USC Libraries

University of Southern California

skip navigation

East Asian Library
Chinese Collection

Tam Kai Chung Collection


In 1931, the Los Angeles Times (7/21/1931) reported the "opening of the first Chinese library in this city, in the Chinese Congregational Church, 734 East Ninth Place." Members of the congregation had contributed to a fund for the purchase of some of the books, but the large majority of the volumes were donated by Dr. Tom J. Chong.

Dr. Tom (aka Tam Kai Chung, or Tan Beixuan) had come to the United States in 1902, studied medicine in Illinois, and moved to Los Angeles around 1911, where he opened his medical practice. He had come from a prominent family in Guangdong (a cousin’s family was chronicled in Louise Leung Larson’s Sweet Bamboo: a Memoir of a Chinese American Family), and continued to place a high value on learning. By helping to establish a non-lending library of Chinese books in the Church, he hoped to foster an appreciation for Chinese culture among the younger generation in Los Angeles.

At least two of Dr. Tom’s sons earned degrees from USC: Paul in pharmacy, and Richard in architecture.

When, in 1987, it came time for the Chinese Congregational Church to move from its original building on Ninth Place, the library was offered to the East Asian Library at USC.