Harvard-Yenching Library's collections stand at 1.3 million volumes, including approximately 800,000 in Chinese, 340,000 in Japanese, 170,000 in Korean, 19,000 in Vietnamese, 50,000 in various Western languages, 4,300 in Tibetan, 3,500 in Manchu, and 500 in Mongolian.
In addition, the library subscribes to over 2,000 current periodicals and journals in the five distinct languages that the library is responsible for collecting, plus Chinese statistical yearbooks. The microform collection has grown to nearly 118,000 reels of microfilm or pieces of microfiche.
The Harvard-Yenching Library has become the third-largest library among all Harvard libraries on campus, after Widener Library and Harvard Law School Library.
In general, the collections share certain common characteristics in that for each country they provide comprehensive coverage of history, language and literature, philosophy and religion, fine arts, and sources for the study of the modern and contemporary periods in the social sciences. Each collection, however, has its own unique features.
Highlights of the library's collections include several hundred rare Japanese Buddhist scrolls; a group of Dongba (Naxi) manuscripts in pictographic script; an extensive collection of Chinese rubbings; a large set of Korean genealogies and collected writings; significant holdings of early Vietnamese newspapers; the archives of the Lingnan University Trustees (a missionary university in Canton originally known as the Canton Christian College) from 1884 to 1952; missionary works in Chinese, including translations of the Bible in different dialects; Manchu works of historical and literary interest; printings of 18th century Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhist texts; and collections of personal papers, including those of Tsiang Ting-fu and Hu Han-min, an early Kuomintang elder statesman; George A. Fitch, who was for many years associated with the YMCA and other missionary activities in China; and Joseph Buttinger, author and Vietnam specialist.
A Tiananmen Archive was established in the fall of 1989 that includes handbills, petitions, and pamphlets distributed by the demonstrators and the government, eyewitness reports, photographs, and videotapes. The library also holds the Hedda Morrison Photographs of China and the Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr. Collection on Muslims in China, as well as other sets of photographs from early 20th century Korea and China.