Harvard-Yenching Library

Relationship between HYI and the Harvard-Yenching Library

Since its establishment in 1928, the Harvard-Yenching Institute has held a rich collection of research materials and rare books in East Asian Languages. These became the core collection of what was initially called the ‘Chinese and Japanese Library of the Harvard-Yenching Institute’. The Institute’s Library was always housed on the Harvard campus, first at Boylston Hall from 1928 to 1958, and then moved to its current location at 2 Divinity Avenue in the fall of 1958.

In a 1976 Agreement between HYI and Harvard University, Harvard assumed administrative responsibility for the library. As part of the Agreement, the Institute makes its holdings available for use by the University, while retaining ownership of its collections. The University for its part guarantees free access to the Harvard-Yenching Library for HYI staff and scholars.

Since the mid-1970s, the Harvard-Yenching Institute has provided an annual grant to the Harvard-Yenching Library, as a significant part of its financial support to Harvard each year. The grant from the Institute goes primarily toward new acquisitions, in addition to staff support for the Harvard-Yenching Librarian and Asian-language librarians. Acquisitions purchased with HYI funding are owned by the Institute, and housed in the Harvard-Yenching Library, where they are available to the university community as well as to HYI.

滿文奏摺 “Man wen zou zhe.”Today, with its 1.6 million volumes in more than a dozen languages (including over 900,000 Chinese, 400,000 Japanese, 200,000 Korean, 30,000 Vietnamese, 55,000 Western languages, 4,000 Tibetan, 3,500 Manchu, and 500 Mongolian volumes), the Harvard-Yenching Library holds the most comprehensive East Asian collection of any American university and has become the largest academic library for East Asian studies in the Western world. It is also the third largest library within the Harvard library system. Highlights of the collection include rare and ancient books, scrolls and maps, local Chinese gazetteers and Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan materials. Many of the Harvard-Yenching Library’s special collections have been digitized and made available to scholars around the world.

Image credits: Ke Tang/Harvard University

Directors of the Harvard-Yenching Library

  • A. Kaiming Chiu 裘开明 (1928 – 1964)
  • Eugene W. Wu 吳文津 (1965 – 1997)
  • James Cheng 郑炯文 (1998 – 2020)



Serge Elisséeff. “The Chinese-Japanese Library of the Harvard-Yenching Institute.” Harvard Library bulletin. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Library. Volume X, Number 1 (Winter 1956)

Sun Joo Kim. “Yu Tae-ch’ing Family Documents at the Harvard-Yenching Library” (EALC First Fridays Lunch Talk Series, November 6, 2020)  (view Korea Institute’s full series on “Korean Treasures at Harvard”).

Liu Qing. “Whose books? The Harvard-Yenching Institute’s library and the question of academic imperialism” in History of Education Review Vol. 50 No. 1, 2021 pp. 54-66.

Kuniko Yamada McVey. “By accident and design: Some provenance stories behind interesting and curious Japanese materials in the Harvard-Yenching Library.” In Jidong Yang, ed. Beyond the Book: Unique and Rare Primary Sources for East Asian Studies Collected in North America. (forthcoming, Columbia University Press)

Eugene W. Wu. “The Founding of the Harvard-Yenching Library,” in Journal of East Asian Libraries, Vol. 1993 No. 101.

“A guide to the Chinese-Japanese Library of Harvard University, under the auspices of the Harvard-Yenching Institute.” Author/creator: Harvard-Yenching Library. Cambridge, Mass. : [The Institute], 1932. HOLLIS link


《图书馆出版与教育–哈佛燕京学社在华中国研究史 (1928-1951)》(哈佛燕京图书馆学术丛书)王蕾,广西师范大学出版社, 2018


《燕京大学图书馆哈佛购书处历史研究》(The History of the Harvard Acquisition Office at the Yenching University Library)王蕾,《图书馆史研究》,2013/6, pp. 102-113

Catalogues of the Harvard-Yenching Library. Chinese catalogue. New York : Garland Pub., 1986. Languages: English, Chinese. HOLLIS link


