Printer Friendly page
Back to full page
Penn Library homepage
Penn Area Centers - toggle to see links
Center for Research Libraries - toggle to see links
Center for Research Libraries - toggle to see links

Chinese Collection - Overview

The history of the Chinese Collection at the University of Pennsylvania Library can be traced back to the 1880s when Dr. Divie Bethune McCartee (1820-1900), a Penn graduate and a Protestant missionary who spent the better part of his life time in China and Japan, donated his personal library of East Asian books to Penn. As one of the nation's earliest East Asian collections, the McCartee Library collected quite a few rare and valuable materials, such as a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) edition of Lao Zhuang Guo zhu hui jie 老莊郭注會解, a 1645 edition of Shokugenshō 職原抄, a 1655 edition of Jie zi yuan chong ding Ben cao gang mu 芥子園重訂本草綱目, and a 1673 edition of Ōdai ichiran 王代一覽. In 1926, the Chinese government left behind a box of traditional Chinese books to Penn after the U.S. Sesquicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia. In the fall of 1938, coincident with the establishment of courses on Chinese language and civilization, the University Library received a grant of $4,500 from the Rockefeller Foundation to build up its collection of books on China. During the years that followed, the Collection underwent its first significant development and acquired a number of important primary resources, such as the Gu jin tu shu ji cheng 古今圖書集成, Si bu cong kan 四部叢刊, and Si bu bei yao 四部備要. After World War II, the Collection kept growing. During the last decade, as Penn's Chinese Studies programs expanded quickly, the Collection has gained stronger financial support from the University and once again sped up its development. As of June 2005, the Collection contains more than 134,000 monographs, 1,255 microfilms, and 115 currently received serials in Chinese language. In addition to print materials, the Library also subscribes to a number of electronic journals and databases of great importance for Penn's Chinese Studies community, such as the Bibliography of Asian Studies, Ancient Chinese Texts, China Academic Journals, and Si ku quan shu 四庫全書.

The development of the Chinese Collection in the past was almost exclusively focused on the pre-modern aspect of Chinese civilization. In the most recent decade as studies of modern China at Penn has been growing fast, significant effort has been made to improve the collection of materials dealing with modern topics. This trend will continue in the future, while the Collection's traditional strength in pre-modern Chinese Studies will be maintained.

Chinese language materials are collected by several components of the University of Pennsylvania Library. The majority of Chinese books and bound journals, along with materials in Japanese and Korean languages, is housed in the East Asian stacks located on the fifth floor of Van Pelt Library, the center of Penn's library system. The Derk Bodde East Asian Seminar Room (526 Van Pelt Library) collects many reference materials as well as current issues of some academic journals published in mainland China and Taiwan. In addition to Van Pelt Library, some other branches of the University Library, especially the University Museum Library and Fisher Fine Arts Library, have extensive holdings in Chinese language.

The primary patrons of Penn Library's Chinese Collection are the faculty, students, and visiting scholars in Penn's Chinese Studies community. Chinese studies is offered by various schools and departments of Penn. The Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations has a long and strong tradition in the study of pre-modern Chinese civilization with concentrations on language, literature, archaeology, history, and religion. Other Penn departments and schools which are involved in Chinese Studies and are more specialized in the modern period include those of History, Political Sciences, Sociology, Anthropology, History and Sociology of Science, Business, and Law. Courses of Chinese languages (including modern Mandarin, major local dialects, and Classical Chinese) are offered by the EALC Department and Penn Language Center. Since 1995, the newly founded Center for East Asian Studies has been playing a cooperative role in Chinese studies at Penn. The Collection is also heavily used by the faculty and students from neighboring institutions in the Greater Philadelphia area and Delaware Valley, especially those with strong Chinese Studies programs, such as Swarthmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr College.