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Asian Collections: Library of Congress, An Illustrated Guide

HOME  Preface  Introduction  The World of Asian Books  Chinese Beginnings  Tales from the Yunnan Woods
The Diplomat and the Dalai Lama  From the Steppes of Central Asia  The Japanese World  Korean Classics
Homer on the Ganges  White Whales and Bugis Book  Barangays, Friars, and "The Mild Sway of Justice"
The Theravada Tradition  The Southern Mandarins  Modern Asia  East Asia  Inner Asia  South Asia
Southeast Asia and the Pacific  Epilog  Publications on the Asian Collections


Examples of Contemporary Japanese Publications.
Examples of Contemporary Japanese Publications. (Japan Documentation Center, Asian Division)

The Japan Documentation Center: Nothing better illustrates the Library's emphasis on obtaining current publications from Asia than the work of the Japan Documentation Center (JDC) in the Asian Division. Established in 1992 to ensure that Congress would receive timely information on Japan, JDC obtains unpublished and other material that is often difficult to find, such as draft legislation, government policy studies, public opinion polling data, reports from think tanks, and conference proceedings. Topics of interest include Japanese politics, national defense, the environment, economics, business, and social conditions. [Web edition note: The JDC closed its doors on March 31, 2000. The JDC database can still be accessed via the Asian Division Web site:]

Obtaining this material and forwarding it to the Library once a week is the job of the JDC's Tokyo Acquisitions Facility. When documents are received by the Library, the JDC staff records bibliographic data in Japanese and English for each item and produces an English summary. The records are then added to the JDC database. The documents are digitally scanned so that copies can be made quickly when requested by members of Congress, academics, the business community, or the general public. JDC also receives several Japanese journals covering current developments. To ensure that readers have timely access, vendors in Tokyo air mail the journals directly to JDC.

In addition to acquiring a wide range of documents and providing reference assistance, JDC sponsors conferences and workshops. Its third annual symposium, "CyberJapan: Technology, Policy, and Society" was held at the Library of Congress in 1996. And in 1997, JDC and the U.S. Department of Commerce cosponsored the "Fifth International Conference on Japanese Information in Science, Technology, and Commerce," featuring some thirty speakers from Europe, Japan, and the United States. The very model of a modern electronic library, JDC is a joint project sponsored by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP) and the Library of Congress. Clearly, JDC has been such a great success that the initial contract between the Library and CGP was renewed in 1997, ensuring financial support for another three years. While separate and distinct from the Asian Division's Japanese Section, JDC's work is in the broadest sense part of the Asian Division's coverage of modern Japan.

Japanese: The traditional Japanese world entered a period of rapid modernization beginning with the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Although Japan's role in East Asia continued to become more important, it was not until the 1930s that serious academic study of Japan began in the United States. This decade marked the growing tensions in relations between the United States and Japan. Dr. Sakanishi Shiho at the Library of Congress played an active role not only in building the Library's Japanese collections but also in promoting Japanese studies in the United States. Born in Tokyo, Sakanishi held a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and had been an assistant professor at Hollins College in Virginia before starting at the Library in 1930. Her personal story is intertwined with the tragic story of World War II in the Pacific. Dr. Sakanishi's tireless efforts to encourage Japanese studies and her close relations with the Japanese Embassy in Washington apparently put her high on the FBI's list of "enemy aliens." Federal officers arrested Sakanishi on December 7, 1941, holding her in a detention camp until June 1942 when she was sent to Japan as part of an exchange of prisoners.

With the end of World War II, the Library's holdings of Japanese material increased rapidly and are today the most extensive collection outside Japan. Valuable Japanese government records that throw light on Japanese decision making before the war were transferred to the Library from the Washington Documents Center. Among them are records from the former Japanese Imperial Army and Navy, the South Manchuria Railway Company, and the East Asian Research Institute (Toa Kenkyujo). The Library has a microfilm copy of the archives of the Japanese Foreign Ministry from 1868 to 1945 that was used, for example, in John Toland's history of the fall of the Japanese Empire, The Rising Sun. Japanese scholars have also used the Library's pre-1945 records of the Police Bureau of Japan's Ministry of Home Affairs. Complementing this rich resource are maps in the Geography and Map Division that provide insight into the early period of Japanese expansion in northeast Asia. These include a collection of Japanese Army manuscript route maps of Korea and China prepared from 1878 to the 1880s and manuscript maps concerning the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) from Theodore Roosevelt's papers.

At present, the Japanese collection has nearly one million books and serials. Its holdings include major Japanese newspapers such as Asahi shinbun, Yomiuri shinbun, and Nikkei Weekly. Japanese material in other divisions of the Library includes pre-1946 newsreels and movies in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division; posters, ukiyo- e, other prints, and photographs in the Prints and Photographs Division; technical reports in the Science and Technology Division; and recorded music and scores in the Music Division.

