The East Asia Collections of the Bavarian State Library comprise around 320,000 original volumes in Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

OPACplus of the Bavarian State Library


The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek owns an extensive Chinese collection of international renown. It amounts to around 230,000 printed volumes and 3,000 manuscripts. Since it has grown over a long period of time and Chinese materials have been collected in targeted manner since the 19th century, the collection covers substantially all areas of traditional Chinese knowledge.

It stands out in particular for its excellent old stock with regard to both volume and quality. Among the most valuable items are around 20 printed works form the Song (960 – 1279) and Yuan (1279 – 1368) dynasties, as well as over 100 printed works from the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644), among them a number of unique specimens which have survived only in Munich.

Among the total of around 3,000 Chinese manuscripts there are, among other things, various Buddhist and Daoist texts, popular writings, as well as decrees, deeds and contracts. Three manuscript scrolls from Dunhuang from the time of the Tang dynasty (618 – 907) are particularly outstanding. The largest part of the Chinese manuscripts is formed by the around 2,800 predominantly religious texts written in Chinese script from the people of the Yao who were native to southern China, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

The currently acquired original-language publications are predominantly modern text editions and current research literature on pre-republican China (up to 1911). Moreover, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek also collects Sinological research publications in western languages on a large scale, which are acquired by the Department of Collection Development and Cataloguing.

Since the conclusion of the retrospective conversion of the Chinese card catalogues in the year 2011, all Chinese titles have been searchable in the OPACplus/ BSB catalogue of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in the original Chinese script and Latin transcription (Pinyin).

History of the Chinese Collection

Outset in the 17th century

The beginnings of the Chinese collection go back to the first half of the 17th century. The earliest catalogue entry of Chinese books in the Munich Court Library founded in 1558 by Duke Albrecht V, the later Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, can be found in a book register compiled around the year 1618.

At the time, the house of Wittelsbach shared their enthusiasm for curiosities and exotic things with many other ruling houses. Chinese books started arriving in Europe in the 16th century via traders, travellers and Christian missionaries. Since the Wittelsbach dukes were major supporters of the Jesuit order, including the Jesuit missionary activities in east Asia, it can be assumed that the Chinese works which reached the Court Library in the 17th and 18th century are largely presents by Jesuit missionaries, among them also prints of the Christian mission produced in China.

18th and 19th century

At the end of the 18th and the start of the 19th century, further Chinese titles came to Munich in the course of the abolition of the Jesuit order, the secularisation and the transfer of the Mannheim court library. Until this time, the Chinese collection consisted of a small number of items, albeit some of them very precious, which had reached Munich coincidentally.

This was to change soon: By several bulk acquisitions, the library achieved to establish one of the largest Chinese collections outside of China in Munich by the start of the 20th century. To the around 3,500 Chinese volumes purchased by the German Orientalist Karl Friedrich Neumann (1793 – 1870) in Canton in the year 1830, around 2,700 volumes of the Italian traveller and trader Onorato Martucci (1774 – 1846) were added in 1851. The outstanding library of the French Orientalist Étienne-Marc Quatremère (1782 – 1857) acquired in 1858 contained approximately another 2,000 Chinese and Manchurian works.

20th and 21st century

Georg Reismüller (1881 – 1936) purchased around 18,500 Chinese books for the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek during an acquisition trip on behalf of the Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft (Emergency Association of German Science) in 1928/29.

The Chinese collection survived the Second World War without losses. In contrast, the western-language literature about the far east suffered great losses through the war. By acquiring the private library of the Sinologist and art historian Carl Hentze (1883 – 1975) in the year 1953, a large part of these gaps caused by the war could be closed again.

In the 70s and 80s of the 20th century, generous budgets enabled the library to expand the collection further. The Chinese collection is continued up to this day, with an annual increase of around 1,500 volumes.

Description of the collection

Chinese manuscripts and prints up to late Ming / early Qing

The earliest Chinese works of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek can be summed up under the following topical groups (in accordance with Stephan, Renate: Chinesische und manjurische Handschriften und seltene Drucke. Teil 2. Chinesische Drucke und Handschriften in der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München. (Chinese and Manchurian manuscripts and rare printed works. Part 2. Chinese prints and manuscripts in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Munich), Stuttgart, 2014. Verzeichnis der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland, vol. XII,2. p. XIV-XX):

Early Buddhist prints and manuscripts

The earliest Chinese works of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek are of Buddhist origin. The Buddhist print "Bao qie yin tuo luo ni jing" (Res/L.sin. C 590) from the Leifeng pagoda in Hangzhou goes back to the year 975 AD. On the earliest Chinese manuscript of the Chinese collection the year 673 is written (Cod.sin. 4). This manuscript is one out of three Dunhuang manuscripts held by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. The classification marks of the other two manuscripts are Cod.sin. 89 and Cod.sin. 90.

