East Asia

Collection history

The beginnings of the East Asia Department of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz date back to the founding period of the "Churfürstliche Bibliothek zu Cölln an der Spree" when, during the second half of the 17th century, the first acquisitions of Chinese books were made by order of the Great Prince-Elector. In 1682/83, the holdings comprised 276 Chinese books. While the collection almost stagnated during the 18th century, it started to grow more vigorously after the first decade of the 19th century: Julius Heinrich Klaproth published his printed catalogue of a selection of the Berlin Chinese and Manchu holdings in 1822. Wilhelm Schott's catalogue followed in 1840.

In the 19th century, custody of East Asian prints and manuscripts had first been in the hands of the Manuscripts Department. In 1919, they were transferred, joining the Oriental manuscripts, to form the Oriental Department. Finally, on July 1st, 1922, they were moved to the newly-established East Asia Department.
Until 1943, the collection had grown to approximately 68,000 Chinese printed volumes, 1,700 manuscripts and 5,000 Japanese volumes. Korean prints or manuscripts had, until then, not been collected in noteworthy quantity.
Unfortunately, a substantial part of the pre-WWII collection which had to be relocated due to the war, was not returned to Berlin. Only 24,000 items found their way back to the Oriental Department of the East Berlin Staatsbibliothek (since 1969: Asia-Africa-Department). A smaller part was returned to Marburg (former West Germany), later to the East Asia Department of the Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin (West). Today, about 20,000 volumes of this collection are in the Biblioteka Jagiellonska in Krakow, Poland. Other parts ended up in the former Soviet Union. Today, about one third of the former collection is in Berlin while the rest is destroyed or considered lost.

Both departments in East and West Berlin developed quite differently until 1991, shortly after the German reunification. The Asia-Africa-Department in East Berlin had to rely mainly on exchange copies for collecting and making accessible modern literature and relevant information from and on, East Asia. In the West, the support of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; DFG) after 1951 made it possible to establish the Special Subject Collection East- and South-East Asia (Sondersammelgebiet Ost- und Südostasien; SSG 6,25) which subsequently developed into the largest East Asia collection in Europe. The institutional reunification of both libraries in 1992 was followed immediately by the spatial reunion of the East Asia collections, both of the Asia-Africa Department and the East Asia Department, at Potsdamer Straße. 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.

Collections & Acquisition profile

The East Asia Department holds the most important collection of East, Southeast and Central Asian materials in German-speaking areas, both of national and international standing. Collection building, while stressing social sciences and the humanities, allows for present international research on East, Southeast, and Central Asia and its future development. It encompasses historical research as well as the latest trends which are increasingly rooted in the present.

For further assistance please contact the EAD's specialists

Languages and Countries

The major part of the collection is written in Asian languages. Library acquisition policies take into consideration the different research subjects within the fields of East, Southeast and Central Asian studies. This includes, in East and Central Asia, the People's Republic of China (encompassing Machuria, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau), the Republic of China (Taiwan), Mongolia, Japan, North and South Korea. In Southeast Asia, Brunei, Myanmar, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Books and periodicals in Western languages dealing with the respective countries of the region and treating topics relating to East Asia are also acquired comprehensively.

Subject areas

Acquisition concentrates on the following subject areas, as already defined in the DFG's programme of Special Research Collections: History, including social and economic history, religion and philosophy, language, literature and ethnology, anthropology and anthropogeography, education and higher education, scientific and scholarly institutions, information science, bibliology, library science, the fine arts, music, theatre and dance. Furthermore, jurisprudence, politics, constitution, administration, party publications, labour unions and associations, journalism, film, radio and television. In the future, acquisition will take into account the field of social sciences as well.

In the fields of mathematics, agriculture, medicine, natural sciences and engineering, the East Asia Department collects bibliographies and publications on their history when pertaining to East Asia.

In the case of independent, indigenous cultural and scientific developments, e.g., acupuncture, relevant literature is being collected also in those fields that are otherwise excluded.

