View of Green Island, Macau,
1844. George West was the official artist attached to U.S.
Minister Caleb Cushing's delegation during negotiation
of the first U.S. treaty with China in 1844. During Cushing's
five-month stay in the Portuguese territory of Macau on
China's southern coast, West sketched and painted numerous
local scenes. In this watercolor, West shows Green Island
(Ilha Verde), a prominent feature in Macau's inner harbor
and the site of a seventeenthcentury Jesuit monastery,
abandoned by the time West saw it. Today, as the result
of land reclamation, Green Island is part of the Macau
peninsula. (Caleb Cushing Collection, Manuscript Division)
Chinese books played a central role in the development of the
Library's Asian language collection during the nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries. In fact, the Library's first special
unit to take care of Asian holdings, established in 1928, was
called the "Division of Chinese Literature." How did the Library's
Chinese collection begin?
A good starting point is February 23, 1844, when the USS
Brandywine dropped anchor in Macau's harbor, on China's
southern coast. The Brandywine's arrival attracted
more than usual attention in the Portuguese colony, for aboard
was the first U.S. Minister to China, Caleb Cushing. A politician
and lawyer, Cushing had been appointed by President Tyler to
negotiate the Treaty of Wang hsia, which would give the United
States the same trading privileges China had granted Great
Britain only two years earlier in the Treaty of Nanking.
Cushing intended to proceed on to Peking but the Chinese insisted
he wait in Macau for the arrival of the emperor's representative.
During the nearly four months before the Chinese delegation arrived,
Cushing set up a legation on Macau's pleasant Praia Grande, overlooking
the harbor, and continued his study of China, including both
the Chinese and Manchu languages.
Cushing had excellent tutors. One of those was Dr. Peter Parker,
an American medical missionary working in Canton. Cushing appointed
Parker and another missionary, Elijah Coleman Bridgeman, as joint "Chinese
Secretaries" to the mission. A third American missionary, S.
Wells Williams, became an unofficial adviser and will reappear
later in the story of the Library's Chinese collection. Williams
and Bridgeman published a missionary newspaper, The Chinese
Repository, still an important resource for scholars and
available in the Library's Rare Book and Special Collections
Fan Map Showing China, Japan, and
Korea in the 1870s. Apparently designed for gentry-administrators
in China, this fan map was probably made in Shanghai
in the late nineteenth century. A note on the left side
that, because of the size and shape of the fan, the island
of Taiwan was displaced northward. The size of Korea
is also exaggerated. The map includes all administrative
for mainland China down to the county level and also
lists them on the reverse side. It gives less detail
island of Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. (Miscellaneous
Oriental Collection, Geography and Map Division)
An avid bibliophile, Cushing also used his long wait to buy
Chinese books, relying on the three missionaries, who in turn
appear to have been assisted by Chinese Christian convert, Liang
Afa, who was a printer with wide contacts among Canton's booksellers.
By the time Cushing had completed the treaty and was ready to
leave Macau at the end of August 1844, he had developed an excellent
library of Chinese classics. It was this collection, acquired
in 1879, that formed part of the original core of the Library's
Chinese holdings. In addition, Cushing's personal papers, including
his original card catalog, can be found in the Manuscript Division
of the Library. The 237 titles (2,547 volumes) that make up the
Cushing collection include history, medicine, classics, poetry,
fiction, ethics, astronomy, essays, and dictionaries.
It took thirty-five years, however, before the Cushing collection
found its way to the Library. In the meantime, another group
of Chinese books had the honor of being the first on the Library's
shelves. In 1869, America's interest in China was growing, in
part as the result of the previous year's visit to Washington,
D.C., of an official Chinese delegation led by the former U.S.
minister to China, Anson Burlingame, whose personal papers are
now in the Library's Manuscript Division. It was also in 1869
that the U.S. legation in Peking received ten works, consisting
of some 934 volumes, from the Chinese government as the result
of an international exchange system authorized by Congress in
1867. The American diplomat who played a central role during
the two years it took the legation in Peking to negotiate the
exchange was none other than S. Wells Williams, the former missionary
publisher who had assisted Caleb Cushing in 1844. Carefully listed
and annotated by Williams, the books included the Confucian classics
and works on medicine, botany, language, philosophy, and mathematics,
each with the notation: "Presented to the Government of the U.S.A.
by His Majesty the Emperor of China, June 1869."
One of the First Books in the Chinese
Collection. The Nung Ching Ts'iuen Shu (Encyclopædia
of Agriculture Among the Chinese) was one of the ten titles
the Library received from China in 1869. These books, part
of an exchange program authorized by Congress in 1867,
launched the Library's Chinese collection. (Chinese
Rare Book Collection, Asian Division.
One example illustrates the quality of the 1869 collection.
