The Beginning of Asian Collections
The Asian Division's collections
are among the most significant outside of Asia and comprise over
3 million books, periodicals, newspapers, manuscripts and microforms
in the languages of East, South and Southeast Asia. The first
acquisition of and Asian collection in the Library of Congress
can be traced back to 1865 when the Smithsonian Institution transferred
a collection of books on Southeast Asia and Pacific islands that
had been gathered in Singapore by the American Naval Exploring
Expedition team from 1838 to 1842, the Asian collections have
become one of the most accessible and
of Asian language materials in the world. The collections
span a diversity of subjects from China, Japan, Korea, the South
Asian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
(Complete Survey of Medical Knowledge).
Beijing: Imperial Edition, 1743.
One of the largest collections in the world outside of China, the
Chinese Collection began in 1869 when the Library received ten works
in 933 volumes from Emperor Tongzhi (1862-1874) of China, as part
of an exchange authorized by the Congress. A Division of Chinese
Literature was established in 1928 with the approval of the Congress.
Arthur H. Hummel, Sr., a renowned Sinologist, was appointed as the
first Chief of the Division. The collection has since then grown
to about 900,000 volumes. In addition to Chinese language publications,
it also houses several thousand volumes in Manchu, Mongolian and
Naxi (Moso) and other minority languages. The collection covers
all subject areas, is especially strong in the humanities and social
sciences, and rich in classical Chinese literature, archival materials
of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and Republican period (1911-1949),
and Chinese medicine. It owns 4,000 or so local and regional gazetteers
from the Ming and Qing dynasties and those published since the 1980s.
A unique Chinese rare book collection of 2,000 titles includes a
Buddhist sutra printed in 975 A.D., the earliest printed specimen
in the Library of Congress, and about 1,500 imprints of the Ming
Since 2000, with a general grant from the Luce Foundation, the
Chinese Collection has expanded its collection of contemporary publications
of the People's Republic of China and widened the scope of business,
finance, law, science and technology, environment, development in
western China, and minority affairs, with focus on international
relations, Communist Party history, American studies in China, economic
reform and military affairs and national defense. A collection of
"gray" literature consisting of unpublished tracts from Hong Kong
and Taiwan has also been acquired in recent years.
Challenging the present and future needs, the Asian Division has
placed emphasis on the integration of digital content and services
into its collections, public services and programs. The Chinese
section has accordingly made strides in developing and maintaining
selected Web links to recommended information resources on China.
The history of the collection can be traced in "The Development
of the Chinese Collection in the Library of Congress" by Shu Chao
Hu (Boulder, Colorado. Westview, 1979) and "Library of Congress
Asian Collection : an illustrated guide" (Washington, D.C. Library
of Congress, 2000)
One Million Pagoda Charms).
Woodblock printed sutras and
wooden pagoda, ca. 764.
The Japanese collection began in 1875 when the governments of the
United States and Japan agreed to exchange their respective government
publications and for them to be housed in the Library of Congress.
The first shipment arrived in 1876 and the collection grew slowly
until Dr. Shiho Sakanishi became the first Area Specialist on Japan
in 1930. During her tenure, Dr. Sakanishi collected about 900 titles,
most of which were literary works. In 1938, the Japanese Section
was established as part of the then Orientalia Division, which was
renamed the Asian Division in 1978. The Japanese language collection,
probably the most extensive in the world outside Japan, has grown
to over one million books and serial volumes, 9,500 reels of microfilm,
and 15,000 sheets of microfiche. The Japanese collection covers
research materials in virtually all subjects except clinical medicine
and technical agriculture. The collections are strong in the humanities
and social sciences, central and local government publications,
and academic journals including the areas of science and technology.
The collection received an important gift in 1905 when Crosby Stuart
Noyes, the journalist and editor of the Washington Evening Star,
donated 658 illustrated books, watercolors, drawings, woodblock
prints and lithographs to the library. Early acquisitions were begun
by Dr. Kan'ichi Asakawa, who first purchased books in Japan on behalf
of the library in 1907. These included works on Tokugawa government
laws, local administration, history, regional geography, and Buddhism.
Works were also purchased for the library between 1915 and 1926
by Dr. Walter Tennyson Swingle, a botanist with a special interest
in Asian botany.
The collection also has approximately 4,800 titles of rare publications
and manuscript copies of works produced before the end of the Tokugawa
Shogunate in 1868 and the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912).
These collections include one of the world's earliest surviving
printed material, the dharani prayer charms from 770 A.D. Also noteworthy
is a collection of 403 titles of traditional mathematics called
wasan. Among other pre-Meiji classics on religion, history,
and literature are a rare edition of the Japanese literary masterpiece
Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji), that was published
in Kyoto in 1654 and is complete with all 60 volumes, and the rare
manuscript Kabuki sugatami, written by the kabuki actor
Nakamura Nakazo in 1776.
