If you are looking for a unique experience to recognize Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, look no further than the Library of Congress website. In celebration of the contributions Asian Pacific peoples have made throughout history in the arts and sciences, LOC has digitized and made available online 1,000 Chinese rare books produced before 1796.
The Chinese Rare Book Digital Collection includes the most valuable titles and editions housed in the Library’s Asian Division, some of which date as far back as the 10th century and are the only extant copies in the world, the LOC reported in a release.
This stunning collection draws from the 5,300 titles of Chinese rare books housed at the Asian Division of the Library of Congress. Once complete, the digital collection will comprise nearly 2,000 titles.
These materials encompass a wide array of disciplines and subjects in classics, history, geography, philosophy, and literature. The majority are editions from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and early Qing dynasty (1644-1795), while nearly 30 titles are Song dynasty (960-1279) and Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) editions.
The Library of Congress digitized these Chinese rare books in collaboration with the National Central Library of Taiwan in recognition of the collection’s value as a major resource for the study of pre-modern China. The rich resources found in this collection will interest those conducting research on various topics in the study of pre-modern China, including local history, geography, politics, social and economic life, education, agriculture, and biology.
However, many will appreciate the beauty of the objects in this collection, which includes printed books, manuscripts, Buddhist sutras, works with hand-painted pictures, local gazetteers and ancient maps.
According to the International Union Catalog of Chinese Rare Book Project Cataloging Guidelines, published by the Council on East Asia Libraries (CEAL) in 2000, rare books are defined as Chinese-language printed books and bound manuscripts produced before 1796.
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About the image
Title: Shi shi yuan liu ying hua shi ji : si juan. Chinese Rare Book Collection (Library of Congress). Created / Published [China: s.n., Ming Chenghua jian, i.e., between 1465 and 1487] LOC Control Number: 2012402109. Miss Mary McClure, of Fenchow, Shansi, China, has placed on deposit a Ming edition of the Buddhist work, Shi shi yuan liu ying hua shi ji (The origin of Buddhism and its development in China), originally issued under the auspices of the Emperor Chenghua in 1486. This work, in 4 juan, and 4 volumes (each page 23 by 41 cm), is ascribed in the imperial preface to a priest, Baocheng, who probably lived in the early Ming dynasty since the narrative itself is carried through the close of Yuan. Bequest of Mary L. McClure December 20, 1944. See https://www.loc.gov/item/2012402109/ for more information.