|Reference Desk||1:30pm - 4pm|
|Special Collection Reading Room||9:30am - 12pm. 1:30pm - 4pm|
- The Harvard-Yenching Library is open to all Harvard ID holders.
- Visitors who would like access for research purposes must first visit the Harvard Library Privileges Office in Widener Library.
- An elevator and accessible restroom are available. There is no wheelchair access to the second floor. Access to floors other than the first is possible but we recommend contacting us before your visit.
Using the Library
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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.