Ever since its founding in 1968, the National Palace Museum Library has been focused on cataloguing and preserving the books and documents in its care, so as to support the staff in all of the museum’s departments as they conserve artifacts, conduct research, design exhibitions, and edit museum publications. However, in addition to fulfilling the museum’s internal needs, the NPM Library has also enthusiastically responded to the academic world as well as the general public’s wide range of needs related to arts, literature, and historical research. The library actively collects contemporary books and periodicals covering Chinese and foreign art, literature, and history, as well as those covering preservation and restoration of artworks and artifacts, archeology, and museology. With the exception of its rare and precious editions , the library’s holdings are presented in open stacks, to promotes browsing and cross-referencing. The NPM Library provides an environment suited for specialized, scholastic research as well as community-based education. It also possesses a large number of highly unique resources that will be introduced below.
Rare and Precious Books
The NPM Library has many out-of-print books onthe arts published in foreign languages, as well as out-of-print exhibition catalogs representing all facets of the art world in modern Taiwan’s early years (1960s-1980s). Our most representative collection of out-of-print foreign language works is the monumental “The Himalayas, Central Asia, Tibet, and the Orient: Art, Religion, Culture and Exploration,” also known as the Gredzens Collection. The most outstanding Japanese publications in the library’s possession include Vistas of Renowned Paintings from the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties (published in 1917 by Otsuka Kōgeisha) and A Pictorial Guide to Ancient Mirrors (published in 1951 by the Kurokawa Ancient Culture Research Institute). The library’s collection of books on antique chinaware provides comprehensive resources for research into and appraisal of such items. Additionally, the library also has a rich abundance of books pertaining to ancient bronze mirrors from throughout Asia. Finally, the National Palace Museum established collaborative relationships with important museums and art institutes around the globe at an early date, and as a result the NPM Library’s has an exhaustive collection of pictorial catalogs from public and private museums and collections worldwide.
The Gredzens Collection
The Gredzens Collection, a treasury of foreign language publications centered on oriental studies, was acquired by the NPM Library in Great Britain in 1993. Bearing the full title “The Himalayas, Central Asia, Tibet, and the Orient: Art, Religion, Culture and Exploration,” the complete set comprises 1,917 titles published in 2,050 volumes. This body of publications constitutes the lifetime acquisitions of the American book collector David I. Gredzens, for whom the corpus was named. Publication dates in the Gredzens Collection span three centuries, ranging from 1723 to 1985; more than five hundred titles in the collection were published before 1940 and are classified as “rare and precious editions.” Viewed in terms of the artistry involved in their binding, printing, and decoration, these antique, out-of-print books exemplify the extraordinary care that went into producing specialized publications in Europe in centuries past. Within the books can be found exquisitely unique ex libris (bookplates), meticulously detailed engraved illustrations, gloriously marbled endpapers and binding papers, and marvelous examples of the European art of embossing leather book covers with gold. The rare books in the Gredzens Collection bring to light the magnificent artistry involved in printing and bookbinding in eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe.
Complete Library of the Four Treasuries (Siku Quanshu)
The Wenyuan Pavilion Complete Library of the Four Treasuries (Wenyuan Ge Siku Quanshu), compiled during Qing dynasty Emperor Qianlong’s reign, and the Chizao Hall Essence of the Library of the Four Treasuries (Chizao Tang Siku Quanshu Huiyao) are two of the most internationally renowned items in the National Palace Museum’s collection. These two precious literary works are keystones in the NPM’s collection of ancient books and manuscripts. The NPM collaborated with the Commercial Press of Taiwan from 1983 to 1986, and then with the World Book Company from 1986 to 1988, in order to publish reproductions of these works, broaden the public’s exposure to them, and make them more accessible to academics and researchers. Expanding upon the foundation of the editions already in its collection, the NPM Library has successively acquired Shanghai Ancient Texts Publishing House’s Revised Complete Library of the Four Treasuries; Beijing Publishing House’s Compendium of Books Censored from the Four Treasuries and Condemned to Banning and Burning, Addendum to the Compendium of Books Censored from the Four Treasuries and Condemned to Banning and Burning, and the Compilation of Books Not Collected by the Four Treasuries; as well as the Commercial Press of Beijing’s Wenjin Pavilion Complete Library of the Four Treasuries. With several hundred academic publications related to “Four Treasuries studies” in its collection, the NPM Library provides an all-inclusive set of resources to researchers in this field.
As a specialty library devoted to the arts, in addition to collecting exhibition and collection catalogs from all of the world’s major public and private art museums, the NPM has also established a complete collection of auction catalogs published by the world’s large-scale auction houses. These pictorial records of artworks and artifacts sold at auction provide an auxiliary information channel that scholars can use to conduct comparative studies, systematize their knowledge bases, pursue research projects, or consult as a general reference. The NPM Library’s most complete collections of auction-related resources stem from the auction houses of Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and China Guardian. These catalogs are placed on display on open shelves in their own special section the library, in order to serve as a convenient reference for library patrons.
The Manchu Tripitaka
The Manchu Buddhist Canon, also known as the Tripitaka of Qing-Script, comprises 108 volumes of Buddhist scriptures and one volume containing the table of contents. The edition in the library’s possession is reprinted from the woodblocks produced by the imperial palace, which were originally used to make prints with cinnabar-based vermillion ink in the fifty-ninth year of the Qianlong reign period (1794) under Qing dynasty emperor Gaozong. There are two copies of this edition held by our museum. One is in the NPM Library in Taipei, and the other is in the Asian Art and Culture Archives of the Southern Branch of NPM, where it is shelved and available for perusal.
