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"Religion," mural in the North Corridor, Library of Congress Jefferson Building, by Charles Sprague Pearce, 1897.

Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives:
A Guide to Resources in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

Table of Contents - Preface/Acknowledgements - Abbreviations
Lists of Entries: District of Columbia - Maryland - Virginia

Library of Congress
Asian Division

Address: 101 Independence Avenue SE
Thomas Jefferson Building, Room LJ150
Washington, DC 20540-4821
Telephone Number: Division office: (202) 707-5420
Chinese Section: (202) 707-5423
Japanese Section: (202) 707-5430
Korean Section: (202) 707-5424
Southern Asia Section: (202) 707-5600
Fax Number: (202) 707-1724
Contact Persons: call appropriate section for reference assistance
Internet Catalog Address:

Access Policies

Hours of Service:
Monday--Friday 8:30 a.m.--5:00 p.m.
Weekends/Federal Holidays Closed
Open to the public: Yes
Photocopying:: Yes
Interlibrary loan: Yes

The primary mission of the Library of Congress is to serve Members of Congress and thereafter, the needs of the government, other libraries, and members of the public, universities, and learned societies.

A Library of Congress Reader Registration Card is required to use the reading room for the Asian Division. To obtain a registration card, applicants must be 18 years of age or older and present photo identification bearing a verifiable permanent address. The cards are issued without charge in Room G40 of the Jefferson Building. Enter on the Second Street side of the Jefferson Building to locate this room.

Photocopying can be done by researchers with coin or debit card. The Library of Congress' Photoduplication Services can provide a wide range of reproductions of the Library's collections, such as single page photocopies, microforms, or color slides. The ability of the Library to furnish reproductions is subject to copyright and other restrictions. Photoduplication Services is open 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. Further information on products and services can be obtained by contacting Photoduplication Services, Public Services Section, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540-4570. Telephone: (202) 707-5640. Fax: (202) 707-1771. TTY: (202) 855-1234.

The Library of Congress is an interlibrary loan source of material not readily available through local, state, or regional libraries. Requests are accepted from recognized libraries that are listed in standard directories or are affiliated with networks and that make their own material available on interlibrary loan. Certain rare, brittle, and other materials are not available for loan.

Reference Policy:
Reference assistance for researchers using materials in Asian vernacular is provided by the area sections of the Asian Division. Written enquiries from qualified researchers wishing to utilize the Asian Division's resources should be directed to the address above. Due to limited staff, the Division is not able to undertake extensive telephone reference; researchers with questions about reading room hours and policies can telephone the numbers given above.
Borrowing Privileges:
Not a lending institution.
OCLC, RLIN. The majority of the division's non-book materials are either listed only in catalogs on site, or are uncataloged. OCLC and RLIN searching is not available to the public in this reading room.
Background Note:
The first Asian language volumes were first added to the Library's collections in 1869. The collection now consists of approximately 1.6 million volumes in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hindi, and other languages from south, southeast, and east Asia. It is the largest collection of materials in Asian vernacular languages outside of Asia. Each area section maintains a reference collection of materials both in the vernacular and in Western languages. The materials described below are a sample of the religion-related materials in the Asian language collections. An estimate of the total amount of religion-related material in the collection is not possible. Consultation with reference specialists in the appropriate section of the Asian Division is necessary to locate specific materials.

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Description of Collections

Books and monographs:
It is not possible to provide exact figures for materials on religion in Asian languages at the Library of Congress. The Library's holdings of this type of material are extensive, with particular emphases on Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Hinduism, including sacred texts in the vernacular, commentaries on these texts, and secondary sources. Highlights of the religion-related materials of the Asian Division's monograph collections are listed below: Chinese Section--As of October 1993, there were approximately 11,340 titles on religion and philosophy (LC classification B-BX) in the Chinese language collections listed in the computer catalog, with additional materials listed in card catalogs in the Asian Division and the Main Reading Room. Information about Chinese religion is also available in the Chinese Section's extensive holdings of ts'ung-shu (collectanea) and fang-chih (local histories). The Chinese Section's collection of rare books and manuscripts includes Buddhist sutras from the Sung and YŁan periods (960-1368 A.D.). The Manchu and Mongolian Collections also contain works on Buddhism, philosophy, and the Confucian classics. These are mostly undated but some bear imprint dates from the 17th and 18th centuries. The William Gamble Collection contains Chinese translations of 19th-century Christian tracts and scriptures.

Japanese Section--The Japanese collections contain approximately 5,800 titles on Buddhism, as well as materials on other religions scattered throughout the collection. Among the Japanese section's rare book materials is the Hyakumanto dharani, a collection of Buddhist scrolls from the eighth century A.D., which is one of the oldest extant examples of printing in the world. The Kan'ichi Asakawa Collection includes materials on Japanese Buddhist sects.

