This was the Leiden Asia Year
2017 was the Leiden Asia Year. Leiden has had connections with Asia and built up extensive knowledge of the continent over many centuries. This Leiden-Asia link has been in the spotlight for the past year.
The highlight of the year was without doubt the opening of the new Asian Library, opened by Queen Máxima on 14 September. The Asian Library is located in a new extension built on the roof of the University Library, and is a treasure house for researchers and students of Asian languages and cultures. The Asian Library comprises over 30 kilometres of material. At the opening event in the Pieterskerk the Queen was presented with a richly illustrated book about the special collections of the Asian Library.
Cultural workshops and conferences
The opening of the Asian Library was just one of some 250 events organised by Leiden University in cooperation with eighty Leiden partners to celebrate the Leiden Asia Year. Students, staff and others interested in Asia were able to take part in such events as Asian calligraphy, dance or cookery workshops throughout the year. Numerous conferences and exhibitions were also organised about anything and everything to do with this vast continent.
Another highlight was the recognition of the collection of Panji manuscripts as an object of world heritage by UNESCO. The University Library holds more than 250 centuries-old stories about the mythical Javanese Prince Panji. These are unique handwritten works in a variety of types, sizes and languages. The University Library is currently engaged in digitising these ancient manuscripts. As this is a time-consuming and expensive business, a crowdfunding campaign has recently been started to help with funding.
An Asia Year would, of course, not be complete without international exchanges. In 2017 Leiden delegations made visits to China, South Korea and Japan. Leiden has had close bonds with Japan for centuries, and this visit served to strengthen these links. The municipality of Leiden this year also initiated a twinning relationship with the city of Nagasaki. Among the reciprocal visits was a visit by a high-level Chinese delegation.