As of 2018, the Harvard-Yenching Library's collections exceed 1.5 million volumes, including over 900,000 Chinese, 400,000 Japanese, over 200,000 Korean, 30,000 Vietnamese, 55,000 Western languages, 4,000 Tibetan, 3,500 Manchu, and 500 Mongolian. The library also holds many rare and special collections, many of which have been digitized and are available to view on HOLLIS.
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Following recent operational changes, Harvard-Yenching Library (HMY) now provides Interlibrary Loan services to other institutions via Widener Library Resource Sharing (HLS). Read more about submitting requests.
The Harvard-Yenching Library is one of the largest East Asian libraries in the Western world.
The collection traces its beginnings to 1879, when Chinese was first offered as part of Harvard's regular curriculum.
That year, a group of Bostonians engaged in the China trade invited Chinese scholar Ge Kunhua 戈鯤化 to give instruction in Chinese at Harvard. The books purchased for those courses -- the first acquisitions in any East Asian language at the Harvard College Library -- marked the start of a Chinese collection.
A Japanese collection launched in 1914 when two Japanese professors, Hattori Unokichi 服部宇之吉 and Anesaki Masaharu 姉崎正治, both of Tokyo Imperial University, came to lecture at Harvard. They donated several important Japanese publications on Sinology and Buddhism to the Harvard College Library.
In 1928, these two collections transferred from Widener Library to the new Chinese-Japanese Library of the Harvard-Yenching Institute. Dr. Alfred Kaiming Ch'iu 裘開明, a renowned bibliophile and Harvard Ph.D. candidate who had recently started cataloging the collections, was appointed librarian of the new Chinese-Japanese Library.
The library first collected only in Chinese and Japanese, with a focus on the humanities. But expansions in Harvard's East Asian curriculum led to a similar expansions in the library's scope.
The library eventually added Tibetan, Mongolian and Manchu publications, as well as Western language monographs and journals. A Korean collection was added in 1951, and a Vietnamese collection in 1973.
After World War II, the library began collecting more social science publications. And thus, the once predominantly humanistic collection evolved into a research library that encompasses East Asian materials in all academic disciplines.
In 1965, the Chinese-Japanese Library of the Harvard-Yenching Institute was renamed the Harvard-Yenching Library to reflect the expanded nature of the library's collections.