Seventeenth-Century Chinese Hand Scroll Donated to C. V. Starr East Asian Library


NEW YORK, January 26, 2004 The C. V. Starr East Asian Library recently received a 17th-century Chinese hand scroll donated by Professor Yosef Yerushalmi. The hand scroll, produced in 1658, is in excellent condition and contains several panels of script on color silk brocade and imperial dragons on both ends. It was prepared for a second-rank military mandarin and his wife on the occasion of his promotion to the first rank.

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The scroll is written in Chinese and Manchu, which were both official languages of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911). The Qing dynasty (formerly written Ch’ing) was founded by Manchurian invaders from the north and was the last imperial dynasty of China. Incidentally, Columbia’s Chinese collection was founded with an extensive Qing-period encyclopedia, donated in 1902 by the Empress Dowager of China, the last ruler of the Qing.

A hand scroll is a painting or piece of calligraphy prepared horizontally and intended for occasional and intimate viewing. Hand scrolls are traditionally viewed a section at a time from right to left—just as Chinese is read. Scrolls vary considerably in length; some are quite short, others may extend to over 70 feet in length.

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Professor Yosef Yerushalmi is the Director of the Center for Israel and Jewish Studies and the Salo W. Baron Professor of Jewish History in the History Department at Columbia University. Intrigued by its calligraphy, Professor Yerushalmi purchased the hand scroll more than 30 years ago.

The C. V. Starr East Asian Library is one of the major collections for the study of East Asia in the United States, with close to 750,000 volumes of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, and Western language materials, as well as some holdings in Mongol and Manchu, and over 5,500 periodical titles. The collection, established in 1902, is particularly strong in Chinese history, literature, and social sciences; Japanese literature, history, and religion, particularly Buddhism; and Korean history. The Library’s web site is located at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/eastasian/

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/ is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

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