First of all, it is important to remark that Houghton’s East Asian collection’s reduced (yet still significant) size is due to Harvard’s fractured special collections library system. Yenching Library has most of the university’s holdings about East Asia, but that does not mean that the field is neglected at Houghton. In fact, though there are few East Asian manuscripts, there are many materials about East Asia, revealing both Western and East Asian views on the region. Still, Houghton does own fifteen Chinese and eleven Japanese manuscripts that can be of interest to students in the field.
Many significant items, in fact, are in Houghton’s Chinese manuscript collection. The library owns a synoptic 1889 translation of the Confucian analects (MS Chinese 1, 009894145); the papers of Li Dazhao (MS Chinese 8, 009202331), one of the founders of the Communist Party of China; a typescript for a 1924 Harvard thesis titled “Foreign Relations of Tibet” (MS Chinese 11, 009957170); a Chinese translation of the Cervantes classic Don Quixote (MS Chinese 12, 010086292); and finally, one of the collection’s most intriguing items: an alarm clock (MS Chinese 15, 014347915) depicting Mao Zedong and cheering followers waving copies of his Little Red Book—which Houghton also owns in an original copy from 1964 (*YCC9.M3200.964m, 009108927). The clock is a fascinating relic of material culture that displays the omnipresence of totalitarian régimes as well as the powerful grip of Maoism. Other significant items not classed as Chinese manuscripts are a collection of ephemera from China and Japan covering the 1970s (MS Am 2799, 012848406), which includes photographs and coins, and the diaries of Harley Farnsworth MacNair, an American historian who taught in Shanghai in the 1910s and 1920s, and of Florence Wheelock Ayscough, a Canadian-American poet who was born in China and lived there for most of her life (MS Am 2549, 010683704).
Houghton has also collected a variety of materials concerning diplomatic relations between East Asia and the West that could be of great use to students focusing on the region’s political history. They include the papers of William Woodville Rockhill, the father of the Open Door policy (MS Am 2121, 008852404); William Richards Castle, ambassador to Japan in 1930 (MS Am 2021, 000601987); and Joseph Clark Grew, ambassador to Japan from 1932 to 1941 and director of the Office of Far Eastern Affairs (MS Am 1687-1687.9, 000601802) at the end of the Second World War.
Some of the collection’s gems, however, are not manuscripts—Houghton, for instance, owns a 1810 translated copy of the Chinese penal code (Ch 12.5.3, 002712256). Another fascinating item is a Jesuit blockbook from the seventeenth century recounting the life of Jesus with Chinese explanations (52-1049, 010022984), only one example of the extent of missionary materials about the East present at Houghton. Those also include a 1616 Latin volume about a Jesuit mission to China (Ch 62.3.2*, 002213095) and a 1673 treatise, also in Latin, titled Historia Tartaro-Sinica Nova (Ch 60.11*, 006724480). Some other items that can be used to study the Western view on the East are a Spanish account of a 1622 Portuguese victory over the Dutch in Macau (Ch 254.21*, 006304445), a display of European colonialism in China before the age of imperialism; the typescript of Rudyard Kipling’s From Sea to Sea (MS Eng 838, 009678452), in which the British explorer relates his travels in China, Myanmar, and Japan; and a 1912 letter from a Western female missionary “concerning the revolution in Foochow” (Ch 155.210*, 005869772). Another engrossing item in the collection is an English edition of a ninth-century account of India and China by two Arab travelers (Ch 181.6*, 003855270), which provides a non-Western perspective on South and East Asia.
Houghton’s East Asian collection is, of course, not restricted to material about China. Japan is also a prominent presence in the collection, and the items below are just a small sample of what Houghton has to offer. The library has a call number (Hearn) dedicated to Lafcadio Hearn, a prolific writer who was passionate about Japan. His book collection and papers (MS Am 1213, 009125460) can be found at Houghton. Another interesting artifact is Human Bullets: A Soldier’s Story of Port Arthur (Ch 151.36.2*, 005828500), a Japanese portrayal of one of the battles of the Russo-Japanese war. Houghton also owns a remarkable collection of broadsides about Manchukuo (Ch 10.50), the Japanese puppet state set up in Chinese Manchuria in the 1930s before the Sino-Japanese War and the Second World War.