About this Collection
The Chinese Rare Book Digital Collection draws from the 5,300 titles of Chinese rare books housed at the Asian Division of the Library of Congress. The initial online presentation includes about 1,000 digitized rare titles, and more will be accessible in following phases. Once complete, the digital collection will comprise nearly 2,000 titles.
According to the International Union Catalog of Chinese Rare Book Project Cataloging Guidelines published by the Council on East Asia Libraries (CEAL) in 2000, rare books are defined as Chinese-language printed books and bound manuscripts produced before 1796.
The Chinese Rare Book Digital Collection includes the most valuable titles and editions housed in the Library’s Asian Division, some of which date back to the 11th or 12th century and are the only extant copies in the world. This new digital collection brings together printed books, manuscripts, Buddhist sutras, works with hand-painted pictures, local gazetteers, and ancient maps. These materials encompass a wide array of disciplines and subjects in classics, history, geography, philosophy, and literature. The majority are editions from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and early Qing dynasty (1644-1795), while nearly 30 titles are Song dynasty (960-1279) and Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) editions.
The Library of Congress digitized these Chinese rare books in collaboration with the National Central Library of Taiwan in recognition of the collection’s value as a major resource for the study of pre-modern China. The rich resources found in this collection will interest those conducting research on various topics in the study of pre-modern China, including local history, geography, politics, social and economic life, education, agriculture, and biology.