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East Asian Studies

This guide provides a general introduction to library and information resources for all those studying, teaching and researching on topics relating to China, Japan, Korea and other East Asian regions.


The University Library holds a large amount of resources on East Asia in print, electronic, audiovisual and other physical formats in Western and East Asian languages.

Most books and journals in Western languages in arts, humanities and social sciences of the region are integrated with the general collections in the Main Library according to the Library of Congress subject classification (older materials in Dewey classification on the 4th floor). Western-languages materials on East Asian art, education, religion and law can also be found in the relevant site libraries: Edinburgh College of Art Library, Moray House Library, New College Library and Law Library respectively.

Materials in Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages on all subjects are separately located within the East Asian Studies (EAS) Collection on the 3rd floor of the Main Library, currently in compact shelving. This substantial collection is among the major East Asian language collections in the UK and is the only one of its kind in Scotland.

There are over 100 rare and pre-1900 Chinese and Japanese books in the Centre for Research Collections, over 40 pre-1900 Chinese books in New College Library's Special Collections, over 100 Chinese law books in Law Library, and over 1,000 modern Chinese books in the Confucius Institute Library. There are also some Chinese DVD films in Edinburgh College of Art Library.

All the above-mentioned materials are indexed in the Library's catalogue system DiscoverEd, except some 10,000 Chinese books in the EAS Collection which are waiting to be catalogued online restrospectively.

The University Library also subscribes to some 50 online resources in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages, in a variety of formats such as bibliographic indexes, e-books, e-journals, digitised classics, full-text dissertations and newspaper archives. About 40 of these databases are produced in the East Asian region. All these online resources can be found in the List of Databases for East Asian Studies.

The University's Languages and Humanities Centre (LHC) at 50 George Square provides several thousand DVD feature and documentary films including several hundred films of and about China, Japan and Korea. The complete listing of all the LHC videos, some of which are available for streaming in the University's Media Hopper, is available via  the Video Catalogue Search in the Teaching and Research -- Learning technology channel of MyEd.

The East Asian Studies Collection

The East Asian Studies Collection was established in 1966 on a special grant of £10,000 from the University, almost from scratch, in connection with the establishment of the Department of Chinese and a year later, of Japanese studies in the former Faculty of Arts. Before then, there were hardly any East Asian language books in the University Library. Chiang Yee’s Silent Traveller in Edinburgh recorded only a shelf of dusty Chinese books when he visited the Playfair Library in 1947.

The earliest Chinese book accession, though, dates back to 1628 when a University graduate Robert Ramsay donated an incomplete copy of Zhou yi zhuan yi da quan (周易傳義大全, meaning "complete commentaries on Zhou Yi"), written by the Ming Dynasty scholar Hu Guang (胡廣, 1370-1418) and printed in 1440 in China. This item is also the earliest printed book in the University Library collection.

Over the last 54 years, the East Asian Studies Collection has grown substantially in size and subject coverage. It comprises about 60,000 items published mainly in China (including Taiwan) and Japan, and small amount in Korea, in their languages. The collection is traditionally strong in arts, philosophy, literature, history and religion in Chinese and Japanese, both as reprints of classics and modern publications. In recent years, the subject coverage has extended to social sciences, international relations, film studies and translation studies. With the latest establishment  of the academic subject area in Korean Studies from academic year 2019-20, the collection of Korean language resources in both print and electronic formats is set to grow.

The EAS Collection is the only such collection in Scotland.

The EAS Collection has benefited, historically and currently, from the generous support in the form of funding grants, book donations, and access to electronic resources from various institutions, in particular, from the Scottish government for the major library funding under the "Chinese Studies in Scotland Initiative 2000-2005", and from the Universities' China Committee in London (UCCL) for their annual library grants (until 2012). In October 2002, the Library received a large donation of nearly 1000 books - mainly contemporary reference books and Chinese language studies texts - from China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (known as Hanban) through the Chinese Embassy. We are thankful to the Confucius Institute for Scotland for their consecutive financial support for the acquisitions of Chinese databases, to the Korea Foundation for annual grant for supporting Korean e-resources subscriptions since 2017, and to the Literary Translation Institute of Korea for their annual gifts of Korean literary works in English translation through the  Hub Library Members Program. Since 2018, we have received large annual book donations and been offered access to Chinese e-resources from the National Central Library of Taiwan under the Taiwan Resources Centre for Chinese Studies (TRCCS) partnership programme.

Collection Policy for the East Asian Studies Collection

Related subject guides


Shenxiao Tong's picture
Shenxiao Tong
Main Library
University of Edinburgh
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ
+44 (0)131 6503370

Highlights of East Asian items

Zhou yi zhuan yi da quan

周易傳義大全 - University's first Chinese book

Cheng Yi, et. al. Zhou yi zhuan yi da quan, China, 1440. The oldest printed book in the University's collections. Donated by Robert Ramsay in 1628. Special Collections   Df.7.106

The Chinese Student

The Chinese Student: Official Organ of the Edinburgh Chinese Students' Union (中國學生雜誌), 1921. Special Collections  S.B. 378(41445)05 Chi.  

Kokuhō Ban dainagon ekotoba


Fujita, Tsuneyo, and Yasunari Kawabata. Kokuhō Ban Dainagon Ekotoba (國寶伴大納言繪詞). Chikuma Shobō, 1971. 3 Japanese scrolls. Special Collections   RB.FF.346, 347, 348

Photograph Album "China", 1858-1864

The Album contains 59 photos of people and places in the latter half of the 19th century China, by Lord Elgin, Felice Beato, M. Miller, S. and Dutton. Special Collections. Shelfmark: ERECA.MS.8