The Tibetan Tripitaka
The edition of this Tibetan Buddhist Canon held by the NPM Library is the Co-ne Kangyur (Co-ne is the name of the Buddhist monastery located in the Gansu province, while “Kangyur” refers to the Tibetan Buddhist Canon). Comprising 107 volumes of Buddhist scriptures, its compilation began in the sixtieth year of the Kangxi reign period (1721) under Qing dynasty emperor Shengzu. The canon’s contents were drawn from prior Kangyur editions printed in Nanjing and Litang as well as manuscripts acquired from Tibet. The carving of its printing blocks was completed in the fourth lunar month of the ninth year of the Yongzheng reign period (1731) under emperor Shizong. Following a grand consecration ceremony, printing commenced in the Co-ne Monastery in Gansu. The Co-ne Kangyur is one of the most precious woodblock editions of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon, as only a very small number of copies were ever printed. The wood printing blocks were destroyed by fire in 1928. The present edition held by the NPM Library comes from a reprint project undertaken by the Lingquan Monastery in Lanzhou, China. Exquisitely produced, it was donated to the NPM in 2016 by the abbot of the Lingquan Monastery, Ngawang Zopa Gyatsho Rinpoche (Se ra phyag mdzod ngag dbang bzod pa rgya mtsho), with the help of the Daksinavana Bhiksuni Samgha Ashram in Nantou county in Taiwan. From May to August of 2016, the special exhibition “Oṃ-maṇi-padme-hūṃ: Tibetan Art in the National Palace Museum” displayed this Co-ne Kangyur in a situational presentation modeled on an imperial palace library built to house Buddhist texts.
Archives of the Workshops of the Qing Imperial Household Department on Microfilm
The original Archives of the Imperial Workshops Bureau of the Qing dynasty Imperial Household Department are currently held in Beijing in the collection of the First Historical Archives of China. These archives record the production of arts and crafts under the auspices of the Imperial Household Department during the Qing dynasty. The records begin in the first year of the Yongzheng reign period (1723) under emperor Shizong and conclude in the third year of the Xuantong reign period (1911) under the Qing dynasty’s last emperor, Pu Yi. Published in microform in 1985 by the First Historical Archives of China, the complete set comprises 155 rolls of microfilm, and serves as an indispensable resource for research into the creation of arts and crafts as supervised by the Imperial Household Department in the Forbidden City. The NPM acquired this microform archive 2001, in part to serve as a reference for the planning of a special exhibition held that year, entitled “Emperor Qianlong’s Grand Cultural Enterprise.”
The Imperial Workshops Bureau was established during the reign of Emperor Kangxi. During the Qing dynasty, it served as the organ of the imperial court officially responsible for issuing directives to create or restore vessels, artifacts, and artworks. During Kangxi’s reign, the Imperial Household Department had yet to develop a system for keeping records of the arts and crafts created or refurbished in the imperial workshops. It was only in the first year of Emperor Yongzheng’s reign (1723) that the department’s Workshops Bureau began to systematically record the workshops’ output; it is these records that were compiled into the Handicrafts Archives. The contents of the archives are both finely detailed as well as broad in scope. Records note the day on which the emperor issued an order, the nature of the items that were created or restored, the types of raw materials that were used, descriptions of the pieces in question, the names of the artisans involved in each project, the time of the projects’ completion, the items’ method of safekeeping, as well as the items’ origins and destinations. These meticulous records allow modern-day researchers to estimate the output of the workshops and see how the workshops transformed over time, as well as glimpse the ins and outs of how various items were produced. Not only that, the archives allow a peek into the predilections, personalities, and day-to-day activities of the Qing emperors. In this way, the Handicrafts Archives are a resource both for correcting and enriching historical perspectives.
Genealogical records microfilm
In 1996, the United Daily News Foundation’s Chinese Culture Library donated a tranche of genealogical records to the National Palace Museum. This donation included 3,156 rolls of microfilm containing materials gathered and collated by the Genealogical Society of Utah, USA. These microform records contain approximately 9,984 family trees for Chinese families from Taiwan and mainland China, in addition to another 198 family trees for Chinese families based in Korea and the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. These genealogical records include family trees found in the C.V. Starr East Asian Library at Columbia University, the Library of Congress, the Harvard-Yenching Library, the East Asian Collection at the University of Chicago Library, the East Asian Library at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Washington Library, and the East Asia Collection at the University of Hawaii Library in the United States; the National Diet Library, the Tōyō Bunko (Oriental Library), and the Center for East Asian Studies at the Institute for Research in Humanities at the University of Kyoto in Japan; and the Fung Ping Shan Library at the University of Hong Kong. Finally, the collection also includes family trees for over 6,000 Taiwanese families gathered through fieldwork performed in Taiwan by the Genealogical Society of Utah between 1976 and 1986.
After cataloging and pruning this data, 2001 the NPM published A Concise Catalog to Genealogical Records in the National Palace Museum’s Collections. In order to help visitors conduct research, the Catalog was added to the NPM Library’s online public access catalog with a total of approximately 9,363 family trees. In 2004 and 2005, 307 of the most complete sets of traditional genealogical records from Columbia University’s collection were digitized. Comprising 250,000 pages of documentation stored on microfilm, the records were classified according to lineal origins, relationships to geography and prominent clans, formal names of regional ancestral halls, clan or family genealogies recorded in ancestral halls and at burial sites, familial canons, honors and titles bestowed by emperors, records from the imperial examinations, and traditional genealogical charts. This digitized information was uploaded to the searchable “NPM Database of Genealogical Documents” so as to promote research and consultation.
Last updated on: 2021-09-10