At an early age in Shanghai, China, Kuei Chiu discovered his love and fascination for language. Before graduating from high school, he had learned four languages. There was a reason to immerse himself in language. Chiu was able to escape mentally from the Cultural Revolution taking place around him.
While Chiu was attending high school in the 1970s, Mao Tse-tung and the Cultural Revolution were upending centuries of tradition. The Cultural Revolution had turned around a country that had prided itself on education. Educators and scholars had been sent to the fields in the rural areas to work, and universities had been shut down and were not an option for continuing education. Chiu was assigned to work as a packer in a medical enamelware factory.
With Mao's death in 1976, the country began a gradual return to pre-revolutionary days. In 1977 universities opened their doors on a limited basis, and a year later Chiu had enrolled in Shanghai International Studies University where he majored in modern Greek studies.
His first overseas venture was to Greece, but after awhile he returned home to teach Greek at his alma mater. By the late 1980s he left home again, bound for Ohio State University as a graduate student in modern Greek studies. At the urging of librarians who recognized his skill with language, he went to Kent State University for a master's degree in library science.
His knowledge of Chinese brought him to the UC Riverside library. He first worked cataloguing Chinese newspapers. In 22 months a better position opened, and he was selected as the Asian Studies, Humanities, and Arts bibliographer. Chiu is responsible for buying developing collections in a variety of subjects based on the university's curriculum. Some of these collections are in the forms of donations, but most are purchased.
Over the years Chiu has cultivated a network with fellow bibliographers and within the Asian community in the region and in the state for possible book donations. As a consequence, he has brought a number of notable book donations to the university.
When he left China the second time, he did not travel alone. Chiu had met and married his wife, Min Yu, with whom he now has two children. Their 14-year-old daughter, Yichen, was born in China before they left, and their 10-year-old son, Sebastian, was born in the U.S.
They have gone back to China twice on business related trips, but have no plans to go back permanently. "The past 11 years [at UCR] have been the best years," he firmly stated. When asked to compare his life in China to Riverside, Chiu searched for words to describe the distinction between the two places, but he could only say, "They're different."