James A. Thomas and Two Eunuchs, China, early twentieth century

The East Asian Collection at Duke University Libraries focuses on modern and contemporary Japanese, Chinese and Korean materials in the humanities and social sciences. Our collection encompasses more than 165,000 print volumes, including:
  • 88,000 Japanese materials
  • 57,000 Chinese materials
  • 20,000 Korean materials
  • Many language-specific databases 
  • 11,000 e-books in Chinese, Japanese and Korean

Our History

The East Asian Collection began in the late 1920s when James A. Thomas (1862-1940), who spent more than 30 years in China managing operations for the British-American Tobacco Company, gave Duke University 1,500 volumes from his personal library. The collection grew beginning with Japanese materials in the late 1960s and Chinese and Korean materials in the 1990s. Today the East Asian Collection is a regional resource center for students and researchers.

The Japanese Collection

EA periodicals

The Japanese collection has notable strengths in 19th- and 20th-century materials, particularly in the following areas:

  • Buddhism
  • Japan’s colonial history
  • Manga and anime
  • Modern art history
  • Popular culture: advertising, film, women's magazines
  • The modern novel
  • Women’s and labor history
  • Full-text, online newspapers

In addition, the collection includes basic works in premodern Japanese literature, economic, legal and social history, and Japanese research on Chinese art history and Daoism.

The Chinese Collection

The Chinese collection at Duke began in the mid-1990s. At that time, Duke University Libraries modified its longstanding agreement with nearby University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), which had focused on Chinese history, literature and religion.  Duke began collecting Chinese materials that UNC was not collecting in depth, especially popular culture and contemporary social science.

The Chinese collection at Duke University Libraries includes:

  • Core titles in literature and history
  • Full-text, online newspapers and journals
  • More than 4,500 Chinese films and TV dramas
  • Popular magazines
  • Statistical resources

The Korean Collection

The Korean collection at Duke began in the late 1990s. Its strengths include:

  • Buddhism
  • Colonial literature and history
  • Linguistics and language teaching materials
  • More than 1,200 films

Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

In addition to the East Asian Collection at Duke University Libraries, students and researchers have access to Duke’s Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library on the third floor of Perkins Library. The Rubenstein Library offers materials such as: