Asian Division Reading Room.
by Robert L. Lisbeth)
Located in the magnificent Jefferson building, at the end of
a pathway of gilded ceilings, is the elegant reading room of
the Asian Division. Treasures are on display, and books, current
newspapers, and periodicals line the wooden walls. The Asian
collection of approximately two million items is the largest
and finest outside of Asia. It covers most subject fields and
represents the cultures of China, Inner Asia, Japan, Korea, and
South and Southeast Asia. Complementing the Asian-language publications
are important materials on Asia in other areas of the Library,
particularly in the special collections of legal materials, manuscripts,
maps, music, motion pictures, and prints and photographs.
This guide traces the growth of the collection from its earlier
emphasis on classics to its current focus on modern Asian publications.
During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Library
acquired rare books and classical writings on and from East Asia.
The purchase of a private collection of classical Indic materials
on language, literature, and other subjects formed the nucleus
of the South Asian collection. After the Second World War, acquisitions
programs for current publications from South and Southeast Asia
developed strong collections.
Kanko Playing Goh While Kada Treats His
Arrow Wound. This especially fine woodblock print by Kuniyoshi
(1797-1861) is a triptych showing a famous scene from the
Chinese classic, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
The warrior Kanko (Kuan Kung) was wounded by arrows during
a battle. Here the famous doctor Kada (Hua T'o) treats
a deep wound caused by a poisoned arrow while Kanko ignores
the pain and plays the strategy game of goh. Military heroes
were one of Kuniyoshi's favorite themes. (Crosby Noyes
Collection, Prints and Photographs Division)
I wish to acknowledge the dedication and hard work of Harold
E. Meinheit, who wrote the text for this guide and coordinated
the selection of material to be illustrated. We both express
our deep appreciation to the many dedicated specialists of the
Library of Congress for their advice, guidance, and support in
this project. In particular, the following members of the Asian
Division played key roles: Yoko Akiba, David Hsu, Hong Ta, Joobong
Kim, Susan Meinheit, Ichiko Morita, Thaddeus Ohta, John Reyes,
Abdul Kohar Rony, Allen Thrasher, Chi Wang, Mi Chu Wiens, Laura
Wong, and Yoshiko Yoshimura. This effort also benefited greatly
from the excellent work of Lien Huong Fiedler of the Copyright
Office, who on her own time put together a valuable history of
Asian acquisitions, which was based on extracts from the annual
reports of the Librarian of Congress. In addition, Marcia Battle
and Katherine Blood of the Prints and Photographs Division, Ronald
Grim of the Geography and Map Division, and Jesse Munn of the
Conservation Office were of great help in recommending important
items to illustrate in the pages that follow. William P. Tuchrello,
field director of the Library's field office in Jakarta, also
reviewed sections of the text and provided valuable suggestions.
Finally, Dr. Sandy Kita of the University of Maryland generously
contributed his expertise on Japanese woodblock prints to this
Helen Poe, Chief Asian Division, August, 1994 to November, 2001