The Nung Ching Ts'iuen Shu (Encyclopædia of Agriculture
Among the Chinese) is the work of a well-known Ming Dynasty scholar-official,
Hsü Kuang-ch'i (1562-1633). In 1600, Hsü met the Italian
Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci and three years later was baptized
into the Roman Catholic Church under the name "Paul Hsü." Working
with Ricci, Hsü became the first Chinese to translate European
books into the Chinese language. In particular, the Hsü-Ricci
translation of Euclid's Elements boosted the reputation
of Western science and of the Jesuits among the Chinese literati.
Hsü's important work on agriculture was written between
1625 and 1628 and was presented to the throne by his grandson
Matteo Hsü in 1643. Paul Hsü was not, however, simply
a channel for Western influence to enter China but was also a
cultural bridge between China and Europe. His work on agriculture,
dealing with the idealized Chinese view of the farmer as well
as the technicalities of farming, became known in Europe and
played a role in the development of the French Enlightenment.
Through reading Hsü, a group of French intellectual reformers
concluded that China was a country where the true worth of agriculture
and the farmer was recognized. These intellectuals, the physiocrats,
urged European governments to look to the Chinese model in making
a number of reforms, including in agriculture. The Library's
copy of Hsü's encyclopedia is a later edition, printed in
Kweichou province in 1837.
The Eight Immortals of Taoism. Purchased
by Dr. Walter Swingle for the Library in the 1920s, this
scroll painting portrays a popular Chinese theme, the eight
immortals of the Taoist religion. The eight immortals,
who represent all levels of Chinese society, embody the
ideal of perfect but imaginary happiness. Three of the
immortals are historical figures; the other five are characters
from old fables and romances. (Chinese Rare Book Collection,
The 1869 exchange volumes from China and the Caleb Cushing collection
were to remain the extent of the Chinese collection until the
beginning of the twentieth century when William Woodville Rockhill,
an American scholar and diplomat who served as Minister to China
from 1905 to 1909, sent to the Library the first of what eventually
were to be three donations of Chinese, Manchu, Mongolian, and
Tibetan books. Rockhill's gifts, 6,000 volumes in 1901 to 1902
and another 6,000 volumes in 1915, were donated in memory of
John Russell Young, Librarian of Congress from 1897 to 1899,
who had also served as U.S. Minister to China from 1882 to 1885.
Rockhill had served as a junior diplomat in Young's legation
in Peking during the final year of Young's tenure and was one
of the early China experts whom Young had nurtured. A third donation
of smaller size but with several special volumes came from Mrs.
Rockhill in 1942.
The Imperial Illustrated Encyclopedia
of Ancient and Modern Times. The Ku chin T'u-shu chi-ch'eng is
the largest encyclopedia still existing in the world. In
1908, the Chinese government presented this copy to the
Library of Congress after the United States had returned
its unused portion of the Boxer Indemnity Fund. The work,
completed in 1725 and printed in movable bronze type in
1728, consists of over five thousand Chinese volumes. The
Library's copy is a photolithograpic reproduction dating
from 1895 to 1898. (Chinese Rare Book Collection, Asian
Not long after Rockhill's first gift, the Chinese government
made another important contribution to the Library's holdings
when it presented 198 works from its exhibit at the Louisiana
Purchase Exposition of 1904. China followed this gift in 1908
with another presentation to the Library in acknowledgment of
America's return of its unused portion of the Boxer Indemnity
Fund. This gift was a complete set of the Chinese encyclopedia,
the Ku chin t'u shu chi-ch'eng, originally printed in
1728. With 5,040 volumes, it was considered to be the world's
largest printed encyclopedia.
Building on this solid foundation, three men played key roles
in developing the Chinese holdings into a broad, systematic collection
during the first half of the twentieth century. Herbert Putnam
used his forty years as Librarian of Congress (1899-1939) to
expand the Library from a "national" to a "universal" library.
Strengthening the Asian collections was one of Putnam's objectives
and he initially turned to Walter Tennyson Swingle for help.
A botanist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who dedicated
a long career to searching for Asian plants that could be useful
in the United States, Swingle also collected tens of thousands
of books in Chinese and Japanese for the Library of Congress
between 1913 and 1937. After 1928, Swingle's collecting was reinforced
and guided by Arthur W. Hummel, the first chief of the Library's
Asian Division. Returning after thirteen years as a missionary
teacher in China, Hummel had so impressed Putnam that the Librarian
offered him the job after their first meeting in late 1927. Hummel,
who served until 1954, presided over the growth of the Library's
Asian collections to world class status.
Chin-ling t'u-yung (Gazetteer
of Nanking), 1624. Consisting of forty woodblock scenes
of the city of Nanking (under its earlier name of "Chin-ling"),
this Ming Dynasty printing includes descriptions and
eight-line poems about the city and surrounding region.