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek also owns a manuscript scroll belonging to the Jin tripitaka (Res/4 L.sin. C 266), of which only one single specimen exists worldwide, as well as a leporello from the Xixia tripitaka in Tangut script (Res/4 L.sin. C 267).

Further, two leporellos from the Chongning tripitaka are also particularly rare (Res/4 L.sin. C 247 and 248): Of this canon, only some individual chapters are left in China, and only few complete editions in Japan. Res/4 L.sin. 248 is dated to 1110. Res/4 L.sin. C 247 is a special case. Here, a benefactor had commissioned a copy of the diamond sutra from the Chongning tripitaka. The chapter in question bears a donation note of 1162. This partial edition is presumed to be even rarer than the complete canon.

Moreover, also parts of the Puning and/or Quisha tripitaka (Res/4 L.sin. C 251-1 to 4, Res/4 L.sin. C 299, 308, 309) from the time of the Yuan dynasty form part of the Chinese collection.

Early Daoist prints and manuscripts

Among the Daoist prints, of which the library holds a comparatively smaller number, the "Yu long ji" (Res/ L.sin. C 632) should be mentioned, which was published by the well-known family of publishers Yu 余 in Jianyang in the time of the Yuan dynasty. The seals of famous owners testify to its high value.

Two prints from the Ming period, both of them with frontispiece, have to be dated to 1439 (Res/4 L.sin. C 229) and to 1450 (Res/4 L.sin. C 219) on the basis of the donation notes they bear. Both texts are also included in the Daozang, but are present here in a different version.

The manuscript Cod.sin. 136 from the Ming period has an elaborate frontispiece in gold against an indigo-blue background. The very high-quality craftwork and the mentioned well-known persons indicate that the three leporellos were produced at the imperial court and were possibly intended as presents by the emperor to important persons.

Palace and academy prints of the Ming dynasty

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek owns a number of titles which are from one of three most important institutions of the Ming period where books were printed: the imperial printing workshop Jing chang 經廠 in the authority of Si li jian 司禮監, the Southern Academy in Nanjing (Nanjing guo zi jian 南京國子監) and the Northern Academy in Beijing (Beijing guo zi jian 北京國子監).

The commentary on the "Shi jing" written by Zhu Xi (1130 – 1200), the "Shi ji zhuan", is from the Si li jian and represents the only palace print from the Ming period held by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (4 L.sin. I 85).

Of the collection of the 13 classics and their commentaries "Shi san jing zhu shu", three titles were crafted by the Northern Academy: "Lun yu zhu shu jie jing" (4 L.sin. C 282), "Mengzi zhu shu jie jing" (4 L.sin. C 283) and "Zhou yi jian yi" (4 L.sin. C 284). Four of them were most probably printed by Li Yuanyang (1497 – 1580) in Fujian: "Zhou yi jian yi" (4 L.sin. C 157), "Chun qiu Gu Liang zhuan zhu shu" (4 L.sin. C 281), "Li ji zhu shu" (L.sin. C 639) and "Shang shu zhu shu" (L.sin. C 641).

The encyclopaedia "Yu hai" (4 L.sin. Aa 50) is the only print from the Southern Academy owned by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. The sheets show that they were printed with different printing plates which partly go back to the Yuan period. This means that the encyclopaedia is a so-called di xiu 遞修 edition, i.e. an edition that was produced in the course of a period of at least two dynasties.

Prints of the princes of the Ming dynast


The prints by feudal princes of the Ming period (fan fu ke ben 藩府刻本) represent a peculiarity of Chinese book-printing history. Under the reign of the Ming emperor Yongle the political influence and the military power of the imperial princes was strongly curbed. Having become politically powerless, they shifted increasingly to artistic and intellectual fields of activities, which also found expression in book printing. They had the financial means and the time to produce the predominantly outstandingly collated texts and likewise outstandingly crafted prints and manuscripts without commercial interests having to play a role in the process.

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek owns two of these rare printed works: On the basis of the publisher's name, the "Hong wu zheng yun" (4 L.sin. A 122) is clearly associated with the prince Zhuang of Heng, Zhu Houqiao. The "Wen xuan" (4 L.sin. I 24) was published in the fiefdom of Tang, but is impossible to date exactly.

Prints by the publisher Mao Jin

The famous bibliophile, collector and publisher Mao Jin 毛晉 (1599 – 1659) from the late Ming period had an enormously extensive collection of writings which he had partly purchased and partly produced himself. By his facsimile copies of Song and Yuan prints, he made an important contribution to safeguarding the original design of long-lost editions.

