In 2022, the East Asia Department of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin celebrates three important anniversaries: Christian Mentzel’s 400th birthday (first curator of our Sinica collection), the 100th anniversary of its founding, and 70 years of funding by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). To mark this occasion, we have launched a hybrid lecture series in June 2022: CrossAsia Talks. The lectures focus on objects from our collections in the broadest sense. Researchers and colleagues from Germany, Europe, Asia and the USA will talk about the earliest results of research on the first Chinese holdings in the Electoral Library, Southeast and Central Asian manuscripts, medical history texts and research results from cooperation projects between the East Asia Department and academia. They present innovative projects, techniques and ideas on how to work with our digitised collection and what future challenges look like.

We warmly welcome you to join the lectures online or offline in our library and look forward to seeing you there.

Please find the recordings of past lectures as YouTube videos in our ARCHIVE.


Upcoming Lectures

Forrest McSweeney

Military Medical Legacy: The Impact of Military Drug Distribution on the Pharmaceutical Field in Qing and Early Republican China

Thursday, June 20, 2024 from 6 p.m.

This presentation will focus on the impact of military drug distribution in the 18th century high-Qing on medical discourse and practice through the 19th century and into the Republican Period. The period from the late 18th to early 19th century was one of continued territorial expansion and rebellion suppression by the Qing empire under the reigns of the emperors Qianlong (1735-1796) and Jiaqing (1796-1820). To maintain the health of their soldiers, the Qing maintained a continuous pipeline of single-ingredient drugs from provincial markets to its Green Standards garrisons lüyingbing 綠營兵, particularly in rebellious areas in southern China.  […]  (More)

Dr. Xueqi Jiang (University of Nanjing, China)

“Zur abenteuerlichen Lebensgeschichte der beiden ersten Chinesen in Deutschland

Thursday, 18. July 2024 from 4 p.m.

Asseng and Ahok, both born on the Pearl River Delta in the 1790s, were the first Chinese to stay in Germany on a long-term basis. Since their arrival in Hamburg at the end of 1821, they were shown around by a Dutch merchant and exhibited publicly for money. Although they were only two comparatively insignificant people and a „human exhibition“ was considered degrading even by the standards of the time, the two Chinese were able to attract the attention of the learned public in Germany […]  (More)

Barbara Wall (University of Copenhagen)

“The Dynamic Essence of Transmedia Storytelling: A Graphical Approach to the Journey to the West in Korea

Thursday, September 26, 2024 from 6 p.m.

This talk challenges many typical assumptions about popular literary classics via analysis of sixty Korean variations of The Journey to the West, including novels and poems, but also films, comics, paintings, and dance performances. In contrast to the typical assumption that literary classics like The Journey to the West are stable texts with a single original, Barbara Wall approaches The Journey to the West as a dynamic text comprised of all its variations. […]  (More)

Gianna Pomata and Marta Hanson: 

“A Sample of Chinese Medicine for 17th-Century Europe

Please note that the lecture will be postponed to October 2024 due to the server interruption.

Our lecture will focus on a book that played a key role in the introduction of Chinese medicine to Europe: Specimen Medicinae Sinicae sive Opuscula Medica ad Mentem Sinensium (A Sample of Chinese Medicine, or Brief Medical Works According to the Mind of the Chinese: Frankfurt am Main, 1682). The only extant manuscript of this book and some preparatory materials are held at the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin. Specimen included various writings, some presented as translation from the Chinese into Latin. Equipped with illustrations drawn from Chinese sources  […]  (More)


TANG Sanjiao (University of Auckland, New Zealand):

“Lives in Mao-Era Militias under the Mass Mobilisation and Militarisation Context

Tuesday, 14. May 2024

In China today, the younger generations are having militarised experiences. Admittedly, military training is a routine thing for students in many countries. Currently, the reviving nationalist trend is making the Chinese young people’s military training different. On the video-sharing platforms popular in China, such as Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok), with keywords like “students’ military training,” tens of thousands of videos are well-received. As vividly shown in the videos, the Chinese young people, including children in kindergartens, were learning to have simulative combat with imaginary enemies. Indulging them in burning passion, the younger generations feel as if they were glorious soldiers fighting for the nation. […]  (More)

Amanda Shuman (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg):

Handling „lingering historical issues“: Using the Maoist Legacy database to examine justice in the post-Mao era

Thursday, 18. April 2024

The Maoist Legacy Database (MLD) was initially created as part of the ERC-project, „The Maoist Legacy: Party Dictatorship, Transitional Justice, and the Politics of Truth,“ directed by Daniel Leese at the University of Freiburg, Germany. Over the course of 5 years (2014-2019), the project team collected and curated documents for the database related to the research topic and beyond. This talk will introduce the kinds of materials in the database and research possibilities through a discussion of the primary resulting research projects, three outstanding PhD dissertations […]  (More)