The book was
written by Chu Chih-fan, with drawings by Lu Shou-po. (Chinese
Rare Book Collection, Asian Division)
What does the Chinese collection look like? With nearly one
million books, manuscripts, and publications on religion, history,
literature, and science, the Library's Chinese collection is
one of the largest outside of China. Although it is impossible
to give justice to this massive collection in a short space,
several areas of special significance may be singled out. The
Library's collection of Chinese gazetteers or local histories (
fang-chih) is especially strong, in large part due to the
importance Walter Swingle put on these works. Containing information
on each province's history, geography, economy, folklore, culture,
and literary developments, gazetteers serve as good records of
change over time because they were frequently revised. A second
area of note is the ts'ung-shu (collectanea) collection.
These are volumes of reprints that brought together manuscripts,
monographs, and reprints of rare works that were no longer available
Finally, Swingle, with the support of Hummel, made a major effort
to acquire rare Chinese books on behalf of the Library, especially
books from the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644 ad). They were still
widely available at reasonable prices in the 1920s and 1930s
and during the war years. A large number of rare items was added
to the collection in 1929 with the acquisition of the library
of Wang Shunan, a well-known professor at China's Tsinghua University.
Some 1,668 works were purchased from Professor Wang through a
$10,000 donation from Andrew Mellon, then Secretary of the Treasury
and a member of the Library's Trust Fund Board. The Wang collection
included 94 rare palace editions, 276 titles printed during the
Ming Dynasty, and a Sung book printed between 1131 and 1162.
The broad scope of the Wang acquisition greatly enhanced the
Library's growing Chinese collection, filling gaps, especially
in the area of Chinese literature.
Hui-chiang chih (Gazetteer
of the Muslim Regions), 1772. In 1758, the Ch'ien-lung
emperor sent an army to put down armed resistance by
the Khojas in the far western region of Kashgaria. Several
officers who led the successful Chinese army wrote this
manuscript in 1772, giving their account of the campaign.
Illustrated here is an Islamic religious leader, an "akhund" ("a-hun" in
Chinese). (Chinese Rare Book Collection, Asian Division)
Today's scholars are the beneficiaries of the foresight of Hummel
and the Director of the National Library of China, Dr. T. L.
Yüan, who arranged for the temporary transfer of rare books
from Peking to the Library of Congress in order to save them
from possible destruction during the war. As part of the arrangement,
the Library was able to microfilm the books and make the films
available to interested libraries. The Chinese rare book collection
would have been of limited use, however, if it were not for the
efforts of Wang Ch'ung-min, a specialist in rare Chinese works,
who compiled a catalog for the Library between 1939 and 1942.
Wang's catalog, revised and supplemented by T. L.Yüan, was
published by the Library in 1957 and listed 1,777 rare books
in the Chinese collection.
One of the characteristics of China's traditional form of government
was the use of a rigorous system of examinations to select the
scholar-officials who administered the state. The Library has
a unique collection of examination papers consisting of thirty-two
printed items and thirty manuscripts, the gift of Kiang K'ang-hu.
Born into a family of scholar-officials in 1883, Kiang played
an active role in Chinese history during the first half of the
twentieth century. A scholar and politician, Kiang founded China's
Socialist Party in 1912 but soon ran into trouble when his party
was banned. Fleeing China, he taught Chinese at the University
of California at Berkeley between 1913 and 1920 and worked several
summers cataloging the Chinese collection at the Library of Congress.
After he returned to China, Kiang's political misfortunes continued,
culminating with his service as a senior official in the Japanese-sponsored
government of Wang Chingwei and his resulting imprisonment after
the Japanese surrender in 1945. Nonetheless, three generations
of his family's examination papers can still be found in the
Library of Congress.
Keng chi t'u (Pictures of Tilling and Weaving,
1696). For many centuries, this famous work on agriculture
and sericulture was widely known in China. This is the
K'ang-hsi edition, ordered printed by the emperor after
he was shown copies of the ancient work during a trip to
southern China in 1696. It has forty-six colored woodblock
prints, based on the paintings of Chiao Ping-chen (circa
1650- 1726), with a poem for each illustration to be sung
by the men and women during work in the fields or at home. (Chinese
Rare Book Collection, Asian Division)
In recent years, Western scholars have become more interested
in traditional Chinese cartography. Before China adopted a more
mathematical system of mapping in the wake of the 1894-1895 Sino-Japanese
War, Chinese maps had been distinctly different from their Western
cousins, more concerned with aesthetics and an idealized world
than with scientific measurement. Chinese maps also reflected
administrative priorities, frequently depicting internal waterways
or coastal regions and walled cities. World maps tended to represent
a Sinocentric view with "barbarians" pushed to the edges of the "Middle
Kingdom." Many splendid examples of traditional Chinese cartography
can be found in the Geography and Map Division. The Arthur W.
