2. East Asian Collections


14.  Oracle Bone. China, Shang Dynasty, ca. 1300-1050 BCE. Scapula, (11.4 cm. x 18 cm.) C. V. Starr East Asian Library

An image of this bone is seen in countless textbooks as an example of the earliest Chinese writing. Dating from about 1300 to 1050 bce, it is a fine example of an authentic oracle bone. Questions of moment to the ruler and his people, about weather related to agriculture, about marriages of importance to the state, and about sacrifices important to the order of the world, were scratched onto the surfaces of bones or shells. Then heat was applied, and by the cracks on the surface, the diviner could read the answers of Heaven. These bones were unearthed by farmers and came to be known only at the turn of the last century. Together they provide information about the life of the ruling class of the Shang dynasty, some 3,250 years ago. Columbia's collection of oracle bones is an important one, donated over the first half of the twentieth century by a number of scholars and collectors.

15.  Vessel (gui). China, Zhou Dynasty, 1050-256 BCE. Bronze, (height 15.9 cm., bottom diameter 30.5 cm.) Office of Art Properties

This bronze ceremonial vessel, with its smooth green patina, is a type (gui) that was used as a container for food, probably for grain. The body is round, with two dragon head handles and a band of conventional dragon motifs on the upper part. The vessel is raised on three legs, which are given the form of human figures.

Sackler Collections at Columbia University

16.  Hyakumantō darani (One million pagoda dhārāni). Kyoto, Japan: 764-770 CE. Cypress and cherry wood, (height 13.6 cm., bottom diameter 10.5 cm.) C. V. Starr East Asian Library

As a gesture of appeasement (disguised as a gesture of Buddhist piety) after a political power conflict between the monk Dōkyō (d. 772) and the aristocrat Fujiwara no Nakamaro (706-764), the Empress Shōtoku (r. 764-770) ordered the production of one million miniature wooden pagodas with copies of at least four different dhārāni (mantras or charms). These pagodas, containing the rolled-up dhārāni, were then distributed to ten major temples. Most have been destroyed or lost over time. Only the Hōryūji (a monastery temple in Ikaruga, Nara prefecture) still owns approximately 1700 of its original one hundred thousand sets. In addition it is estimated that almost as many sets are held in public and private collections. The pagodas were made of two parts: the hollow bottom portion was made of hinoki (cypress) wood, and the top seven-tiered spire of cherry wood. The dhārāni were printed, most likely by the metal-plate method and, at least tentatively, form the earliest extant examples of printed text. They are also the only known printed texts from the Nara period (710-794), and as such remain of great interest in the history of printing.

Due to the extremely fragile condition of the original pagoda a facsimile reproduction is displayed here.

17.  Standing Bodhisattva. Japan, Fujiwara period, 12th century CE. Wood, (height 85.1 cm.) Office of Art Properties

This Bodhisattva, with inlaid eyes of painted crystal, stands on a low, lotus pedestal.

Sackler Collections at Columbia University

18.  Da bo re bo luo mi duo jing (Prajna-paramita sutra). Fenghua xian: Wang gong ci tang, 1162 CE. One volume of six surviving volumes. C. V. Starr East Asian Library

This extremely rare volume was identified by visiting scholar Shen Jin, from Shanghai Municipal Library, in 1987, as one of only six known surviving volumes of the original 600-volume printing of this Buddhist sutra. Printed apparently privately during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE), it is believed to be the oldest book in the Chinese collections at Columbia University. The Prajna-paramita sutra is one of the most important sacred books of Mahayana Buddhism, and Chinese translations of Indian sutras were used in the spread of Buddhism-and of the Chinese written language as well-throughout East Asia.

19.  Nestorian Crosses. China, Yuan Dynasty (1260 -1368 CE). Bronze, varied sizes. C. V. Starr East Asian Library

Also known as "Ordos" crosses, from the region of China believed to have produced them, these unusual artifacts emerged only in the early part of the twentieth century. Christianity has had a long history in China, and Nestorians were welcome and active in China as early as the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE). However, it languished for centuries until the Yuan dynasty. Many members of the Mongol ruling family were Nestorian Christians, including Khubilai Khan's mother, as well as large numbers of the general northern population. One of Khubilai Khan's advisors was a Nestorian priest who traveled to Europe-the western-most reaches of the Mongol empire-on behalf of the Mongols. While the use of the items is not certain, each one has a small ring on the back, indicating they might have been used as ornaments, either on a belt or as a pendant. Given their appearance near grave sites, some scholars have suggested that they may have been used in funeral rites.