Jan Dreßler and Sutheera Satayaphan (Hamburg)

The Thonburi Ramakian – On the Journey of a Royal Siamese Manuscript to Berlin and the Aftermath of its Rediscovery

Thursday, 30. November 2023

On November 4th, 1834, the Royal Library in Berlin received a parcel from Singapore that contained twenty-two paper and palm leaf manuscripts, as well as printed books, written in nine Asian languages. The shipment had been dispatched by the German missionary Karl Gützlaff, who, at the request of the library, had collected manuscripts since his arrival in Asia in 1827. […]  (More)

Dr. Andrea Acri: 

“The Old Javanese-Sanskrit Dharma Pātañjala: Pātañjala Yoga in a Javanese Śaiva Garb”

Thursday, 12. Oktober 2023

The 15th-century codex unicus containing the Old Javanese text Dharma Pātañjala (MS Schoemann I 21, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, 89 leaves) is an important and in many respects unique object. Besides documenting a rare tradition of palmleaf manuscripts from West Java, it is also among the oldest manuscripts recovered in the Indonesian archipelago. […]  (More)

Prof. Jun Sugawara (Lanzhou University):

The History Concealed in the Narrow Alley (tar kocha): Organizing and Researching the Kashgar Document Collection

Thursday, July 6, 2023

From the 21st century onward, one of the remarkable changes in Central Eurasian historical studies has been the investigation of indigenous documents alongside traditional historiographies. These sources, which include Islamic legal documents relating to real estate sales, debts, commercial transactions, legal disputes, religious donations (waqf), as well as personal memoranda, letters, accounts, and miscellaneous pieces of paper, have the potential to enrich historical research beyond conventional political and incident histories into a more nuanced understanding of social and economic histories. (More)

Dr. Julia Schneider (University College Cork):

Incredibly woke or cancel culture at its best? The Qianlong emperor’s censorship of Ming books (1770s–1780s)

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Did the Qianlong Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty (1636/1644-1912) issue an anti-racist campaign when he forbade Chinese books that discredited non-Chinese others? In my lecture, I aim to answer this question by introducing passages and terms that made Qing officials collect books for censorship. I focus on the so-called literary inquisition (c. 1772–1788) of the Qianlong emperor which particularly censored books from Ming times (1368–1644). Among other criteria, censors were liable to collect and destroy books that contained partial or derogatory descriptions of the Jurchen (the Manchus’ ancestors), Liaodong (the region of Manchu origin), and non-Chinese peoples in the northwest (the Manchus’ allies). (More)

Fengyu Wang (University of Heidelberg):

The Karmic Origins Painted Anew: The Reproductions of the Hachiman Handscrolls

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Hachiman engi 八幡縁起 or The Karmic Origins of Hachiman, narrates Empress Jingū’s 神功皇后mythical conquest of Korea, the birth of her son, Emperor Ōjin 応神天皇, and his miraculous manifestations as the deity Hachiman, literally “eight banners.” As the Hachiman veneration became widespread since the late thirteenth century, illuminated handscrolls of his inception legend were reproduced and dedicated to the newly founded Hachiman-gū Shrines across the country. (More)

Prof. Dr. Paul U. Unschuld (Charité Berlin):

Historical Resonances Illuminated – The Chinese Handwritten Health Care Volumes of the 16th through the 20th Century (Sammlung Unschuld, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin) as Resources of Knowledge”

Thursday, May 25, 2023

With the acquisition of the „Sammlung Unschuld“ the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin has significantly expanded its holdings of East Asian manuscripts. The Sammlung Unschuld includes more than 1000 volumes, dating from the 16th century to the mid-20th century, of personal records on health care, handwritten by professional physicians and itinerant healers, by the owners of apothecary shops and private households, by exorcists and Buddhists, students and other concerned individuals. (More)

Dr. Martin Gehlmann (Ruhr-Universität Bochum):

Consolidating the Ritual Landscape of Late Chosŏn Society: The Sarye p’yŏllam 四禮便覽 (The Manual of the Four Rites)

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Sarye p’yŏllam (四禮便覽) is a four-volume Korean ritual manual compiled by scholar-official Yi Chae 李縡 (1680–1746) in 1746. The manual is one of the most elaborate attempts to create a practical handbook of the family rituals that defined both life and death in the Confucian society of the late Chosŏn dynasty. It offers both theoretical background and practical advice on the ceremonies that accompanied the four most important events in individual and family life: coming-of-age, marriage, funeral rites and ancestor worship. (More)

Dr. Oliver Corff:

Transformative Processes in Manju Lexicology and Lexicography

March 2, 2023

The Han-i araha Manju gisun-i buleku bithe (Dictionary of Manju Words) of 1708, offering approx. 12,100 entries, is a major milestone in Manju lexicology and lexicography as it offers precise definitions of the meaning of Manju words, and beyond that, the concept and structure of knowledge and thought in the Manju world of the Qing empire.

