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East Asia Department

Regional Collections

An important emphasis of today's collection of the East Asia Department is on modern written materials. It is the largest collection of books in Asian languages in Europe and features comprehensive holdings in Western languages as well. Present accession numbers around 25,000 volumes per year. In addition, about 3,800 currently held East Asian journals belong to the holdings, as well as extensive rare book materials from China, Japan, and Tibet (manuscripts and block prints).
The profile of the Asian-languages collection of the East Asia Department is influenced by the acquisition profile of the Special Subject Collection, East and South East Asia (Sondersammelgebiet; SSG 6.25), as defined - and funded - by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) from 1951 to 2015.
Collection building, while stressing social sciences and the humanities, allows for present international research on East Asia and its future development. It encompasses historical research as well as the latest trends which are increasingly rooted in the present. The EAD purchases scholarly, academic, and scientific literature pertaining to East Asia from all countries and on all relevant fields of research (find more information on the page Collections.
Library acquisition in the fields of engineering, medicine, economics, and agriculture is taken care of by the relevant Central Libraries: the Technische Informationsbibliothek Hannover, Medizinische Zentralbibliothek Köln, Deutsche Zentralbibliothek für Wirtschaftswissenschaften in Kiel.
In the fields of mathematics, agriculture, medicine, natural sciences and engineering, in their traditional regional form (history), and government publications (Amtsdruckschriften; ADS), the East Asia Department collects bibliographies and publications on their history when relevant for East Asia.
In the case of independent cultural and scientific developments in these fields (e.g., acupuncture), the relevant literature is being collected also for those fields that are otherwise excluded. Studies in economics and agriculture are only acquired if written in their original languages and if they have a bearing on the social sciences or history.


The collection of Chinese Books at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin has a long history. As early as 1683, the first catalogue of Chinese titles, containing 25 entries, was printed for the Elector Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg (1620-1688) (cf. History of the Staatsbibliothek and the East Asia Department). Until 1912, altogether 1603 Libri sinici signatories had been allocated, whose number by 1945 had risen by another 2049 Libri sin. N.S. signatories. Both groups of signatories contain numerous Manchurian titles, the significance of which for the whole collection had already been pointed out by Julius Klaproth (1783-1835). Klaproth was the author of the Berlin China-Catalogue, published in print in 1822. Today, out of the nearly 70,000 Chinese and Manchurian volumes which had been relocated due to the war, only about one third is still in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.
A new and renewed inventory has been built up since 1951 with the support of the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Collection building in original language literature from China concentrates on social sciences and the humanities, with an emphasis on jurisprudence. The whole spectrum of Chinese culture is considered. Even areas such as light fiction, film- and children's books, propaganda pamphlets of political parties and workers unions are included. Nearly all materials collected are new publications. Purchase of Chinese language materials can be made on three specific markets: Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the enormous publication market in the People's Republic of China. All three markets today have in common relatively reliable and well-ordered terms and conditions of book trading.

Literature on China in Western languages is also being collected extensively. New publications are purchased completely, if possible, and the criteria for selecting titles are of a wide scope. Western Language publications from other Asian countries are collected extensively, too. Japanese literature on China is being purchased in the context of collecting Japanese literature. Japanese works on Chinese politics, economy and law as well as publications on sinology or the humanities are, in this respect, very important.

Acquisition concentrates more or less on new publications. However, the facsimile reprints of large traditional congshu 丛书 collections with Chinese titles, as, e.g., the whole Siku quanshu 四库全书 complex (including the Wenyuange siku quanshu 文渊阁四库全书, Xuxiu siku quanshu 续修四库全书, Siku weishoushu jikan 四库未收书辑刊, Siku quanshu cunmu congshu 四库全书存目丛书 and the Siku jinhuishu congkan 四库禁毁书丛刊), the Zhonghua zaizao shanben 中华再造善本, as well as titles and periodicals of Republican China, such as the Minguo jicui 民国籍粹 or the Minguo Fojiao qikan wenxian jicheng 民国佛教期刊文献集成, were also acquired by the East Asia Department.

