

Representative Poetry Onlinea web anthology of 4,800 poems in English and French by over 700 poets spanning 1400 years.

Unleash your inner orator!

A camera crew will be in the library to stage and film readings of the Gettysburg Address next Thursday, February 27 at 2:00. The readings are being filmed as part of an audience participation project in conjunction with Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary The Address. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate. You can read more about the project here:

2014 Year of the Horse


Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in China. It begins on the first day of the lunar calendar, so it is also called Lunar New Year. As it is considered the beginning of spring, it is also called Spring Festival since about 1920. The Chinese year, according to some scholars, 4712 begins on Jan. 31, 2014. Though the holiday is only about a week long, traditionally it is a 15-day holiday during which fireworks light up the night sky, drums and firecrackers can be heard on the streets, red lanterns glow at night, and red paper cutouts and calligraphy hangings are hung on doors. Celebrations conclude on the 15th day with the Lantern Festival.

The date of Chinese New Year changes each year, as it is based on the lunar calendar. The western Gregorian calendar is based on the earth’s orbit around the sun. However, China and many other Asian countries such as Vietnam, Korea, and Japan use the lunar calendar that is based on the moon’s orbit around the earth. Chinese New Year always falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. So, actually, the traditional Chinese calendar is lunisolar, using both the lunar and solar calendars.

Both Buddhism and Daoism have unique ways of celebrating the New Year, but the Chinese New Year is far older than either religion. As in many other traditional agrarian societies, the Chinese New Year can be seen a celebration of the coming of spring and the growing season.

Within China there is a wide variety of regional customs and traditions for the celebration of the Spring Festival, but the basics are the same: family, food, and fun. Families come together, sometimes traveling long distances to return home by New Year’s Eve. They gather to eat special foods such as dumplings shaped like ancient ingots and whole fish, representing prosperity and abundance in the new year. Children receive red envelopes, hongbao, with gifts of money inside. Many hours are spent enjoying each other’s company, visiting friends and relatives, and playing mahjong.

In anticipation of the holiday, the house is thoroughly cleaned and decorated. Some traditional decorations include New Year prints and couplets for the door, kumquat trees, and flowers.

Couplets are matched sayings done in calligraphy. New Year couplets, known as chunlian, express wishes for good luck, and auspiciousness in the coming year. They are posted on either side of doors.

New Year prints, called nianhua, are very colorful woodblock prints which are pasted on doors during the New Year for decoration during the holiday and are a symbol of New Year’s greetings. Originally, pictures of the Door God were used; later, other subjects, such as the Kitchen God, babies and other auspicious symbols were included. Customarily, each year families replace their New Year pictures as a way of saying goodbye to the past and welcoming the future.

Fifteen days later, the Lantern Festival signals the end of the Spring Festival. One is reminded of Mardi Gras as one goes out on that last evening to view stationary tableaux which depict traditional Chinese themes.

Wellcome Trust puts 100,000 images online

The Wellcome Trust, a leading British health organization, has created an online database of over 100 000 historical images, with emphasis on the history of medicine. The images can be found on the Wellcome Images website and come from manuscripts, paintings, etchings, and early photographs.

The images are being released under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence, allowing users to freely copy, distribute, edit, manipulate and build upon as they wish, and are available for personal or commercial use.


[Wellcome Library, London.  A pharmacy.  Oil painting by a French painter, ca. 1700(?).]


Phillis Wheatley, the first African-American to be a published poet, was emancipated today (January 21) in 1745.

What does Phillis Wheatley’s and St. Augustine’s work have in common? Thomas Mellins, curator of The New York Public Library’s “Celebrating 100 Years” exhibition, explains in this video.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…


India has several official languages (English among them), but Hindi is the most widely spoken.  Forty one percent of the population, mostly in the north of India, speaks Hindi.  Given India’s economic ties with the United States, plus its status as the world’s largest democracy and the world’s fourth largest economy, Hindi is a good choice for any student interested in India.

(Public domain photo of the Taj Mahal from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.)

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On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…



(Public domain photo of a gate to Hue City from the CIA World Factbook.)

Vietnamese belongs to the Austroasiatic language family, which includes 168 languages scattered across Southeast Asia.  Of this number, many languages are endangered or dying; only three languages have speaking populations of over 1 million people.  Vietnamese has 65.8 million speakers, making it one of the most robust languages in the family.

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On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…


(Public domain photo from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.)

Japanese is unrelated to other East Asian languages, though it has some similarities to Korean and bears the historical influence of Chinese.  The modern Japanese writing system is complex and actually includes three different writing systems:

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On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…


About 49 million speakers live in South Korea and 24 million in North Korea.  In the United States, 1.14 million people speak Korean, mostly on the West Coast.

Though not much larger than the state of Indiana, South Korea wields a relatively large amount of economic and cultural clout.  South Korea has the world’s 12th largest economy, and Korean brands like Samsung, LG, Hyundai, and Kia are well-known to American consumers.  Korean cinema and popular music (K-pop for short) have global followings.  Many American and Japanese animated programs outsource the bulk of their work to Korean studios, something that is evident in the credits of everything from The Simpsons to Naruto.  While North Korea is largely closed to the outside world, it is a frequent newsmaker and a cause for concern for its neighbors in East Asia.  A Hong Kong tabloid recently floated the (probably false) rumor that leader Kim Jong Un fed his uncle and political rival to 120 hungry dogs.

Xavier library users can click here to start learning Korean with Mango Languages.

Non-Xavier readers can view the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s YouTube propaganda channel Uriminzokkiri or sample some K-pop videos from South Korea.