Its successor is the Han-i araha nonggime toktobuha Manju gisun-i buleku bithe (Enlarged and Revised Dictionary of Manju Words) of 1772, which offers approx. 18,655 entries, an apparent increase by more than 50% which, at first glance, confirms the word nonggime (“enlarged”) in the title of this dictionary. (More)

Beate Wonde (ehemals Kuratorin der Mori-Ōgai-Gedenkstätte):

Der größte Teil geht verloren? Das Wirken des Japanologen und Übersetzers Prof. Dr. sc. Jürgen Berndt

February 9, 2023

2023 wäre Jürgen Berndt 90 Jahre alt geworden. 30 Jahre nach seinem viel zu frühen Tod werden seine zahlreichen literarischen Übertragungen weiterhin rezipiert, sind Anregung und Maßstab für heutige Übersetzer:innen und werden von der wissenschaftlichen Fachwelt gleichermaßen geschätzt. Sein Wirken als Japanologe, Autor, Referent, als Impulsgeber und Motor in den Beziehungen zwischen der DDR und Japan ist 50 Jahre nach Aufnahme der diplomatischen Beziehungen zwischen der DDR und Japan nahezu vergessen. Nach einer Odyssee von Berlin nach Erfurt und 20 Jahre später wieder zurück nach Berlin gehört der Nachlass von Berndt zu den Beständen, die eher zufällig in die Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin kamen. (More)

Prof. i.R. Dr. Steffi Richter (Universität Leipzig):

Vom handgekurbelten Ormig zum digitalen Scanner: Ein Rückblick auf Studieren, Forschen und Lehren in zwei Wissens- und Kommunikationssystemen

January 12, 2023

In diesem Vortrag soll – anders als der Titel vielleicht suggeriert – nicht einfach nur technischer Fortschritt im wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten thematisiert werden. Vielmehr geht es um die paradoxe Kluft: zwischen wachsenden Informations- und Wissenspotentialen zum Einen und diese paralysierenden Zeitregimen zum Anderen; zwischen Textfluten bewirkenden Publikationsmöglichkeiten (und -zwängen) und immer mehr von „Kondensliteratur“ (Klaus Wagenbach) gefüllten Seminarbibliotheken; zwischen Beteiligungsversprechen und Entscheidungsmöglichkeiten, usw.

Und um den Versuch, diese Kluft in einem kleinen Lehrprojekt zu überwinden: die Geschichte vom „Inamura no hi“. (More)

Illustrated Architecture (Birgit Tsuchiya und Bernhard Strackenbrock):

Die 3D Digitalisierung der Typographia Sinica unter Einsatz der Fotogrammmetrie

December 01, 2022

Andreas Müller (1630-1694) schenkte die Typographia Sinica der Kurfürstlichen Bibliothek bei seiner Verabschiedung aus dem Amt im Jahr 1685. Es handelt sich dabei um ein aus massivem Eichenholz gefertigtes Schränkchen, das in zehn Schubladen mehr als 3.000 Drucktypen, auf deren einer Seite  chinesische Schriftzeichen eingeschnitten und auf deren anderer Seite mit Tinte Zahlen aufgetragen sind, enthält.

Die Typographia Sinica wird derzeit und für mindestens fünf Jahre im Humboldt Forum in Berlin im Rahmen des Ausstellungsbereichs Spuren des Ortes gezeigt. Im Sommer des Jahres 2019 ist sie durch die Firma Illustrated Architecture  3D digitalisiert worden. Im Vortrag wird das dabei angewandte Verfahren der  Fotogrammmetrie thematisiert werden. (More)

Dr. Diana Lange (Humboldt-Universität, Berlin):

Putting Tibet on the Map: A Journey Through Different Mapping Practices

November 17, 2022

By taking a look at Tibet, it becomes particularly clear how much mapping processes can vary from culture to culture and just how different mapmakers’ interests can be. Depictions of Tibet vary, depending on what perspective was employed. The contrast between indigenous, Chinese and European points of view is striking here. In very simplified terms it can be stated that maps of Tibet made by Europeans look very abstract, maps made by the Chinese way look more pictorial but also include abstract elements and maps made by the Tibetans look like living landscapes. Based on selected geographical maps of Tibet that have been produced over the years by different agents, for different reasons, with different techniques and from different materials Diana Lange will to discuss in her talk how spatial information of a specific region was conveyed in different “cartographic languages” and how these different languages influenced each other. Amongst these maps are three newly discovered bilingual manuscript maps from the State Library of Berlin. (More)

Prof. Dr. Edwin P. Wieringa (Universität zu Köln):

„Bissige Giftschlangen als Wächter fabelhafter Geschichtsschreibung in einer Zeit der kolonialen Erniedrigung“

