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Asian Collections: Library of Congress, An Illustrated Guide

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

INTRODUCTION TO THE 2000 EDITION

Asian Division Reading Room
Asian Division Reading Room.
(Photo 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
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 project.

Helen Poe, Chief Asian Division, August, 1994 to November, 2001



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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