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Any large library, particularly if it is an old one, contains many happy accidents in its collections, books that complement one another in unexpected ways. But in a great research library such as Harvard's, accidents do not represent merely the workings of chance. Great collections grow from the effective coordination of the experience, education, skills, and talents of generations of scholars and librarians whose purpose is to enlarge knowledge and, as a result, leave the library richer for their association with it.
In the collection of the Harvard-Yenching Library which, with more than a million volumes, is the largest East Asian library maintained by any American university, are, for example, the memoirs (published during wartime) of Ambassador Kurusu Saburō and Admiral Nomura Kichisaburõ, Japan's special envoys to the United States at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In Harvard's Houghton Library are the personal and official papers, including typescript journals, of Joseph C. Grew. This archive records a long and distinguished diplomatic career that was climaxed by Mr. Grew's tenure as United States Ambassador to Japan in the years just before and at the time of Pearl Harbor. History's mirror always has two sides but only in a superlative research library can both be found together.
East Asian studies, in particular, requires such closely complementary research resources, for the great and separate East Asian civilizations must be discovered through original, vernacular documents, but described in the languages of the West. One finds at Harvard, then, two parallel streams along which the serious student can explore East Asian civilizations to its most remote origins. One stream is formed from the incomparable collection in the original languages which fill the Harvard-Yenching Library. The second is a series of tributaries in Western languages which are to be found in dozens of the other branches of the University Library. In the following pages you will find information about both of them.
In particular, you may find the Online Research Guides especially helpful; it includes a list of digitized projects of which the Chinese ones can also be found below:
Recent decades have witnessed strong interest in Chinese women's literature, history, and culture of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) periods among scholars, researchers, and students in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, North America, Europe, and elsewhere in the world. Chinese women's writings constitute a significant resource for ground-breaking research. They have opened up critical perspectives and enriched our knowledge of many aspects of Chinese culture and society. Close to 5000 collections of poetry and other writings by individual women are recorded for the Ming and Qing periods. However, less than a quarter of these materials have survived the ravages of history, and these have mostly ended up in rare book archives in libraries in China that are difficult to access.
The Ming Qing Women's Writings digital archive and database project is dedicated to the digitization of collections of writings by women in late imperial China (1368-1911). The website was launched in 2005. The on-going project employs new digital technology to preserve and make accessible on the internet this valuable cultural legacy for future generations of scholars, researchers, and other interested publics, thus building intellectual and technological infrastructure and creating possibilities to generate new methodologies in the fields of digital humanities and China studies. The website consists of a virtual library augmented by the online scholarly apparatus designed and implemented by the McGill Library Digital Initiatives team. In addition, it features a link for each writer to the China Biographical Database hosted at Harvard University.
The publications program of the Harvard University Asia Center oversees three book series: Harvard East Asian Monographs, the Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, and the Harvard Contemporary China Series. Since their inception, nearly 500 titles have been published in the three series. The program currently publishes about 15 to 20 new titles per year and, as shown below, its books have won more than a dozen major awards over the past decade. The program has become one of the world’s largest and widely-respected publishers of scholarly books in East Asian Studies. We welcome new submissions in the humanities and social sciences related to East Asia.