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek holds his complete 17 dynasty histories (4 L.sin. D 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 187, 191, 192, 193 and 197), partly also second copies of them, the production of which he had begun between 1628 and 1644 in the time of the Ming dynasty. He worked the plates over at the beginning of the Qing dynasty from 1648 to 1656 and started printing in 1656. Since the publication of the dynasty histories stretched over two dynasties, also this edition is a so-called di xiu edition.

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek has a large collection of Mao Jin prints: besides the dynasty histories it also owns the extensive omnibus work "Jin dai bi shu" (4 L.sin. Aa 308), a collection of 60 dramas (4 L.sin. Aa 52) and a number of art-historical writings published by him (4 L.sin. K 121, 125, 142, 150 and 293), among other things.

Chinese manuscripts and printed works of the Qing period

The Chinese collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek from the Qing period is a representative cross section of the Chinese literature of this time, since the library acquired not only literature of the political and intellectual elite of China, but also other literature, which was available predominantly on the book markets in the south of the Chinese empire. Thus, materials could be preserved in Munich which cannot be found in Chinese libraries, since libraries in China started collecting such items only at a time when they were largely no longer available locally.

Among the manuscripts and prints of the Qing period there is the literature of the elite (court prints, prints by administrative units, imperial decrees, deeds, bibliophile private prints, etc.) and likewise so-called popular or everyday literature, among other things novels and collections of stories, musical comedies and theatre plays, almanacs, prophecy books, general encyclopaedias, medical handbooks, religious treatises and training materials for the exams of imperial officials. Also a number of image albums and paintings on so-called pith papers form part of the collection, which were produced in China for export during the 18th and 19th century.

Particular mention should be made of the various editions of the "Jieziyuan huazhuan" 芥子園畫傳 ("Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden") and of the "Shizhuzhai shuhuapu" 十竹斎書画譜 ("A Manual of Calligraphy and Painting from the Ten Bamboo Studio") from the 18th and 19th century. These two works are famous painting manuals and outstanding works of Chinese colour woodblock printing, of which the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek owns a number of very artistic specimens (e.g. 4 L.sin. K 290).

Chinese manuscripts and prints of the Christian mission

The prints and manuscripts of the Christian mission produced in China during the Qing period represent a peculiarity. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek has 27 prints and manuscripts which are related to the Christian mission in China. The prints are all produced by the Chinese block printing method, even if they are partly written completely in Latin or are reproduced only in transcription.

There are three titles related to the so-called Chinese rites controversy (Cod.sin. 30 and the second specimen Cod.sin. 30 a, Cod.sin. 2931 and Xyl. 51). One title is related to the so-called calendar controversy (Cod.sin. 31). Among the rather rare prints are "Tian zhu jiang sheng chu xiang jing ji", of which the library holds two not completely identical specimens (Cod.sin. 23 and 4 L.sin. C 138), "Ge zhi cao" (Cod.sin. 26), "Relatio sepulturae …" (Cod.sin. 28), "Innocentia victrix …" (Cod.sin. 31), "Titulus honorificus …" (Cod.sin. 112), "Apographum eius elogij …" (4 L.sin. C 136), "Brevis relatio …" (Xyl. 51), "Gang jian jia zi tu" (2 L.sin. D 6) and "Hong piao" (Cod.sin. 2931). Among the manuscripts, a Chinese-Spanish dictionary (Cod.sin. 3) of 1684 should be mentioned in particular besides the "Notitia Linguae Sinicae" (Cod.sin. 1). Varos "Arte de la lengua Mandarina" (Cod.sin. 29) is particularly rare : Of the around 40 copies which were printed originally, only around 14 are known to have been preserved.

Generally, the mission prints are from the collection of the house of Wittelsbach or from monastery libraries, which were closed in the course of the secularisation in 1803/04. However, the example of the "Liber organicus" (Cod.sin. 24), which formed part of the collection of the bibliophile Hand Adam von Reisach (1765 – 1820), shows that this association should not be made automatically.

Literature (selected)

Höllmann, Thomas; Friedrich, Michael (Hrsg.): Handschriften der Yao. Teil 1. Stuttgart 2004. [Verzeichnis der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland, Bd. XLIV,1]

Reismüller, Georg: „Karl Friedrich Neumann. Seine Lern- und Wanderjahre, seine chinesische Büchersammlung.“ In: Aufsätze zur Kultur- und Sprachgeschichte vornehmlich des Orient. Ernst Kuhn zum 70. Geburtstag am 7. Februar 1916 gewidmet von Freunden und Schülern. München 1916, S. 437-456.

