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.
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
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.
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,
Sackler Collections at Columbia University
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.
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
Yongbi Ŏchonga (Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven). Korea: s.n., 15th century? C. V. Starr East Asian Library
These two volumes are from Yongbi Ŏchonga (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 hangul 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
Owned by Yi Sŏng-ŭi, Purchase, 1968
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.
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
Nogŏltae ŏnhae. Korea: s.n., Yongjo yongan, 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 hangŭl (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
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
literaturepoetry, drama, prose fictionbut 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
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
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.
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
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.
Amanoto Toryū (1818-1877).
Kyōka chakizai gazōshū. Tokyo: Seiryūtei, Ansei 2,  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).
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
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
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
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
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
Gift of Anne S. Goodrich, 1991
[Pigŭk sosŏl] Pulsanghan insaeng (An unhappy life). Kyŏngsŏng-pu: Hongmun Sŏgwan, Shŏwa 11,  C. V. Starr East Asian Library
Syongdo mallyŏn pulgasari chyŏn (The account of a pulgasari in the last
years of Songdo). Kyŏngsŏng-pu: Tongyang Taehaktang, Shōwa 11,  C. V. Starr East Asian Library
[Kodae sosŏl] Tang Taejyong chyŏn (Biography of Tang Taizong). Sŏul Tŭkpyŏlsi: Sechang Sŏgwan, Tangi 4284,  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.
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
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
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