Calligraphy of MaoTse-Tung

Calligraphy of Mao Tse-tung. The People's Republic of China printed only 500 copies of this large book of Mao Tse-tung's poetry and calligraphy, using them as presentation books during official visits. This copy was donated to the Library by Dr. Chi Wang, who received it in 1989 from Prof. Hu Qiao Mu, Mao's personal secretary for over nineteen years. Here Mao has copied a poem by a famous Sung Dynasty general, Yüeh Fei. (Chinese Rare Book Collection, Asian Division)

Calligraphy of Mao Tse-tung

Chinese: War and revolution in China during much of the first half of the twentieth century provided both unique collection opportunities and serious problems for the Library's Chinese collections. On the positive side, the Library was able to obtain the only copies of some four thousand unique and valuable publications issued by both the Nationalist and the Communist sides during the war years from 1939 to 1945. These publications cover subjects ranging from the social sciences and government to military strategy and wartime propaganda. The material includes valuable Chinese Communist Party publications concerning party policies in the areas of northwest China under its control during World War II. Literary works are another particularly rich part of this collection, especially a number of modern Chinese plays written in the wartime capital of Chungking. Included are works by the well-known writers Lao She (author of Rickshaw Boy) and Ts'aoYü (Sunrise and Thunderstorm).

After the Communist victory in 1949 and the resulting rupture of contacts between the United States and the People's Republic of China (PRC), acquiring current Chinese mainland publications became very difficult. Chinese publications from Taiwan continued to flow, but from 1950 to 1975 the Library had to purchase all its mainland Chinese publications through either Hong Kong or Japan. Despite these difficulties, the Library acquired probably the best holdings on the PRC available in the West during the 1950s and 1960s. Through the Department of State's publications procurement program, the Consulate General in Hong Kong was able to buy large amounts of material published in China that it shared with the Library. Of special interest from that period is the Library's holdings of some six hundred to seven hundred provincial newspapers. Because of its excellent collection of PRC publications, the Library became a center for China-watchers during the 1950s and 1960s, with many American graduate students using the material for M.A. theses or Ph.D. dissertations.

Following the 1972 visit to China of Richard Nixon, who was president then, the Library reopened its contact with the National Library of Peking through a visit by Dr. Chi Wang, who is currently head of the Chinese Section of the Asian Division. The first formal exchange agreement was signed in 1979. Since then, the Chinese collection has continued to grow through purchases by dealers in Peking, Hong Kong, and Taipei, as well as from exchanges and gifts. From 1980 until 1987, the Library received a massive influx of Chinese publications, averaging some twenty-four thousand titles each year, through its exchange agreement with the National Library in Peking. Since 1988, the Library has tightened and narrowed its focus on China but continues to strengthen its collection of modern Chinese publications and will remain an important center for scholarship.

Of the collection's nearly one million books, manuscripts, and other publications, some 40 percent are in the humanities; 40 percent are in the social sciences; and 20 percent are general works, science, technology, and bibliographies. Besides books, the Library has more than twelve thousand Chinese periodical titles and regularly receives about forty-five Chinese-language newspapers. The large Chinese microfilm collection of more than fifteen thousand reels is very impressive. The Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange has given the Library a grant to prepare a research guide for the collection that will be put on the Internet.

Additionally, there are significant holdings of photographs of China in the Prints and Photographs Division and unique material in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division.

Choson Yujok Yumul Togam (Illustrated Book of Ruins and Relics of Korea).
Choson Yujok Yumul Togam
(Illustrated Book of Ruins and Relics of Korea). Because of the closed nature of North Korean society, the outside world has little information on Korean artifacts held in the north. This seventeen-volume set, published in Pyongyang in 1994, was, therefore, welcomed by art collectors and other specialists. Ceramics are among the most important of Korea's artistic achievements, and volume 12 is devoted to the unique ceramics of the Koryo period (918-1392), widely admired for their beautiful colors and design. (Korean Collection, Asian Division)

Korean: The Library began systematic acquisition of Korean-language publications in 1950 and now has the largest and most comprehensive collection outside Korea, including books, periodicals, and some two hundred fifty newspapers that go back to the 1920s. Through a 1966 exchange agreement between the United States and the Republic of Korea, the Library has built up an especially strong collection of Korean government publications. Another strength of the contemporary collection is Korean trade publications, systematically built up through the use of a Korean dealer since 1955.

North Korea, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is probably the most secretive society in the modern world. The Asian Division's 10,000 items from North Korea are therefore vital to scholars and government officials trying to understand developments in the north. The Library receives the two major North Korean newspapers--one a government paper and the other the party paper--as well as several dozen periodicals.

The rapid development of the Korean collections during this decade is in large part due to the generous support of the International Cultural Society of Korea, which presented the Library with a gift of one million dollars in December 1989, on the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Congress. Besides buying Korean books, the Library used these funds to establish a Korean Section in the Asian Division in 1990, to sponsor a Korean Studies Conference in 1992, and to set up a program for Korean interns to spend a month working in the Library. In 1996, the Library began a Korean Studies Fellowship Program that will support researchers working on Korean-related subjects for six months. These and other projects using the Korean Gift Fund are managed by an Advisory Committee consisting of six members from the Library and three members from the academic community.

HOME  Preface  Introduction  The World of Asian Books  Chinese Beginnings  Tales from the Yunnan Woods
The Diplomat and the Dalai Lama  From the Steppes of Central Asia  The Japanese World  Korean Classics
Homer on the Ganges  White Whales and Bugis Book  Barangays, Friars, and "The Mild Sway of Justice"
The Theravada Tradition  The Southern Mandarins  Modern Asia  East Asia  Inner Asia  South Asia
Southeast Asia and the Pacific  Epilog  Publications on the Asian Collections

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( August 20, 2012 )
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