Harvard-Yenching Library Special Collections

Harvard-Yenching Library holds one of the most comprehensive collection of East Asian materials outside of Asia. Its Special Collections holdings include a variety of mediums—such as rare books, archival materials, manuscripts, prints, photos, scrolls, rubbings—in a vast number of languages—such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Manchu, Mongolian, Tibetan, and Naxi. Many of its materials have been digitized and can be found in the Collections linked below. Our staff are ready to assist you in any of your resource needs for ancient through modern East Asian materials.


  • Ming-Qing Women's Writings A valuable resource for scholars studying women's roles in China from the 14th through the 20th centuries.
  • Manchukuo Collection View material related to the Pan-Asian state once located in northeastern China and controlled by imperial Japan.
  • Harvard-Yenching Library Digital Maps View hundreds of maps of China, Japan, Korea, and other regions in East Asia.
  • Chinese Rare Books With over 9,600 items, Harvard-Yenching's Chinese rare book collection is one of the largest of its kind in the Western world.
  • Early Photography of Japan An online collection of more than 40 souvenir photograph albums and illustrated publications from across three Harvard libraries.
  • Chinese Maritime Customs Chinese Maritime Customs 中國舊海關資料
  • Naxi Manuscripts Hundreds of manuscripts in one of the last widely used pictographic languages in the world.
  • The Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr. Collection on Muslims in China Images of Muslims and Christian missionaries working among them in Western China in the 1920s and 1930s form the core of this collection.
  • Chinese Rubbings Collection The Fine Arts Library and Harvard-Yenching Library holds rubbings of objects that date from the Qin Dynasty to the Ming Dynasty.
  • Souvenir de Chine A collection of photographs taken during the Second Sino-Japanese War 中日战争照片集, featuring the occupation of Shanghai and Nanking.
  • Edwards Bangs Drew Chinese Maritime Customs Service Photographs Documenting clothing, customs, and daily life in 19th-century China — as well as Drew's life and career.
  • Joseph F. Rock Collection View historic photographs of China taken by explorer Joseph Francis Charles Rock.
  • Carter D. Holton Collection See more than 5,000 historical photos taken in Northwestern China
  • Bruno Petzold Scrolls Collection Edo manuscripts and scrolls on Buddhism from Bruno Petzold
  • Fairbank and Reischauer Lantern Slide Collection Take a closer look at historic teaching materials developed for a class on East Asian culture in the early mid-twentieth century.
  • Japanese Rare Books 和刻漢集 ongoing digitization project.
  • Korean Rare Books 韓刻漢集 ongoing digitization project.
  • 滿洲囯地圖 滿洲國地圖 ongoing digitization project.
  • Hedda Morrison Photographs of China Photos taken by Hedda Morrison in China, 1933–1946.
  • Christianity Collection 基督教傳教士文獻 來華基督教傳教士文獻
  • The Japanese Art and Design Collection A trove of photographs, prints and design samples from the collection of Ernest Goodrich Stillman.
  • Staff Services

    • Assistance with presentation of materials in class
    • Assistance with selection of materials
    • Bibliography of materials used in class
    • Reserve class materials for Reading Room Use
    • Pre-class appointment for instructor (required for first time requester, recommended for everyone)
    • Introduction to Archives and Special Collections Research

    Technology Available

    • Computer and data projector
    • Wifi
    • Stand monitor (48") with laptop connection

    Administrative Information

      Class limit: 16

    The Harvard-Yenching Library Special Collections does not have a publicly available calendar. When making a request, please submit with your preferred times and a staff member will get back to you.