The Japanese collection increased dramatically after World War
II when an estimated 300,000 volumes of Japanese language research
materials were added with the transfer of resources acquired during
the Occupation of Japan from 1945-1952 and sent initially to the
Washington Document Center (WDC). These materials contain extensive
research reports prepared by the South Manchurian Railway Company
and the East Asia Research Institute. Much of these materials are
pre-World War II studies on such areas as Korea, Taiwan, China,
Mongolia, and the Pacific Islands. Included in this collection are
Japanese military publications, censored materials from the former
Japanese Ministry of Home Affairs, and other important collections
vital to comparative research of Japanese thought before and after
the end of World War II.
The microfilm collection includes pre-1946 censored books and serials,
and other Japanese government documents, as well as national and
local Japanese newspapers, and titles of the South Manchurian Railway
Company publications. Selected materials from the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs archives, materials of the Japanese Army and Navy and other
agencies of the pre-1946 period are available in the Microform Reading
The Japan Documentation Center (JDC) was established in 1992 to
collect and disseminate difficult-to-obtain unpublished public policy
literature, often referred to as "grey literature," the bulk of
which were issued between 1993 and 1999, and 95% of which are in
Japanese. The project successfully developed an information management
system and a database of over 5,000 items that included policy studies
and reports, white papers and annual reports, draft legislation,
think-tank reports, and public opinion polls. With the closing of
the Japan Documentation Center on March 31, 2000, the JDC database
will not be updated. Materials already in the collection, however,
will be serviced by the Japanese Section staff and can be searched
online at //www.loc.gov/rr/asian/jdc.html.
The modern holdings of the Japanese collection also include such
major Japanese newspapers as the Asahi shinbun (microfilm
edition), Mainichi shinbun, Nihon keizai shinbun,
and Yomiuri shinbun (reduced print editions).
Korea, ca. thirteenth century.
Brass, iron, copper, and wood.
The Korean Team at the Library
of Congress was established in 1990 largely through the stimulus
of a substantial grant received from the International Cultural
Society of Korea. The collection of Korean materials began earnestly
in 1950, the year that the Korean War broke out.
The Library has approximately 240,000 volumes in the Korean language,
as well as about 20,000 Japanese language books on Korea. With
over 6,300 periodical titles and 250 newspapers dating from the
1920s to the present, and 10,000 reels of microfilms, the collections
constitute some of the most extensive and most comprehensive outside
The Library also has some 480 titles (3,000 volumes) of rare Korean
books, many of which were obtained in the 1920s. The most important
contributor to the Library's classical Korean book collection was
Dr. James S. Gale, a Canadian missionary who arrived in Korea in
1888 and spent the next forty years there. Gale helped the Library
procure a number of Korean classics, including rare books from
the estate of the Korean scholar Kim To-hui. In 1927, the Library
received the major portion of Gale's own library. Korean rare collections
also include the first editions of literary works by prominent
Korean authors and Korean textbooks survived during the Korean
Korea made an important contribution to the technology of printing
by developing movable cast metal type, beginning in the 1230s.
Although China first used movable type made of clay, it was in
Korea that printing with movable metal type reached a high point
in the 15th century. The Korean collection includes several fine
examples of Korean printing employing metal movable type. These
include the collected writings, printed in 1744, of the renowned
16th-century Confucian scholar and statesman Yi I and the 1834
reprint of the works of the "Father of Korean Literature",
Ch'oe Ch'i-won (857-915 AD). Examples of rare woodblock-printed
include a history of the Koryo Dynasty, printed in 1590, and the
law code of the Choson Dynasty, printed in 1630.
North Korea, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is one
of the most secretive in the modern world. The 10,000 items from
North Korea that the collection holds are therefore vital to scholars
and government officials seeking to understand developments in
the North. The Library receives two major North Korean daily newspapers,
Nodong Sinmun and Minju Chosun, one a government paper and the
other a Party paper.
In addition, there are about 7,700 English language books on
Korea. 1998, the Korean Team has completed an online bibliography
4,800 records of books about Korea in English up to 1995 held by
the Library of Congress. The Korean
a comprehensive and user friendly bibliographic tool for researchers
and scholars interested in Korean studies.
Serial Database provides researchers with detailed information
about the rich and diverse newspaper and periodical collections
located throughout the Library of Congress. We may have only
scattered issues of some journals. Please consult with the
Korean Reference Specialist to verity our receipt of specific
As the Asian Division faces the future, planning is focusing
on integrating digital content and electronic services into the
collections, services, and programs. At present, the Korean Team
develops and maintains selected web links to recommended in-depth
and authoritative information resources about Korea. International
Portal Pages are available at:
The Mongolian Collection
consists of approximately 2,500 monographs, 160 serial titles,
over 2,000 microfiche, and 408 volumes of rare books. Since 1992
the Library’s New Delhi Field Office, through a bibliographic
representative in Ulaanbaatar, has been actively acquiring publications
from Mongolia, in both classical Mongolian script and Cyrillic.