Southern Asia Section--The Tibetan collection contains comprehensive holdings of Buddhist canonical literature (Kanjur and Tanjur) and commentaries dating from the eighth century A.D. to the present, including a large selection of printed xylographs. Among these materials are translations from the original Sanskrit of Buddhist texts which might otherwise have been lost. The contemporary materials include a collection of 340 xylographs from Tibetan monastic printeries; these materials were acquired in 1990. A collection of Malay early printed works in jawi script (Arabic script adapted to the Malay phonetic system) contains books and tracts from 19th-century Christian missionary presses, and includes books of the Bible and other devotional materials. The William Woodville Rockhill Collection consists of 57 volumes of Buddhist writings, including the Tibetan Tripitaka and various sutras.

Most materials acquired from 1958 to the present are listed in LOCIS, the Library of Congress computer catalog. Asian language materials acquired from 1958 to the end of 1980 can be found in the main card catalog (in the Main Reading Room, LJ100 in the Jefferson Building). The Far Eastern Languages Catalog for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean materials lists works acquired from 1958 to 1984. The Chinese and Korean Sections have separate catalogs of pre-1958 materials; the Japanese Section's pre-1958 listings, as well materials in South Asian languages, should be available in either the card or the computer catalogs. Many of the special collections described above have inventories or shelflists; consultation with reference staff in the appropriate section is necessary to find specific materials.

Periodicals and newspapers:
An estimate of the amount of religion-related material in the Asian vernacular periodical collection, which is the largest of its kind outside of Asia, is not possible. Assistance of reference staff in the appropriate section is necessary to find relevant materials.

See above under "Books and Monographs" for information on catalogs. Information on serial holdings in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages is maintained by the appropriate section.

Archives, manuscripts, correspondence, and oral histories:
Chinese Section--The Tun-huang manuscripts collection consists of Chinese Buddhist manuscripts from the T'ang period (618-906 A.D.). The Chinese Section also has an 11th-century Buddhist scroll of the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra. The Moso Collection of some 3,000 volumes includes pictographic manuscripts on religious practices and shamanism from a tribe in Yunnan province.

Southern Asia Section--The Albrecht Weber collection, acquired in 1904, contains 40 volumes of manuscript transcriptions of Sanskrit texts, the originals of which are no longer extant.

Japanese Section--A large collection of Japanese government documents and censored publications on microfilm includes about 10 titles on Buddhism; about 50 titles on Japanese Christianity, Catholicism, missions, sermons, and the Bible; about 30 titles on Shinto and emperor worship; about 10 titles on Japanese religion in general; and one work in praise of the emperor from Japanese Zionists. Southern Asia Section--The "Crosby Fragments" of Buddhist Sanskrit texts, originally believed destroyed ca. 1000 A.D., are available for study in microform.
Paintings, photographs, slides, and prints:
The William Gamble Collection contains about 30 19th-century photographs of missionaries and other subjects.

Subject Headings

Buddhism; Buddhism--Sacred books; Confucianism; Hinduism; Islam; Missions and missionaries--Asia; Shamanism; Shinto; Sutras; Tanjur--Cone edition; Tantrism; Taoism; Tibetan Buddhism; Tibetan Buddhist art and iconography; Tibetan literature; Tun-huang manuscripts


Chinese Studies [online]. Available HTTP. URL October 1993.

Crouch, Archie R., et al. Christianity in China: A Scholars' Guide to Resources in the Libraries and Archives of the United States. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1989. Pp. 72-73.

Japanese Studies [online]. Available HTTP. URL October 1993.

Korean Studies [online]. Available HTTP. URL October 1993.

Lee, Thomas H., comp. A Guide to East Asian Collections in North America. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.

Library of Congress. Chinese Collections in the Library of Congress: Excerpts from the Annual Report(s) of the Librarian of Congress, 1898-1971. Comp. by Ping-kuen Yu. Washington, DC: Center for Chinese Research Materials, Association of Research Libraries, 1974.

Library of Congress. Far Eastern Languages Catalog. 22 v. Detroit, MI: G.K. Hall, 1972.

Library of Congress. Japanese Government Documents and Censored Publications: A Checklist of the Microfilm Collections. Comp. by Yoshiko Yoshimura. Washington, DC: The Library, 1992.

Library of Congress. Special Collections in the Library of Congress: A Selective Guide. Comp. Annette Melville. Washington DC: The Library, 1980.

Rony, A. Konar. "Malay Manuscripts and Early Printed Books at the Library of Congress." Indonesia (1991): pp. 123-134.

Southern Asia Studies [online]. Available HTTP. URL October 1993.

Tibetan Studies [online]. Available HTTP. URL October 1993.

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