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Chinese Collection

Chinese Collection

Yizong Jinjian
Yizong Jinjian
(Complete Survey of Medical Knowledge).
Beijing: Imperial Edition, 1743.
Chinese Section

One of the largest in the world outside of China, the Chinese collection of the Library of Congress began in 1869 when the Library received ten works in 933 volumes from Emperor Tongzhi (1862-1874), part of an exchange authorized by Congress. A Division of Chinese Literature was established in 1928 with the approval of the Congress. Arthur W. Hummel, Sr., a renowned Sinologist, was appointed as the first Chief of the Division. The collection has since then grown to over 1,200,000 volumes. Along with Chinese language materials, the Collection also houses several thousand volumes in Manchu, Naxi and other minority languages.

The Collection covers all subject areas, with its strength in the humanities and social sciences, among them classical Chinese literature, archival materials of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and the Republican period (1911-1949), and Chinese medicine. It owns about 4,000 local and regional gazetteers from the Ming and Qing dynasties, as well as those published since the 1980s, and is especially strong on Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu and Sichuan provinces. A unique Chinese rare book collection of more than 2,000 titles includes a Buddhist sutra printed in 975 A.D., the oldest printed specimen in the Library of Congress, and about 1,500 imprints of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The Collection also owns 41 of the surviving volumes, the largest number outside of China, of Yongle da dian [Great Encyclopedia of the Ming Emperor Yongle], the earliest and largest encyclopedia in China. Chinese publications can also be found in other Library collections, with Chinese law materials in the Law Library and Chinese maps, including rare ones, as part of Arthur W. Hummel collection in the Geography and Map Division

Since 2000, the Chinese Collection has focused on collecting from Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and overseas areas, contemporary publications of the People’s Republic of China. It has expanded its collection scope to encompass all aspects of contemporary China, such as economy, business, finance, law, science and technology, social studies, environment, Western Region development, international relations, Communist Party history, American studies in China, military affairs and national defense, and minority affairs.

Today, LC’s contemporary China collection has been developed to have unparalleled depth and breadth on all aspects of contemporary China studies from areas that include Mainland China, Taiwan, and major overseas areas. Major full-text electronic databases and resources are available to the patrons of the Asian Division Reading Room. Popular among the databases is China Academic Journal Database (CAJ) from China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), which has collected more than 10,000 China academic journals, and the full-text paper amount has reached to nearly 53 million. Another frequently used database is Duxiu, a comprehensive bibliographical index database covering over 3 million Chinese bibliographic entries and 2 million full text scholarly resources. Currently, the collection is growing rapidly and has gained in stature as a national asset for the United States as well as one of the principal contemporary China collections in the world.

Further history of the collection can be traced in The Development of the Chinese Collection in the Library of Congress, by Shuzhao Hu (Boulder, Colo: Westview, 1979. xvi, 259 p.) and Library of Congress Asian Collections: 2007 Illustrated Guide, (

Naxi Collection

The Library’s Naxi Collection began in 1924, with the acquisition of 69 pictographic booklets that Joseph Rock brought with him from China. At the time, this was the largest amount of Naxi materials ever brought outside of China. The collection continued to grow from 1924 to 1945 through the acquisition of additional materials from Joseph Rock and other collectors. It received 1,073 manuscripts in 1941, donated by Quentin Roosevelt (1919-1948), grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt. The Naxi Collection consists now of 3,342 or so manuscripts, both originals and photostat copies of original manuscripts. These manuscripts, written by Naxi Dongbas, shamanistic priests, document the unique cosmology of the Naxi people, illustrate a range of Naxi myths and legends including the story of the creation of the world, sacrifice to the Serpent King and other principal gods, accounts of Naxi warriors and other people of high social standing ascending to the realm of deities, and love-suicide stories.

The Naxi (or Na-khi) people inhabit primarily the mountain valleys at the foothills of the Himalayas. The Chinese government has officially classified the neighboring Mosuo (Moso) people around the Lugu Lake near Lijiang as part of the Naxi. The Naxi Kingdom traditionally extended from northwestern Yunnan Province to southwestern Sichuan Province. The Naxi and Moso are distinct not only in their matrilineal kinship system, but also in their unique pictographic writing system. The earliest efforts to translate these pictographic manuscripts were made by Jacques Bacot (1877-1965), the French traveler and author, in his work, Les Mo-so: ethnographie des Mo-so, leurs religion, leur langue et leur écriture. (Leiden, 1913). Joseph Rock was the first American who studied and interpreted Naxi writings. His first article on the subject was published in National Geographic magazine in 1924. During his 24 years in China Rock amassed a collection of some 7,500 manuscripts, most of which were sold later to libraries and collections in the West.

A digital database, entitled Selections from the Naxi Manuscript Collection is available on the Library’s website. (

Other Collections, Papers, and Presentations:

Other notable collections in the custody of the Chinese Collection include:

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  January 8, 2018
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