US Library of Congress and National Library of Taiwan unveil digitized rare book collection

1,000 rare Asian titles, most from before 1796, available online to celebrate 'Asian Pacific American Heritage Month' in US

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Taiwan Fan She Feng Su "Putting the roof on a house"

Taiwan Fan She Feng Su "Putting the roof on a house"

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – In order to celebrate May as “Asian Pacific American Heritage Month” in the U.S., the Asian Division of the U.S. Library of Congress has revealed 1,000 digitized rare historical books from Asia, with some titles dating back to the 10th century.

The collection, which has been made available online, was curated and digitized in cooperation with the National Central Library of Taiwan.

Currently, most of the digitalized collection is comprised of Chinese books dated between the years 1500 and 1800, some of which are the only copies in existence. The 1,000 titles currently available to the public represent about one fifth of the total rare Chinese book collection of 5,300 titles.

After the initial release of the first batch to celebrate “Asian Pacific American Heritage Month,” more titles will be added to the database in installments going forward.

From the Library of Congress:

“This new digital collection brings together printed books, manuscripts, Buddhist sutras, works with hand-painted pictures, local gazetteers, and ancient maps. These materials encompass a wide array of disciplines and subjects in classics, history, geography, philosophy, and literature. The majority are editions from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and early Qing dynasty (1644-1795), while nearly 30 titles are Song dynasty (960-1279) and Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) editions.”


Taiwan fan she feng su (臺灣番社風俗) "Deer Hunting"

As Atlas Obscura observes, some of the rare books that have been digitized will appeal especially to audiences in Taiwan, like the “Album on the Aborigines in Taiwan”(臺灣番社風俗).

The work contains 12 wonderfully preserved paintings that illustrate the lives of indigenous tribes in Taiwan during the 18th century. The works were commissioned by order of Emperor Qianlong sometime after 1747 following a visit to Taiwan by a Qing royal Inspector.


Taiwan fan she feng su (臺灣番社風俗) "Bathing the child"

To browse the complete collection of rare Asian texts, visit the Library of Congress.