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Asian Collections: Library of Congress, An Illustrated Guide

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INNER ASIA

Mongolian

Tale of the Moon Cuckoo (Saran Khokhogan-u Namtar).
Tale of the Moon Cuckoo (Saran Khokhogan-u Namtar).
A manuscript copy of the famous 19th-century religious opera written and produced by Danzan Ravjaa. First performed in 1833, this popular opera is an adaptation of a Tibetan didactic work about a noble prince who becomes trapped in the body of a cuckoo. The nineteen leaves include several marked passages, presumably for use by the actors. Mongolian Collection, Asian Division.

During the early decades of the 20th century, Mongolia's close relationship with the Soviet Union resulted in the widespread use of the Cyrillic alphabet for written Mongolian. Thus, much of the modern material coming into the Library was either in Cyrillic or in the classical vertical script, adopted from the Uighurs is the 13th century. Most of the latter books came from the Library's exchange program with the National Library of China during the 1970s and 1980s. (Mongolian publications in Cyrillic were acquired through Moscow.)

Along with the opening up of the political system in the early 1990s, Mongolia's publishing industry also began expanding. Through a bibliographic representative in Ulaanbaatar, the Library's holdings have also increased sharply. New Mongolian publications include works of history, literature, poetry, religion, and art. There have also been an especially large number of publications on Chinggis Khan to coincide with the 2006 celebration of the 800th anniversary of Mongolian statehood.

The outburst of intellectual freedom since the 1990s has resulted in the re-discovery of the works of one of Mongolia's most famous playwrights and artists, Danzan Ravjaa (1803-1856), the "Lord of the Gobi." A Buddhist lama, Danzan Ravjaa founded the Khamaryn Monastery in the east Gobi, where he also built Mongolia's first theater and a secular art school. Although many worshiped him as a saint, Danzan Ravjaa was also an outspoken man who made enemies and died after drinking a poisoned cup of vodka. His writings, art and other possessions were then carefully hidden by his assistant, Balshinchoijoo, and guarded as a sacred trust by Balshinchoijoo's descendents. During a wave of repression by the communist authorities in the 1930s, a portion of the collection was buried in the Gobi, only to be unearthed in 1990 by the current guardian. The Library holds several of Danzan Ravjaa's works, including a manuscript copy of his best-known play, Tale of the Moon Cuckoo.

A selection of modern Mongolian publications.
A selection of modern Mongolian publications.
Current acquisitions on Mongolia include publications on economics, development, trade, foreign policy and defense issues. Included here are two publications of The Institute of Strategic Studies, Ulaanbaatar. Mongolian Collection, Asian Division.

Another contribution to the flowering of Mongolian scholarship and national pride was the printing of the first translation from Chinese into Mongolian of the complete Yuan Shi, the history of the Mongol empire from the time of Chinggis Khan to the fall of the Yuan dynasty in 1368. The Mongolian scholar Chimediin Demchigdorj (1863-1932), who wrote under the pen name “Dandaa,” completed the translation of the massive work in 1928 but his manuscript translation was available only in the National Library of Mongolia until it was recently published in Ulaanbaatar. The Library now holds a reprint of the Dandaa translation, which corrects a number of errors made in the original compilation of the Yuan Shi by Chinese scholars in the first years of the Ming dynasty.

The papers of Owen Lattimore (1900-1989), one of the best-known Western scholars on Mongolia and Inner Asia, are available in the Manuscript Division of the Library, with some items to be found in other divisions. Among the Lattimore papers are records of his field research in Mongolia as well as Manchuria and Beijing and his transcribed notes of ethnographic, historical and cultural observations made during his travels. A finding aid is available.

The Library's holdings on contemporary Mongolia are extensive, making it an important resource for researchers. Besides recent books, there are several thousand monographs, 160 serial titles and over 2,000 microfiche. Eight Mongolian newspapers are also available on microfilm. Publications on contemporary foreign policy and defense issues, such as the annual report on regional security issues, published by the Institute for Strategic Studies in Ulaanbaatar, may be found in the collection.

Electronic Resources: The Law Library’s “Multinational Collections Database: Mongolia” provides bibliographic information on Mongolian material in its reference collection.

Tibetan

Tibet Studies - A Current Tibetan Periodical
Tibet Studies
: A Current Tibetan Periodical.

