Skip to content

The Harvard Gazette

The Harvard-Yenching Library, by the numbers

Questions, answers with Harvard’s Muslim chaplain

Campus & Community

The Harvard-Yenching Library, by the numbers

佛頂尊勝總持經咒 Uṣṇīṣavijayadhāraṇi Fo ding zun sheng zong chi jing zhou
[Japan : s.n., n.d.]

Campus & Community

The Harvard-Yenching Library, by the numbers

佛頂尊勝總持經咒 Uṣṇīṣavijayadhāraṇi Fo ding zun sheng zong chi jing zhou [Japan : s.n., n.d.]

Photos by Ke Tang

140 years, 1.4 million volumes, and the most comprehensive collection for East Asian studies in the Western world

With 1.4 million volumes in more than a dozen languages, the Harvard-Yenching Library has become the third-largest library at Harvard, after Widener and Harvard Law School’s. It is also the largest academic library for East Asian studies in the Western world.

Nearly 140 years after a Chinese scholar gave the small collection of books that established the collection, today the Harvard-Yenching’s holdings include 836,523 works in Chinese; 348,873 in Japanese; 179,169 in Korean; 23,979 in Vietnamese; 53,367 in various Western languages; 4,265 in Tibetan; 3,455 in Manchu; and 494 in Mongolian.

Its most prized pieces are found on the third floor of the red brick building on Divinity Avenue, in the special collections office and rare book reading room. There, students and the curious can find comprehensive coverage of history, language and literature, philosophy and religion, and fine arts, as well as archival materials, manuscripts, prints, photos, scrolls, and rubbings in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Western languages, and minority languages such as Manchu, Mongolian, Tibetan, and Naxi.

The main study room and bibliography room on the first floor of the building is a great place to embrace Asian literature and culture, or delve into reference books in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other languages. Andrew Burke works at the front desk of library, where students and faculty pick up requested books.

Wang Xiaoyang, visiting librarian from Zhejiang University Library, files a photo collection of Tingfu Tsiang’s trip in Taiwan.

The Harvard-Yenching’s special collections are housed on the third floor of the building.

藏文大藏经 Tibetan tripitaka [China : s.n., Ming Yongle ba nian, (1410)].

Some books are only as big as a small bookend. From left, “Mo E Xiao Lu,” “Xiao Hui Ji,” and “Jin Xiang Xiao Pin.” “Mo E Xiao Lu” is one of the smallest books in the Yenching’s special collections. A digital edition of this book is available online. [China] : Xing xiang tang, Qing Qianlong ding hai [32 nian, 1767].

The Dian Shi Ce, the handwritten article from the final imperial examination presided over by the emperor.

“Miao Man Tu Shuo,” with calligraphy on the left and a related painting on the right. [China : s.n., Qing, between 1736 and 1911]. An original copy of “Long March of the Red Army,” first published as “Zong zheng zhi bu xuan chuan bu, 1942,” signed by Zhu De.

明萬曆五年武將任命書 [明諸名家尺牘, 附人名略錄] “Ming zhu ming jia chi du, fu ren ming lue lu.” [China : s.n.], 明萬曆庚子 [28 nian, 1600] 序. [China : s.n.], Ming Wanli geng zi [28 nian, 1600] xu.

重修宣和博古圖錄 Chong xiu Xuanhe bo gu tu lu 明萬曆27 [1599].

Wu Jing Da Quan: 127 Juan [China] : Min Zhicheng Jianyi shu lin Yu shi, Ming Wanli [i.e. between 1573 and 1620].

The top of a Tibetan tripitaka.

Manuscripts in Naxi. Naxi manuscripts collection.

滿文奏摺 “Man wen zou zhe.”

御製百家姓滿漢合集 ”Yu zhi Bai jia xing man han he ji,” between 1644 and 1911.