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China/Mongolia Team

The China/Mongolia Team was established after a divisional reorganization in 2004. The team has responsibility for the Chinese, Mongolian and Tibetan collections as well as several special collections. Team members focus on collection development, reference services and outreach programs.

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 about 1,000,000 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, both in depth and breadth, contemporary publications of the People’s Republic of China. In 2001, with a generous grant of $500,000 from the Luce Foundation which enable the Library to undertake a 3-year collection development pilot project. With three teams traveled to six regions of PRC, and methodically collected materials with high research value, 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. It consists of 995,000 monographic volumes, 14,850 serial titles of which 4,978 are active titles, 20,000 rolls/sheets of microfilm/microfiche that cover 800 entries of monographs, 500 periodicals, and over 200 newspapers, along with major full-text electronic databases and resources made available to the patrons of the Asian Division Reading Room. 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.

In order to bring the history and content of this Collection to the attention of the East Asian librarians and scholars worldwide, Judy S. Lu, Head of Collection Services, Asian Division, Library of Congress, who has worked in the field of contemporary China studies for 20 some years, has written two articles on the subject that appear in Journal of East Asian Libraries, no. 141 (February 2007), p.19-28 and American Journal of Chinese Studies, v. 14, no. 1 (April 2007), p. 45-60. 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: An Illustrated Guide (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 2000) (

Mongolian Collection


Mongolian sutra of the great liberation
Illustrated folio from the Sutra of the Great Liberation.
Mongolia, 18th or 19th c. manuscript
Gift of William W. Rockhill

The Mongolian Collection consists of approximately 3,000 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 room.

Tibetan Collection

Tibetan Musical Score
Tibetan Musical Score,
ca. Nineteenth century.
Tibetan Collection

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, mostly by Rockhill, Berthold Laufer (1874-1934), and Joseph Rock (1884-1962). Currently, the collection is one of the largest in the West, consisting of approximately 10,000 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 by William Rockhill in 1901 for the Library, 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.

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/Mongolian include:

NOTE: The following papers and presentations are in PDF, or Portable Document Format, and you must have the Adobe Acrobat Viewer in order to view these files. You can determine if you have Adobe Acrobat Viewer by searching your files/folders for "Adobe Acrobat Reader". If you don't have this application, download and install it now.

  1. Confucianism in Books (PDF - 5 MB)
  2. Confucianism and the Modern World: A Catalog of Selected Exhibits (PDF - 257 KB)
  3. NEW Christianity in China (PDF - 80 MB)

Other Asian Division TeamsJapan Team | Korea Team | South Asia Team | Southeast Asia Team

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  March 24, 2011
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