Gift of Anne S. Goodrich, 1986

20.  Yongbi Ŏch’on’ga (Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven). Korea: s.n., 15th century? C. V. Starr East Asian Library

These two volumes are from Yongbi Ŏch’on’ga (Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven), volumes 9 and 10 (of 10), printed in the late fifteenth century from the original blocks. Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven is a poem in 125 cantos, written in Korean, with a Chinese translation following. It was commissioned by King Sejong (1419-1450) and was compiled in 1445 by three court poets and scholar-officials. King Sejong recognized that the Chinese writing system, which was used at the time for all government business, was inappropriate for the sounds of Korean; furthermore, he believed it was important to convey the spoken language in writing. King Sejong invented the Korean script (called han’gul or "Korean writing," since about 1913), in late 1443 or early 1444.

These volumes are a tangible legacy of two related seminal historical and cultural events. The poem itself was composed to celebrate the legitimacy of the Chosŏn dynasty, which lasted from 1392 until 1910. In the history of Korean culture, it was a kind of declaration of cultural independence. The invention of a true alphabet that represents the sounds of the Korean language had enormous implications for the development of a national literature, and ultimately national consciousness. The history of printing in Korea, the most advanced in East Asia in the fifteenth century, is also illustrated by this first printing of han’gul.

Owned by Yi Sŏng-ŭi, Purchase, 1968

21.  Kuzuoka Nobuyoshi (1629-1717).  Urashima Tarō. Japan: s.n., n.d. C. V. Starr East Asian Library

These volumes are fine examples of a genre known as Nara e-hon (Nara illustrated books, although with no known connection to the city of Naraor the historical Nara period, 645-794). The beautiful manuscript books and scrolls were actually produced in the late Muromachi (1336-1600) and early Edo (1600-1868) periods. This volume recounts the folk story of a young fisherman, Tarō from Urashima, who rescues a turtle from a group of children. The turtle later returns to take Tarō under the sea to the Palace of the Dragon King. He is treated with great kindness, but becomes too homesick to remain. When he returns to his island home he discovers that hundreds of years have passed while he was under the sea.

22.  Urashima Tarō. Japan: s.n., 16--? Painted scroll, (48 x 1,105 cm.) C. V. Starr East Asian Library

This scroll, which has seven illustrations, including two contiguous pictures, is another version of the folk tale of Urashima Tarō. The story progresses as the scroll is unrolled, from right to left. It is an example of illustrated manuscript material that continued to appear even as the development of popular printed book publications began to expand. The combination of text and illustration has a long history in Japan, with popular books of the Edo period (1600-1868) developing integrated text and picture to a high degree-the forerunner of today's manga, or cartoon books.

Gift of Bertha Margaret Frick, 1959

23.  Nogŏltae ŏnhae. Korea: s.n., Yongjo yon’gan, 1670. C. V. Starr East Asian Library

Printed with bronze moveable type, in a font created in 1668, these volumes form a textbook of colloquial Chinese for Chinese-Korean interpreters. Each Chinese character is followed by two han’gŭl (Korean alphabet) transliterations, the one on the left indicating the standard Chinese pronunciation as recorded in fifteenth-century Korean lexicons; the one on the right indicating a contemporary northern Chinese pronunciation. The set also includes a complete translation of the Chinese text into seventeenth-century spoken Korean. All the linguistic information contained in this format provides valuable data for scholars studying the developments of spoken languages as well as written languages.

Owned by Yi Sŏng-ŭi, Purchase, 1968

24.  Kitamura, Kigin, 1625-1705.  Genji monogatari kogetsu shō. [Japan]: Murakami Kanzaemon, 1673. C. V. Starr East Asian Library

This 60-volume woodblock-printed edition of the 54-chapter masterpiece of Japanese literature, The Tale of Genji, was edited by Kitamura Kigin (1625-1705) and includes six additional volumes of commentary. The influence of The Tale of Genji has been felt not only in all areas of literature–poetry, drama, prose fiction–but also in visual arts and popular culture, as seen in the woodblock print accompanying this volume. In the twentieth century, it was translated into English three times, and into modern Japanese by many famous writers, including a recent version by Setouchi Jakuchō that became a best seller. The volume is open to the final chapter, "The Bridge of dreams."

The edition was part of a gift to the East Asian collection from the Imperial Household Ministry of Japan in 1933 of 594 volumes either printed or written during the Edo period (1600-1868). Together they represent many of the most important texts in Japanese culture, covering history, poetry, and government, including the illustrated encyclopedia Wakan sansai zue.