This collection of printed media is complemented by an ever-increasing amount of electronic resources on traditional and modern China that contrast traditional printed facsimile editions with digital, searchable full-text editions, such as, for example, 10,000 traditional titles of the collection China Ancient Books (CAB), 700,000 e-books (Chinamaxx) and 50 million scholarly and academic articles (China Academic Journals; CAJ), as combined in the Virtual Special Subject Library, CrossAsia, a portal, which is cooperatively organised and modularly structured, and presently offers more than 100 international data-bases with materials pertinent to East Asia.


Japan has a well-ordered book market and efficient book dealers. Problems regarding new publications concern the amount of publications, increasing prices, small press runs and the correspondingly short period of time during which new titles are easily available. These factors call for fast selection decisions and the acceleration the ordering process, never mind the access to the best information materials and sources.

Amongst the numerous publications of fiction, collected works are given preference, as are bestsellers. From the field of fine arts, reference works and studies on the history of art as selected.

The Japanese subdepartment generally tries to cover the whole acceleration of the SSG for scholarly and scientific literature to acquire the relevant materials. Special attention is payed to jurisprudence, and, due to the backlog, social sciences and politics since 1868; to education, ethnic studies, and to general present-day related Japanese studies. Academic literature on Japan in Western languages is being acquired relatively complete.

The reference materials collection is intended to be complete; this holds especially for bibliographical, biographical reference works, biographical and terminological dictionaries, yearbooks, festschriften and commemorative publications for academic institutions, universities, publishing houses, scholars and academics (because of the bibliographies or bio-bibliographies often contained therein). Dictionaries collected include the otherwise not included areas of natural sciences and engineering.

Chinese and Korean literature on Japan will be considered, as well as Japanese literature on China research and sinology. Special attention is paid to literature from the Japanese colonial period and areas (Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria and occupied territories in China).


In the past, collection building emphasis for Korean materials was single-sidedly on literature and regional studies. Since the 1960s, however, there was a noted turn to social sciences and fine arts. By specific reordering, it was possible to close gaps in the area of jurisprudence. With regard to the reading room, purchase of bibliographical, biographical and lexical reference materials was intensified.

It is important to view the East Asian area by looking beyond the borders of individual states, and perceive it as a whole which, in spite of country-specific peculiarities and differences, also shows cultural-historical, political and economic common ground and mutual influence. In this context, special attention is paid to the present changes of the political and economic situation in North Korea, which will have a deep impact on the whole of East Asia. Therefore, regarding the collection building scheme, special emphasis is being put on topics relating to these aspects.

Regarding the acquisition of newly published books on the market, the present situation in Korea may be described as very good. Due to the enormous amount of publications in Korea, it is unfortunately not possible, with the funds at hand, to achieve completeness of purchase. In the past, North Korean publications were available only via Hong Kong and Japan, but recently, it has become feasible to obtain materials from a North Korean book seller. Thus, scientific and academic publications from North Korea can at present be purchased more or less comprehensively.

Literature on Korea in Western languages is collected as completely as possible.

Central Asia

Geographically, the Central Asian holdings of the East Asia Department cover Mongolia and the Central Asian areas of the People's Republic of China. They include Mongolian, Tibetan, and Uyghur, languages. Central Asian monographs in original languages as well as multi-volume serial works are recorded in a separate Catalogue.

Literature in Western languages pertaining to Central Asia, including periodicals, is registered in the general catalogue, Stabikat, of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and can also be found in the Online Catalogue of the East Asia Department. Please note that Chinese materials in the online catalogues of the East Asia Department must be searched with simplified Chinese characters.



Mongolian original-language materials are usually obtained from either Mongolia or the People's Republic of China. While Mongolian publications mostly employ Cyrillic letters, works from the PR China are usually being published in the Old Mongolian or, Uyghur, script. As for the romanisations employed, please see:



Tibetan-language literature comes from the PR China or India. To a lesser degree, publications from the Himalayan states of Nepal and Bhutan are part of the collection. As for the romanisation, please see:

On Letters, Words, and Syllables: Transliteration and Romanization of the Tibetan Script, by Michael Balk

Tibetan Romanisation



Uyghur language books come from the PR China, especially those published in Xinjiang province. As for the romanisation used, please see:

Uyghur Romanisation