Rückert, Ingrid: „‚Die seltensten und kostbarsten Werke chinesischer Literatur’: Karl Friedrich Neumann als Begründer der chinesischen Büchersammlung an der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek.“ In: Saeculum60/I (2010), S. 115-142.

Stephan, Renate: „Die Erwerbung chinesischer Literatur für die Münchner Hofbibliothek.“ In: Eikelmann, R. (Hrsg.): Die Wittelsbacher und das Reich der Mitte. 400 Jahre China und Bayern. (Ausstellung, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, München) München 2009, S. 449-454.

Stephan, Renate: Chinesische und manjurische Handschriften und seltene Drucke. Teil 2. Chinesische Drucke und Handschriften in der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München. Stuttgart 2014. [Verzeichnis der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland, Bd. XII,2].

Tabery, Thomas: „Digitalisierung und Neukatalogisierung chinesischer Handschriften und Drucke der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek.“ In: Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie ZfBB 63 (2016), 2, S. 82-89.


The Japanese collection consists of roughly 90,000 printed volumes. For this collection, some major purchases were especially important: Several dozen prints from the Meiji era (1868 to 1905), photographs and playing cards were acquired from a Bamberg chemist in Yokohama. In 1972, 190 printings from the pre-Meiji period were acquired in Holland. From 1986 onwards, around 700 further ancient Japanese titles in 2,654 volumes were taken over from an excellent Japanese scholars’ library. The collection comprises a large number of early and precious prints and manuscripts. A specimen of the oldest Japanese print, a Hyakumantō darani (L.jap. C 591) from 764-770, is kept in a carved wooden pagoda. Of particular importance is the magnificent manuscript of the novel “The Tale of Genji” from 1615 which served as a wedding gift for a member of the ruling Tokugawa family (Cod.jap. 18).


The small Korean collection comprises about 3,000 titles. About 610 volumes were printed before 1900. The majority of the latter ones dates back as far as the 17th century. Outstanding specimens are chapters of the Buddhist canon printed on the Ganghwa island in between 1236 and 1251 (4 L.cor. C 81), whose printing blocks are still all preserved in the Haeinsa monastery, and a catalogue of medicinal products printed with clay printing types in 1433 (L.cor. M 7).

廿二史攷異. 20 武當山玄天上帝經 月令粹編. 2 草木性譜 女今川益鑑 漢唐事箋 古文淵鑑 河蝦考 夢窓国師語錄 醫案類語 文昌本願真經全部 紙底彩繪 莊子鬳齋口義 江湖分韻酬世全書 庖廚備用倭名本草 高太史大全集 象戯指南車 佛說盂蘭盆經疏 賢首諸乘法數 骨董集 泰安縣志 御製數理精蘊表 将棋駒組啟蒙 十六夜日記殘月鈔 日光駅程見聞雑記 性理大全書 高王觀世音經 論語徵渙 洪憲文書 (1916) 日本鹿子 桐陰論画. 3, 2 bian, 2 ch. in 1 ce 御製曆象考成 廿二史攷異. 20 書經體註 德壯果公年譜 近思錄 金生拜廟 三養雑記 山水奇観 古文眉詮 閱微草堂筆記. 7, Di 7 : 姑妄聽之, Juan 1-2 太平御覽 廿二史攷異. 8 妙法連華經 執照 周益國文忠公集 孔子家語 婆羅岸全傳 花鳥畫譜 欽定詩經傳說彙纂 明史藁 居濟一得 萬葉集類句 大清咸豐七年歲次丁己時憲書 廿二史攷異. 1 典制文環 春のいろ 重慶真原堂文書 懷胎六甲書計,靈符法,下陰箭刀 地理纂要心傳真訣全書 北齋麁画 神霊矢口渡 選僧圖 二十四孝圖並贊 象戯指南車 古今鍜治備考 欽定錢錄 老君八十一化圖說 四方之薰 全唐詩話 初學天文指南鈔 鐵槌 鶯育草 金瓶梅 (第一奇書). 19 幼今川 金銀图錄. 1, 正冉品上 秘書廿八種. 1, Di 1 ce : 汲冢周書 秋閒戲銕 比丘戒本疏義 闕里文獻考 玉海 新編集成牛醫方 霞客遊記. 8 慎餘堂稿續編 直省試牘英華 廿二史攷異. 21 刪補錦囊外療秘錄 新增補細見指南車 艷道通鑑 源三位賴政家集 金瓶梅 (第一奇書). 20 文心雕龍 堀川院百首和歌 芥子園重訂監本詩經 一盤珠全集 御製大雲輪請雨經 試帖紫雲仙琯 內閣秘傳字府諸鈔大成 高上玉皇本行集經 脉理求真