Gift of the Imperial Household Ministry of Japan, 1932

25.  Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861).  Yume no ukihashi (Bridge of dreams). n.p.: Iseya Ichibei, 1845-46. Print # 54. Japanese paper, oban (approx. 38 x 25.5 cm.) C. V. Starr East Asian Library

Circa 1845-46, Utagawa Kuniyoshi produced a series of prints with allusions to the Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji). The series was entitled Genji kumo ukiyo-e awase (A comparison of prints of the floating world with the cloudy chapters of Genji), and consisted of sixty designs, one for each of the fifty-four chapters of the Genji Monogatari , and six supplemental designs. The series is unusual in that the scenes depicted in the main body of the print have nothing to do with the actual content of the corresponding Genj chapters, but instead depict famous Kabuki actors. Only in the scroll-like inset at the top of each print a poem and minor symbolic representation of the theme of the relevant chapter refer to the novel. It is thought that this approach was used to circumvent the 1842 Tenpō reform laws forbidding the depiction of actors and prostitutes in works of art. Like the woodblock-printed volume shown elsewhere in this exhibition, the print here displayed corresponds to the so-called "Bridge of dreams" chapter of the novel.

26.  Court of Raja Jaisingh II (1686-1743).  Yantraraja. Manuscript on paper, 35 folios. Jaipur, ca. 1693-1743. RBML, Smith Indic 73

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library holds a significant number of Indic manuscripts, most of them acquired by David Eugene Smith in Bombay and Kashi in the early years of the 20th century. The subject matter of these manuscripts is predominantly Jyotihsastra (Hindu Astrology), including astronomy, mathematics, divination and predictive astrology. According to a note made by Smith, this manuscript on the astrolabe was copied by a priest in the court of Raja Jaisingh II in Jaipur, India, and was purchased by Smith in Jaipur at Christmas, 1907. Jaisingh, the great warrior-astronomer who ruled from 1693 until 1743, founded the city of Jaipur in 1727. His observatory and huge masonry instruments constructed there are still in use today, and were used by him and his court to achieve significant advances in the exact sciences.

Gift of David Eugene Smith, 1931

27.  Andō Hiroshige (1797-1858).  Tōkaidō Gojūsantsugi no uchi: Fujikawa (Fifty-three stations of the Tōkaidō: Fujikawa station). Takenouchi Magohachi (Hoeidō), 1833. Print # 38. Japanese paper, oban (approx. 38 x 25.5 cm) C. V. Starr East Asian Library

The Tōkaidō was the highway connecting Edo (now Tokyo) and Kyoto during the pre-modern period in Japan. It consisted of fifty-three "stations" or rest stops, including the starting point in Edo and the end of the route in Kyoto. It was a popular subject among artists of ukiyo-e ("floating world" woodblock prints), among them Andō Hiroshige (1797-1858), who made a number of different series representing the fifty three stations. Most of these series were produced in a horizontal or landscape format. However, the series that came to be known as the upright Tōkaidō is in vertical or portrait format, and is generally considered the best of these series. The print here displayed depicts a group of travelers on horseback entering Fujikawa station during a heavy snowfall.

28.  Amanoto Toryū (1818-1877).  Kyōka chakizai gazōshū. Tokyo: Seiryūtei, Ansei 2, [1855] C. V. Starr East Asian Library

Kyōka or "mad verse" is a comic variant of waka, a 31-syllable Japanese poetry form heavily dependent on pivot words (kakekotoba) and related words (engo). Kyōka were written mainly during the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), and were popular among all classes. Many woodblock print artists illustrated kyōka, either individual verse as surimono (small edition or special occasion prints), or collections of verse in book format; an example of the latter is displayed here. Kyōka chakizai gazōshō (Collection of comic verse on tea utensils) is divided into two parts, the second of which contains verse by a number of poets. The first half of the book contains illustrations by two different artists, figures by Utagawa Yoshitora (a pupil of Kuniyoshi) and landscapes, such as the one here displayed, by Hiroshige (1797-1858).

29.  Tibetan Printing Block. Tibet, 19th century. Wood, (40 x 9 x 3.5 cm.) C. V. Starr East Asian Library

This block, carved on both sides, contains sections of the Prajna-paramita sutra, included in Chinese translation elsewhere in the exhibition. The Tibetan language version was printed on both sides of long sheets. The leaves were traditionally unbound, but assembled in order between wood "covers," and bound up with colorful cloth. Printing blocks such as this provide scholars and researchers with information about specific editions of the sacred texts.