The turbulent history of the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China since 1950 has complicated the Library's efforts to build its holdings of modern Tibetan publications. Fortunately, the Library's New Delhi Field Office was well positioned to take advantage of the upsurge in Tibetan publishing in India, Nepal, and Bhutan following the flight of the Dalai Lama to India in 1959 and the subsequent refugee influx. As a result, the majority of the Library's books in the Tibetan language are reprint editions purchased by the New Delhi Field Office since 1962. Of the Library's approximately 10,000 Tibetan volumes, about 6,500 were purchased by the New Delhi Field Office.

With normalization of relations between the United States and China that began in 1972 and with the end of China's Cultural Revolution in 1976, Tibetan language publications from the People's Republic of China became increasingly available to the Library. Exchange agreements with scholarly institutions in China and four procurement missions to Tibet by Library staff since the 1990s have helped the Library obtain current Tibetan publications, including new printings of old woodblock texts as well as modern Tibetan literature. About 1,500 of the Library's Tibetan volumes are modern publications from the People's Republic of China. Since 1999, over 1,000 volumes of Tibetan texts printed from the original woodblocks have been added to the rare book collection, including over 300 volumes from the famous 18th-century Derge Printing House. In addition, the Library has about 40 serial titles, 200 reels of microfilm, and 1,300 microfiche of Tibetan material.

Tibetan Books Starting the Journey to the Library of Congress, 1926.
Tibetan Books Starting the Journey to the Library of Congress, 1926
. At the request of the Library of Congress, Joseph Rock bought complete sets of the Kanjur and Tanjur, the Tibetan Buddhist canon, at the monastery of Choni in western Kansu province (China). Rock had the books packed in ninety-two boxes and loaded on mules, seen here as they began the seven-day journey from Choni to the provincial capital of Langchow. Later trapped in the town of Sian during a lengthy siege, the books eventually reached Shanghai after more than a year. They arrived in Washington in 1928 and are now part of the Asian Division's Tibetan collection. (Rock Collection, Prints and Photographs Division)

The Library's Archive of Folk Culture has an interesting set of wire recordings made in 1950 in Kalimpong, northeastern India's "gateway" to Tibet, by the anthropologist Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark. The recordings include recitations of traditional Tibetan stories, such as "The Story of the Rabbit" and part of the epic "History of King Gesar," as well as esoteric Lamaist ceremonies. When Prince Peter was making his recordings, Kalimpong was a major center for Tibetan political activity, intensified by the People's Liberation Army's ongoing occupation of Tibet. Prince Peter made an especially timely recording of a November 15, 1950, luncheon conversation among senior Tibetan officials, Chinese scholars, Indian and Chinese diplomats, and the sister of the Dalai Lama.

Besides the 2,000 photographs taken by Joseph Rock in western China, many of which are of Tibetan lamas and monasteries, the Prints and Photographs Division has a collection of "Scenes of Tibet" from the 1930-1933 German expedition led by Ernst Schaefer. The Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division holds a large collection of recorded Tibetan music and many films and videos of Tibet. Among the latter is the exhaustive film record of the German-Tibetan expedition of 1938-1939 that began in Darjeeling, India, and continued on to Lhasa. The film footage contains some interesting scenes of a Tibetan New Year's festival in Lhasa and shots of various Tibetan officials.

Mongolian: With the opening up of the Mongolian political system in the early 1990s, the Library's New Delhi Field Office began acquiring a small but increasing number of modern Mongolian publications.

Electronic Resources: The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center in New York is currently digitizing many of the Tibetan texts held by the library and is releasing them on external hard drives and CDs. This collection will eventually contain some 12,000 volumes and will make large Tibetan texts increasingly accessible.

 


HOME  Preface  Introduction  The World of Asian Books  Chinese Beginnings  Tales from the Yunnan Woods  The Diplomat and the Dalai Lama  From the Steppes of Central Asia  The Japanese World  Korean Classics  Homer on the Ganges  White Whales and Bugis Book  Barangays, Friars, and "The Mild Sway of Justice"  The Theravada Tradition  The Southern Mandarins  Modern Asia  East Asia  Inner Asia  South Asia  Southeast Asia and the Pacific  Epilog  Publications on the Asian Collections


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( November 15, 2010 )
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