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Leiden University now hosts world’s largest Indonesian collection

A traditional Balinese dancer, as performed at the opening of Leiden University's Asian Library. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Have an interest in Asia? Leiden University might be the place for you.

The oldest university in the Netherlands and among the country’s very best, Leiden has recently inaugurated its purpose-built Asian Library which hosts the largest Indonesian collection on the planet, as well as leading collections on South and Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Korea.

Back in September, Dutch royal Queen Máxima officially opened the new library in a ceremony that featured Balinese dance and gamelan music – a traditional instrument from Java and Bali.

The queen is a custodian of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies.

The library’s opening marks Leiden’s Asia Year 2017/18, a celebration of the culture and history of the region and its study.

Two of the items in the Asian Library’s collection are even listed in the Unesco Memory of the World register: La Galigo (1908), the world’s largest epic, written in Buginese language and script; and the manuscript of Babad Diponegoro, where the Javanese Prince and national hero Diponegoro recounts his war against the Dutch (1825-1830).

In addition to a vast collection, the Asian Library boasts a garden named after Philipp Franz von Siebold – a German botanist who was the first person to introduce Western medicine to Japan.

Leiden is the “only university in the Netherlands that offers an extensive programme in the languages and cultures of the Asian region” ranked 67th on the prestigious Times Higher Education rankings for 2018 and 79 on US News’ Best Global Universities index.

The Asian Library aims to “put Leiden (the city, its museums and the University) more firmly on the international map as one of the world’s leading knowledge hubs on Asia, covering research, teaching, collections and expertise.”

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