Included in the rare book collection are 80 traditional Mongolian
books which were acquired in the early 20th c. The first of these
to arrive were two manuscripts and one xylograph donated by William
Woodville Rockhill, American scholar and diplomat, between 1893
and 1901. All three are Mongolian translations of famous Buddhist
sutras (sudur), which Rockhill acquired during his travels in
Mongolia at the turn of the century. Other early notable acquisitions
include over seventy works acquired by Berthold Laufer in 1917,
containing his brief handwritten notes, and two xylographs acquired
from the Krebs Collection of Linguistics. These 80 works have
been analyzed and indexed in an article by David M. Farquhar, “A
Description of the Mongolian Manuscripts and Xylographs in Washington,
D.C.” Central Asiatic Journal, Vol. 1, No. 3,
1955. Included are 27 canonical works, 19 works on Buddhist ritual
and prayer, 11 works on biography and history, 5 on medicine,
2 on language, and an episode of the Central Asian Gesar (Geser)
epic. The collection contains many 18th c. xylographs of popular
sutras such as the Ocean of Parables (Uliger-un dalai), the Sutra
of the Golden Light (Altan gerel-tu) , the Collection of Sutras
(Gzungdui), the Mongolian translation of the Diamond Sutra, as
well as an elaborately illustrated manuscript of the Mongolian
translation of the Sutra of the Great Liberation.
The Mongolian rare collection also includes complete reprint
editions of both the Mongolian Kanjur and Tanjur, the Buddhist
canonical texts and their commentaries. The Mongolian Kanjur,
in 108 volumes, was published in New Delhi, 1973-1974 by Dr.
Lokesh Chandra. The edition was reproduced from the Imperial
Red block-print edition of 1720, which in turn had been prepared
based on the rare handwritten Ligdan Khan Kanjur produced in
the early 17th c.
During 1956-58, Professor Raghu Vira obtained a microfilm copy
of the extremely rare Urga Tanjur, kept in Ulaanbaatar. This
edition had been compiled and translated into Mongolian under
the direction of Lcang-skya Rol-pa’i rdo-rje in the mid-18th
c. A 226 volume set of photocopy enlargements taken from this
film was given to the Library by Dr. Lokesh Chandra, and is kept
in the rare book cage, along with the 8 volume catalog to the
set, published in 1982.
Catalog records for more recent materials can be found in the Library’s
online catalog using the LC/ALA
romanization tables for Mongolian in vertical script and in
Cyrillic Script. Many titles, including newspapers, are microfilmed or
microfiched in the New Delhi Office before being sent to the Asian Division.
Handlists for uncataloged materials are available in the division’s reading
South and Southeast Asia
(Book of Worship).
Maharashtra, nineteenth or
early twentieth century.
Southern Asian Section
In 1938, the Library inaugurated the Indic Project, which later
became the present Southern Asia Section, to manage and service
the collections it had previously acquired. Through various post-World
War II acquisition projects, particularly after the establishment
of the field offices in New Delhi, Karachi, and Jakarta in the 1960's,
the collection has now grown to include more than 216,000 volumes
in the languages of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia,
India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri
Lanka, Thailand, the Philippines, Tibet, Vietnam, and the Pacific
Islands. The collection now provides broad research coverage in
most fields and disciplines with particular strengths in the areas
of vernacular languages and literatures, modern history and politics,
vernacular newspapers and periodicals, and government publications.
The Section also maintains a large and expanding collection of serials,
monographs and pamphlets in microform.
It has custody of rare materials relating to South Asia, Southeast
Asia, and Tibet, including the manuscript collections of the great
Indologist Albrecht Weber purchased by the Library in 1904-1905.
Other items of interest are in Burmese, Thai, Tibetan and in Malay
written in Jawi script, and also include specimens of Filipino writing
in ancient Indic script incised in bamboo tubes.
Since 1962, the Section has made successful efforts to add to the
collection materials from all Southeast Asian nations.
The Tibetan collection of the Library
of Congress began in 1901 with a presentation of 57 xylographs
and eight manuscripts acquired by William Woodville Rockhill, U.S.
Minister to China, during his travels in Mongolia and Tibet from
1888 to 1892. Between 1901 and 1928 approximately 920 original
xylographs and manuscripts were acquired for the Library primarily
by Rockhill, Berthold Laufer, and Joseph Rock. Currently, the collection
is one of the largest in the West, consisting of approximately
9,000 volumes, made up of hundreds of individual titles.
The Library's Tibetan collection is representative of the entire
corpus of Tibetan literature from the 8th century to the present:
Buddhist and Bon-po philosophical texts and their commentaries,
history, biography, traditional medicine, astrology, iconography,
musical notations, the collected works of over 200 major Tibetan
authors, bibliographies, traditional grammars and linguistic sciences,
modern science, social sciences and modern literature. Among the
Library's holdings are several rare xylograph redactions of the
Buddhist canonical literature, Kanjur and Tanjur, as well as a
complete set of the Bon-po Kanjur and Tanjur. The Derge Kanjur
was acquired for the Library by William Rockhill in 1901, and the
Narthang Tanjur was acquired by Berthold Laufer in 1926. The complete
Coni redaction in 317 volumes acquired by Joseph Rock in 1928 is
one of only a few known to exist today.