Library acquisition in the fields of engineering, medicine, economics, and agriculture is taken care of by the relevant Central Libraries. These are
the Technische Informationsbibliothek Hannover,
the Medizinische Zentralbibliothek Köln, and
the Deutsche Zentralbibliothek für Wirtschaftswissenschaften in Kiel.

Cooperation with other Departments of the State Library in Berlin

The East Asia Department of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin maintains a working cooperation with other departments in the area of acquisition.

Official publications from Japan and Korea are collected in the Staatsbibliothek by the Department of Collection Development in the context of international exchange agreements. Concerning the other countries of the East and South-East Asian region, the Staatsbibliothek tries to obtain government and other official publications (Amtsdruckschriften; ADS) by buying or as a present.

The purchase of maps and atlases of the region is closely coordinated with the Map Department. Due to the Map Department's special focus on topographical maps and the scope of acquisition, an extraordinary depth of procurement is guaranteed.

The Eastern Europe Department collects materials pertaining to the East Asian studies if they fall into its regional subject matter responsibility.

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.

The collection of Southeast Asian literature of the East Asia Department is the broadest in Germany. It consists of works in original language from Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapur, Brunei, Indonesia, East Timor and the Philippines. Predominantly pieces of each country’s traditional literature as well as publications from the fields of humanities, social sciences and law. The biggest parts of the collection are the Malay literature from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapur, and Brunei as well as the literature from Thailand and Vietnam. For many years the Cambodian, Laotian and Burmese collections have been gradually expanded. Publications in Tagalog from the Philippines and from East Timor are collected continuously as well. Due to the total number of publications in the respective countries, however, these collections are comparatively smaller.

The Southeast Asian collection is listed in the general catalog Stabikat. All titles in the writing systems of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos or Cambodia, which were acquired or incorporated from 2015, can be found and retrieved via the search function by entering in the original font. All other titles in these writings are transcribed. We use the Unicode standard for all original writing systems.

The manuscript collection of the Staatsbibliothek holds more than 2,400 Southeast Asian manuscripts in a total of 19 different languages ​​of the region. They are listed in the manuscript catalog Orient-Digital and are partly accessible in digitized form. The already digitized manuscripts as well as the digitized book holdings for the region of Southeast Asia can be found under Southeast Asia Collection of CrossAsia’s digitized ressources.

In addition, scientific literature on Southeast Asia in Western languages ​​is widely acquired. Here, too - in line with the acquisition profile - mainly publications from the humanities and social sciences are collected.

The modern collection of the Mongolian holdings at Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin is mainly composed of acquisitions from Mongolia and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. This also includes publications in Mongolian from other parts of the People's Republic of China (e.g., Beijing). The focus is on original language Mongolian literature. The library collects materials in both the Cyrillic script, which are acquired in Mongolia, as well as the classical Mongolian script, acquired mainly in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Thematically, it focuses on the social sciences and the humanities, such as religion, history, and literature in different genres, e.g., novel or poetry.

The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin also houses an extensive modern Tibetan collection, which is composed of acquisitions from China, mainly, the Tibet Autonomous Region, and the Tibetan exile community in northern India, such as in Dharamsala and Ladakh. The library collects Tibetan publications from other parts of China was well, such as from Qinghai or Beijing.  The thematic collection focus here is also on the social sciences and humanities. It can be observed that, in contrast to China, many Buddhist publications are published in the exile community.

Special attention is paid also to the modern collection of the minority languages in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The collection includes Uyghur and, to a lesser extent, Kyrgyz and Kazakh publications. Until 2017, new publications were acquired in Xinjiang. Due to the changed situation in Xinjiang and the ensuing shutdown of the publication market, the focus shifted to acquiring publications from the Uyghur exile community in Turkey. While a large portfolio of topics in the social sciences and humanities has been covered before the changes, the publications in exile are mainly focusing on religious topics and politics.

The Central Asian holdings form a large pre-modern collection. For more information, please refer to the thematic portals on the Hartmann Chagatai manuscript collection and the Nava’i manuscripts.

The library collects Western-language literature about these regions as comprehensively as possible.