Started as a library with official title of "Chinese Library" for the first time in the United States about 110 years ago, the C.V. Starr East Asian Library at Columbia now has nearly half a million Chinese-language books, serials, microforms and videotapes related to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao in a variety of fields of humanities and social sciences.
In 1902, Frederick Hirth was appointed the first Professor of Chinese at Columbia, as well as the first curator of the Chinese Library. That year, the Chinese Qing Court gave the Chinese Library a set of Gu jin tu shu ji cheng, the 5,044-volume encyclopedia. This set of books started the collection of the Chinese Library.
Over many decades of development, the Chinese collection has become very strong in the four categories of traditional Chinese knowledge classification, namely, classics, history, philosophy, and belles-lettres. In particular, the collection boasts the top-tier collections of Chinese local gazetteers and literary works and the largest collection of Chinese genealogical records in North America. The recent decades have witnessed steady growth of collections in subjects of social sciences and multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary studies, particularly in Chinese politics, archaeology, art history, cultural studies and film studies.