In 1928, Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam, with congressional approval, established the Division of Chinese Literature, the forerunner of the Chinese Section. The Chinese collection, which began in 1869 with a gift of 905 books from Chinese Emperor Tongzhi (1862-1874) as part of an exchange authorized by the Congress, now totals close to 1 million volumes. The collection is considered to be the largest and most comprehensive outside of China.
To bring the history and content of the Chinese Collection to the attention of scholars worldwide, Judy S. Lu, head of Collection Services in the Library’s Asian Division, wrote a report on the subject that appeared in the Journal of East Asian Libraries (Vol. 141, February 2007) and American Journal of Chinese Studies (Vol. 14, April 2007). The report (PDF, 142 Kb) is now available on the Library’s Web site.
The Chinese Collection covers all subjects except clinical medicine and agriculture, and is especially strong in the humanities and social sciences (e.g., classical Chinese literature and history). It consists of 998,914 monographic volumes; 15,840 serial titles, of which 5,013 are active titles; 20,000 rolls/sheets of microfilm/microfiche that cover 800 monographs, 500 periodicals and more than 200 newspapers; and several major online resources.
Since 2000, the focus has been on collecting material from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and overseas areas. In 2001, with a generous grant from the Luce Foundation, the Library was able to undertake a three-year collection development pilot project to greatly improve the contemporary China collection. The Asian Division’s Chinese specialists teamed with specialists from the Chinese Acquisition Section of the African/Asian Acquisitions and Overseas Operations Division and traveled to China to selected top scholars in six regions (Beijing, Shenyang, Chongqing, Wuhan, Shanghai and Guangzhou) to assist with acquisitions. The scope of materials to be acquired include areas such as the economy, business, finance, law, science and technology, social studies, environment, Western Region development, international relations, Communist Party history, American studies in China, minority affairs, military affairs and national defense.
As a result of these efforts, the collection is growing rapidly and remains a national asset for the United States as well as one of the principal contemporary China collections in the world.
For more information about the Library’s Asian Division and to view “Library of Congress Asian Collections: An Illustrated Guide”, go to www.loc.gov/rr/asian/guide/.