Catalogues of the Harvard-Yenching Library. Japanese catalogue. New York : Garland Pub., 1985. Languages: English, Japanese. HOLLIS link


18세기한중지식인의문예공화국 : 하버드옌칭도서관에서만난후지쓰카컬렉션 (18-segi Han-Chung chisigin ŭi munye konghwaguk : Habŏdŭ Yench’ing Tosŏgwan esŏ mannan Hujissŭk’a k’ŏlleksyŏn). 정민지음.; Chŏng Min chiŭm. 경기도파주시 : 문학동네, 2014.; Kyŏnggi-do P’aju-si : Munhak Tongne, 2014. Series/collection: 우리시대의명강의 ; 6.; Uri sidae ŭi myŏnggangŭi ; 6 ; Harvard-Yenching Library studies ; no. 12

哈佛大學哈燕學社圖書館韓籍簡目. Happul Taehak Habyŏn Haksa Tosŏgwan Hanjŏk kanmok (A classified catalogue of Korean books in the Harvard-Yenching Institute Library at Harvard University). Author/creator: Harvard-Yenching Library. Cambridge, Mass. : [Harvard-Yenching Institute], 1962-1980. Series/collection: Harvard-Yenching Library bibliographical series ; 2.

책벌레와메모광 Ch’aekpŏlle wa memogwang. 정민지음.; Chŏng Min chiŭm. 경기도파주시 : 문학동네, 2015.; Kyŏnggi-do P’aju-si : Munhak Tongne, 2015. 251 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm.

하바드한국학의요람 : 하바드옌칭도서관한국관50년 Habadŭ Hanʾgukhak ŭi yoram : Habadŭ Yenchʻing Tosŏgwan Hanʾgukkwan 50-yŏn (The cradle of Korean studies at Harvard University:  commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Korean collection at Harvard-Yenching Library). Edited by Yoon Choong-Nam. 서울특별시 : 을유문화사, 2001.; Sŏul Tʻŭkpyŏlsi : Ŭryu. 296 p. ill., ports ; 23 cm. Harvard-Yenching Library bibliographical series ; 10

하버드대학옌칭도서관의한국고서들 Habŏdŭ Taehak Yenchʻing Tosŏgwan ŭi Hanʾguk kosŏdŭl. 허경진.; Hŏ, Kyŏng-jin. 서울시 : 웅진북스, 2003.; Sŏul-si : Ungjin Buksŭ, 2003. 347 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 22 cm.

HYI Library-related Resources

Photo Gallery

Alfred Kaiming Chiu, HYL Director, 1928-1964

Relocation of the Library from Boylston Hall to 2 Divinity Ave., 1958

The new stacks at 2 Divinity Ave., 1958

Relocation of the Library to 2 Divinity Ave., 1958

The Dian Shi Ce, the handwritten article from the final imperial examination presided over by the emperor (Photo; Ke Tang/Harvard University)

Naxi manuscripts collection, Harvard-Yenching Library (Photo: Ke Tang/Harvard University)

Eugene W. Wu, HYL Director, 1965-1997

From 新選古代模樣鑑 (Shinsen kodai moyō kagami)

“Miao Man Tu Shuo” [China : s.n., Qing, between 1736 and 1911]. (Photo: Ke Tang/Harvard University)

藏文大藏经 Tibetan tripitaka at the Harvard-Yenching Library (Photo: Ke Tang/Harvard University)

From 韓国濟州島旅行日誌

佛頂尊勝總持經咒 Uṣṇīṣavijayadhāraṇi Fo ding zun sheng zong chi jing zhou [Japan : s.n., n.d.] (Photo: Ke Tang/Harvard)

James Cheng, HYL Director, 1998-2020

御製百家姓滿漢合集 ”Yu zhi Bai jia xing man han he ji,” between 1644 and 1911 (Photo: Ke Tang/Harvard University)

Harvard-Yenching Library Reading Room (Photo: Ke Tang/Harvard University)

The Harvard-Yenching Library has been located at 2 Divinity Ave. since 1958 (Photo: Kris Snibbe/Harvard)