October 27, 2022

Die javanische Handschrift Ms. or. quart. 355 Serat Kandha beinhaltet legendäre Erzählungen in Gedichtform über die alte sagenumwobene Vergangenheit von Java. Der Duktus ist unverkennbar die Palastschrift von Yogyakarta, während der Buchschmuck auf dem Bifolium einige spezifische Elemente hat, die Yogyakarta als Herstellungsort identifizieren lassen. Nicht zu übersehen sind die (insgesamt sechs) Abbildungen von zwei schlangenartigen Fabelwesen, welche ursprünglich aus der indischen Mythologie (Sanskrit nāga) stammen, aber in ganz Südostasien bekannt sind. Sollten die an allen Richtungen platzierten Nagas, die alle ein weitgeöffnetes Maul mit spitzen Giftzähnen zeigen, ihre übliche Beschützerrolle spielen? Im Vortrag wird näher auf den historischen Hintergrund dieser Handschrift eingegangen, die kurz nach der Plünderung des Sultanspalasts von britisch-indischen Truppen (1812) angefertigt wurde. (More)

Prof. Dr. Christine Moll-Murata (Ruhr Universität Bochum):

„Drucke aus dem Fernen Westen für den Qianlong-Kaiser: Der Sieg in Xinjiang und die Folgen“ (YouTube-Video)

September 01, 2022

Eines der berühmtesten und frühesten Digitalisate der Ostasienabteilung der Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz ist eine Sammlung von 64 Abdrucken von Schlachtenkupfern. Sie sind gut dokumentiert und erforscht. So werden die erhaltenen Kupferplatten derzeit im Ethnologischen Museum Berlin untersucht. Dieser Vortrag geht auf die erste Serie ein, die einzige, die im Ausland angefertigt wurde. Dabei liegt das Hauptaugenmerk auf der Darstellung des zweiten Teils der Xinjiang-Feldzüge, dem Krieg gegen die muslimischen Altishar-Khojas im Tarimbecken. Welche Gewichtung kommt den Kampfszenen und den Situationen von Unterwerfung und Sieg zu? Welches Menschenbild wird gezeigt, auch im Kontrast zu den Menschendarstellungen der anderen Schlachten? Neben einer kunsthistorischen Einordnung diskutiert der Vortrag die Historiographie dieser Epoche im Zusammenhang mit der Rolle eines frühen muslimischen Verbündeten der Qing, des Machthabers Huojisi bzw. Khojis Beg von Ush (gest. 1781). (More)

Dr. Mårten Söderblom Saarela (Academia Sinica, Taiwan):

„Manchu philology at the Qianlong court“ (YouTube-Video)

August 04, 2022

The late eighteenth century witnessed the flourishing of a brand of precise philological scholarship known as “evidential learning” (kaozheng xue or kaoju xue). In the hands of Chinese scholars from the lower Yangzi region, subjects ranging from classical learning to geography and mathematics were subjected to a first and foremost textual and historical form of research. The role of the Qing court, headed by the Manchu Qianlong emperor, in the emergence of this kind of scholarship has long been a matter of debate. Some have seen Qing imperial power as an inhibiting factor that pushed research into politically harmless discussions of textual minutiae, whereas others have recognized the importance of the court as a patron of “evidential learning.” Whatever the case, the Manchu political leadership remains on the sidelines of an ultimately Chinese project. (More)

Prof. Dr. Eric Schluessel (George Washington University):

„Marketing and Social Structure in the Uyghur Homeland: Documents from the Turfan Oasis“ (YouTube-Video)

June 16, 2022

Newly discovered manuscripts from the State Library of Berlin reveal new facets of village life in the Uyghur homeland of Xinjiang, China (East Turkestan) in the 1890s. These documents show how ordinary merchants, artisans, and farmers navigated an economy that was increasingly oriented to the market and towards China proper. From merchants‘ notebooks, legal documents, and grain relief records, we see networks of market actors, even families, emerge. (More)

Prof. Dr. Sven Osterkamp (Ruhr-Universität Bochum):

„Sinica in der churfürstlichen Bibliothek zu Zeiten von Andreas Müller und Christian Mentzel – und ihr späterer Verbleib“ (YouTube-Video)

June 02, 2022

Im Vortrag werden zuerst altbekannte, wie auch neuere Quellen zur Zusammensetzung der Berliner Sinica-Sammlung zu Zeiten von Andreas Müller und Christian Mentzel gegen Ende des 17. Jahrhunderts vorgestellt, um darauf zumindest exemplarisch ihren oft noch unklaren späteren Verbleib zu beleuchten. Im Fokus stehen dabei mehrere Fälle, für deren Schicksal offenbar Julius Klaproth im frühen 19. Jh. eine wesentliche Rolle zukommt. (Mehr)