30.  Fabric "cheat sheet". China, n.d. Ink on silk, (40 x 43 cm.) C. V. Starr East Asian Library

The Chinese examination system, stretching though two thousand years of Chinese history, theoretically created a system of meritocracy, in which any man of whatever background could join the governing class by means of his learning. By late Imperial times, successful candidates were appointed only to districts other than their own, to avoid conflicts of interest and other seeds of local corruption. But the examination system itself became increasingly bureaucratic and exacting, leading to a condition, according to Benjamin Elman, in which "cheating became a cottage industry." Since candidates and their possessions were physically searched before they could enter the examination hall, in which they were locked for the three days of the examination, it is hard to imagine how successful any of the attempts at cheating actually were. This handkerchief is covered with hand-brushed tiny characters representing some of the texts a candidate was required to know.

Gift of Anne S. Goodrich, 1986

31.  Chen Menglei (1651-1741) and Jiang Tingxi (1669-1732).  Qin ding gu jin tu shu ji cheng. s.l. : Zong li ya men shi yin ben, 1890? 1,672 volumes (original gift in 5,044 volumes) C. V. Starr East Asian Library

East Asian Studies at Columbia University began in 1901, following donations by Columbia College graduate and Trustee General Horace Walpole Carpentier of $100,000 and by Dean Lung, his employee, of $12,000. In 1902 the Trustees approved the creation of the Dean Lung Chair in Chinese studies. University President Seth Low solicited the gift of books through the American ambassador in Beijing, and received the donation from the Empress Dowager of China of the 5,044-volume encyclopedia. The Qin ding gu jin tu shu ji cheng follows a line of increasingly extensive encyclopedias, but is substantially larger than its predecessors. It is divided into thirty-two classes or sections of various length, grouped under six main categories approximately representing Heaven, Earth, Man, Science, Literature, and Government. None of the content is original; rather, both text and illustrations were compiled and copied from earlier works. Columbia's set is from the second edition, published in 250 copies, and is one of only three such sets outside China. The first Dean Lung Professor of Chinese, Frederick Hirth, raised funds to rebind the volumes, received in their original format of several small silk-sewn volumes in a book case, into Western style bindings, thought at the time to be easier to handle and keep safe.

Gift of the Empress Dowager of China, 1902

32.  Jo Davidson (1883-1952).  Portrait of V. K. Wellington Koo. Paris, Valsuani Foundry, signed by the artist, 1920. Bronze, (60.5 x 25.5 x 23 cm.) RBML, Art Collection

V. K. Wellington Koo (1888-1985) graduated from Columbia College in 1908, also receiving from Columbia an AM in 1909, a PhD in 1912 and a LL D in 1917. This bust portrait, depicting Koo at the beginning of his diplomatic career, was one of a number of portraits sculpted by Jo Davidson in 1920 of the delegates to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. RBML is also the repository for Dr. Koo's papers, including correspondence, diaries, memoranda, manuscripts, notes, printed material, and photographs, that he gave to Columbia in 1976. They document his work in many areas, including as the Republic of China's ambassador to France (1932-1941), to England (1941-1946), the United Nations (1944-1946), and the United States (1946-1956).

Gift of Mme. Juliana Koo, and Patricia Koo and Kiachi Tsien, 1989

33.  Chinese Paper Gods. Beijing, China, ca. 1931. Chinese paper, ink, and watercolor, (29.5 x 25.5 cm., 50.5 x 30 cm.) C. V. Starr East Asian Library

In 1931, while living in Beijing, China, Anne Swann Goodrich assembled a substantial collection of folk prints of a type now commonly referred to as "paper gods." After publishing a study about them in 1991, she donated the collection of over 200 prints to the C. V. Starr East Asian Library. The inexpensive prints were typically hung about the home or pasted on doors as protection against evil. Frequently they were burned and replaced, generally at the beginning of the new year or some other auspicious point of the calendar, as a symbolic send-off to heaven to mediate on behalf of the owner. These paper god prints are thin sheets of paper with the image of a god woodblock-printed on them. Some are mostly black and white with just a few splashes of color. An example of this can be seen here in a depiction of Sanjie Zhifu Shizhe, a messenger of the gods. He delivered charms and acted himself as a charm against evil spirits who cause disease, particularly during the fifth month. This period was considered to be malignant by the Chinese as a time when contagious diseases were likely to appear. Other prints are quite colorful, like the other example here, which is a depiction of Zhong Kui, considered one of the most effective protectors against evil spirits, expeller of demons, and protector against poisons. Although his picture is usually pasted on the door on the last day of the year, like Sanjie Zhifu Shizhe, he is particularly worshipped during the fifth month.

