East Asian History and Culture

Photograph Album of Shanghai.
Photograph Album of Shanghai and Environs, c. 1890.

The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections has numerous collections documenting the history and cultures of East Asia. These describe life in China, Japan, and Korea during the last hundred years. Personal papers of diplomats, scientists, business people, and educators document life in East Asia from the late nineteenth century to the present. Many resulted from the experiences of Cornell students, faculty, and staff living and working in China. Cornell alumni including Willard D. Straight ('01), F. R. Newman ('14), and Leslie Severinghaus ('21) documented their experiences are in China by papers and photographs.

Other notable collections include the papers of Cornell University President Jacob Gould Schurman documenting his service as United States Minister to China in the 1920s; of James M. McHugh, intelligence officer and naval attaché in China in the 1930s and 1940s; papers of Cornell agricultural economist Gerow D. Brill pertaining chiefly to his work at the Hupeh Agricultural College and Experimental Farm, 1897-1901; and papers of Harry Houser Love, Professor of Plant Breeding at Cornell, and special consultant in plant breeding at the University of Nanking in the 1930s.

There are also a number of oral histories pertaining to the experience of Cornell faculty members in China, including Leonard Maynard, John Lossing Buck, Glenn W. Hedlund, John H. Reisser, and Stanley Warren, as well as Evelyn Claassen, wife of entomologist Peter Walter Claassen.

Rare books and manuscripts from the Wason Collection on East Asia are also housed in the Division. The core of the collection was acquired from Charles William Wason, an 1876 Cornell engineering graduate. Although Wason's collection was primarily in English, there are several rare sixteenth and seventeenth century books and manuscripts in Latin, Portuguese, Spanish, and French. Among the most notable treasures are five original manuscript volumes of the great fifteenth century Chinese encyclopedia Yung lo ta tien, manuscripts relating to Lord Macartney's 1792 embassy to China, and a Jade Book of the second Manchu emperor, inscribed in Chinese and Manchu, on ten solid jade tablets. Rare materials in Japanese on Japan were donated in 1914 by William Eliot Griffis.

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