Hummel collection consists of some eighty-five scrolls, wall
maps, and atlases dating from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) through
the nineteenth century. The Langdon Warner collection has thirty
items, including manuscript maps, atlases, and fan maps of China
manuscript from Tun-huang. An important oasis on the eastern
edge of the Silk Road, Tun-huang was also a vital center
of Buddhism. It was renowned for its Caves of the Thousand
Buddhas. In the early years of this century, a walled-up
library was opened at Tun-huang and found to contain ancient
Buddhist manuscripts, including the oldest known printed
book, dated 868 A.D. The Library of Congress has eight scrolls
of the Tun-huang type: six from the Tun-huang caves; one
from Turfan, to the northwest of Tun-huang; and one that
appears to have been preserved in Japan.
In addition to the confrontation with the West in the nineteenth
century, the Ch'ing Dynasty faced several internal rebellions.
The most serious of these was the T'aiping Rebellion of 1851
to 1864. At the peak of their power, the T'aipings controlled
a large area of China and had established a capital at the city
of Nanking. Among the Asian Division's unique holdings are ten
books that were published by the T'aiping Kingdom that offer
some insight into the early years of the movement. These works,
published between 1851 and 1853, included volumes of T'aiping
edicts, an almanac, a book on T'aiping rituals, religious hymns,
a primer for children, a book of children's rhymes, and a bibliography
of T'aiping publications.
Another unique collection of nineteenth-century Chinese material
came to the Library from the family of William Gamble (1830-1886),
an American who went to China in 1858 as a missionary printer.
The Gamble collection consists of some 277 Chinese publications
and 120 items in English and other languages, dating mainly from
the first half of the nineteenth century. The collection includes
Christian missionary publications in Chinese and translations
of Western works on subjects such as geography, astronomy, and
Two important dynasties stand somewhat apart in China's history.
The Yüan Dynasty (1280-1368) was Mongolian, and the Ch'ing
Dynasty (1644-1912) was Manchu. Both Mongols and Manchus have
their own written languages, taken from the Syrian Estrangelo
alphabet introduced by Nestorian Christian missionaries in the
seventh or eighth century. The Asian Division holds classics
in both languages. Many of the approximately eighty Mongolian
manuscripts and xylographs are Buddhist religious texts. Of the
nonreligious texts, the Ta Yüan i t'ung chih (Great
Yüan Gazetteer) is especially important. Kublai Khan ordered
the first draft of this book in 1285 and his grandson Timur (Ch'eng-tsung),
who ruled from 1284 to 1307, had the work revised. The Library's
fourteenth-century manuscript consists of six books bound in
ten volumes, each volume with a large seal showing it had been
seen by the Yüan emperor in 1303. A preface dated 1303 discusses
Kublai Khan's reasons for moving his capital to Peking. Another
valuable Mongol work is The Epic Poem of King Geser,
printed in 1716, which is one of the classics of Mongolian literature.
Sutras from the Thunder Peak Pagoda (975 A.D.). The earliest
example of Chinese printing in the Library of Congress,
this Buddhist invocation sutra was recovered from the foundations
of the Thunder Peak Pagoda (Lei-feng t'a) after it collapsed
during a storm in 1924. Ch'ien Shu (929-988 AD), prince
of the Kingdom of Wu-yüeh, ordered the printing of
some eighty-four thousand rolls of the sutra and then had
them placed in holes bored in the bricks used to build
the seven-story pagoda. The Library's sutra is fragmented
and mounted on a more modern scroll. (Chinese Rare
Book Collection, Asian Division)
The Manchu collection consists of about four hundred titles
covering philosophy, religion, language, literature, politics,
and Chinese classics. A Catalogue of Manchu Materials in
the Library of Congress: Xylographs, Manuscripts, Archives, compiled
by Jun Matsumura, was published by the Toyo Bunko in Tokyo in
1999. The Edward Barrett collection of 114 titles, some wholly
in Manchu and others in Manchu and Chinese, provides valuable
insight into the economic affairs of the Ch'ing Dynasty. It contains
reports to the throne on the condition of the treasury, on the
types and quality of valuables received and stored in the palace,
on rental income from imperial lands, and on the distribution
of payments to Manchu and Mongol bannermen (soldiers).
Eighteenth-Century Chinese Scroll Map.
This manuscript map of China's coastal defenses covers
the entire coastline, from Manchuria in the north to Hainan
Island in the south. About nine meters when fully unrolled,
the map is oriented with north to the right. It uses pictorial
symbols, with military installations shown as drawings
of forts. Shown here on the island is the walled city of
Macau, under Portuguese administration. (Hummel
Collection, Geography and Map Division