Gift of Anne S. Goodrich, 1991

34a.  [Pigŭk sosŏl] Pulsanghan insaeng (An unhappy life). Kyŏngsŏng-pu: Hongmun Sŏgwan, Shŏwa 11, [1936] C. V. Starr East Asian Library

34b.  Yŏngsŏn (n.d.).  Syongdo mallyŏn pulgasari chyŏn (The account of a pulgasari in the last years of Songdo). Kyŏngsŏng-pu: Tongyang Taehaktang, Shōwa 11, [1936] C. V. Starr East Asian Library

34c.  [Kodae sosŏl] Tang Taejyong chyŏn (Biography of Tang Taizong). Sŏul T’ŭkpyŏlsi: Sech’ang Sŏgwan, Tan’gi 4284, [1951] C. V. Starr East Asian Library

A collection of 155 exceptionally rare, early twentieth-century traditional style Korean popular novels is housed in the C. V. Starr East Asian Library. These novels are deemed unique and no other copies are known to exist, as they were in all likelihood lost or destroyed during the Japanese occupation and the subsequent Korean war. The novels were printed in Korean script at a time when this was discouraged by the Japanese occupation government. Since the Korean language has changed considerably in the course of the twentieth century, and most published material before the twentieth century was typically written in formal language and Chinese script, the novels also provide a unique record of the colloquial language of the time. As these novels were not produced through the major publishing houses, most are physically sub-standard products, printed on cheap paper with primitive printing methods. Most volumes have gaudily colored covers and are no more than thin booklets, most of them with well under a hundred pages. The three volumes here on display are a traditional style popular novel (kodae sosŏl) chronicling the life of the Chinese emperor Tang Taizong (626-649), a tragic novel (pigŭk sosŏl) about a life full of hardship, and the story of a mythical creature(Pulgasari) during the last years of Songdo (modern Kaesŏng), the old capital of Chosŏn (1392-1910), said to eat metal, to expel nightmares, and to purge noxious vapors.

35.  Peter H. L. Chang (Zhang Xueliang), (1901-2001).  "Recollections of Xian Incident [Review]". Jiangshang, [May 10, 1946] RBML, Chang Papers

Peter Chang (his name also rendered as Zhang Xueliang, and Chang Hsueh-liang) was born in Manchuria in 1901 and died in Hawaii in 2001. After his father, Chang Tso-lin (Zhang Zuolin), a leading war-lord know as the Old Marshal, was assassinated in 1928 by the Japanese, Chang took his place as the Young Marshal, becoming one of the most powerful military figures in China. In 1930, Chang became Deputy Commander in Chief of the Chinese Armed Forces. In 1933 he traveled to Europe. Upon his return to China, Zhou Enlai convinced him of the need for a united front between the Nationalist and Communist Chinese against Japan.

On December 4 1936, Chiang Kai-shek, the nationalist leader met with Marshal Chang in Xian, ostensibly to plan a campaign against the Communists that was due to begin on December 12. Chang arrested Chiang Kai-shek, an event that became know around the world as the "Xian incident." Two weeks later, Chiang was released after agreeing to work with the Communists in fighting the Japanese. After the Xian incident Marshal Chang might have chosen to join the Communists. Instead, he surrendered to Chiang Kai-shek who placed him under house arrest for the next 50 years. Marshal Chang lived comfortably in a house with an extensive garden. The house was filled with paintings and calligraphy honoring the Chiang family, including a number that were draw by Madame Chiang Kai-shek. Many of these items are now in the Chang Papers, along with correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, published materials, and memorabilia documenting the life of Peter and Edith Chang.

Gift of Peter H. L. and Edith C. Chang, 1994

36.  Fukuda Bisen (1875-1963).  Chūgoku sanjū emaki. Watercolor, (49 cm. x 1219.2024 cm.), Scroll 2 of 30, 1949-1959. C. V. Starr East Asian Library

The Japanese artist Fukuda Bisen twice painted a thirty-scroll series on Chinese landscapes, only to have the first set destroyed in the great Tokyo earthquake of 1923, and the second by the bombing of Tokyo in World War II. By chance, another painting by Fukuda was accidentally noticed and admired by General D. D. Eisenhower, then President of Columbia University. The artist was inspired to redo his series, which depict the great Yangtze River of China, to present to Columbia University. The artist donated the first scroll in 1951, and completed the entire set in 1960. The length of the scroll is used by the artist to create a panoramic view of a great river, viewed as though passing through the landscape on the water.

Painted for Columbia University and donated by the artist, from 1951 through 1960