Our digital collections cover a wide range of topics and disciplines that you can explore through Open Collections. Among our thousands of digital items, you can find materials to support your research, your teaching, and even your imagination. Below, we’ve selected a few of our collections that may be helpful when researching topics related to Asian Studies.


Rikuchū no kuni yōsan no zu. 6


There are many collections that can be used as a resource for historical Asian Studies, including:

  • Chinese Rare Books Collection: this collection is mainly composed of works from the Puban and Pang Jingtang. You can find census information, literature, as well as historical, political, and military documents from China covering the years 1368 to 1959.
  • Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era: this is the world’s largest collection of maps and guidebooks of the Tokugawa Era. It contains travel maps, guides and stunning woodblock prints. The collection is used as a resource at the ASIA 453: Japanese Travel Literature class. If you are curious to know more, check out our blog post Explore Open Collections: Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era.
  • Meiji at 150: the collection is part of the Meiji at 150 project, which was created to celebrate the 150 years since the start of the Meiji Era in Japan. The collection consists of materials produced during the period, including: woodblock prints, photographs, books, albums, and booklets. Visit the Meiji at 150 website to learn more about planned special events, lecture series, workshop series, podcast, and digital teaching resources.
  • One Hundred Poets: the collection consists of 74 books and 20 sets of cards of the Japanese poetry anthology “Hyakunin Isshu” (One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each). This anthology, edited by Fujiwara no Teika, became the most famous poetry anthology in Japan. Get to know about this collection, more specifically about the card sets, by checking out our blog post Utagaruta: a poetry game.


Family wedding portrait, Vancouver, B.C.


If you are interested in studying Japanese and Chinese life in Canada, then the following collections will be helpful:

  • Chinese Canadian Stories: composed of several sub-collections and fonds, this collection covers a wide range of topics, including Chinese Canadian military service, businesses, and social life in Canada.
  • The Chung Collection: the collection contains materials that can be comprised into three themes: British Columbia History; Immigration and Settlement; and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The collection has several materials relating to the Chinese community in British Columbia.
  • Yip Sang Collection: the collection contains Yip Sang’s personal and business-related materials. Yip Sang was an important businessman in the Chinese community in Vancouver and was often referred to as the “major of Chinatown”. Get to know more about him and his collection in our blog post Explore Open Collections: Yip Sang Collection.
  • Japanese Canadian Photograph Collection: this collection contains materials that registered the life of Japanese Canadians in British Columbia. The collection is a great resource for anyone researching about how Japanese Canadians were treated during the World War II.
  • Tairiku Nippo (Continental Daily News): this publication was an important information source for Japanese Canadians in British Columbia. It was published between 1907 and 1941, and is a valuable resource for studying the history of the Japanese Canadians before the World War II.

Lately, we’ve been highlighting some important lessons that can be learned in our collections, including the history of typography, how surgery was performed in the 16th century, and which artists are responsible for the art in the Chung Collection. But did you know that our collections also contain important business lessons? That’s right, business lessons from the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) collection, which is part of our Chung Collection! 


1. Keep Your Word

The Canadian Pacific Railway was built to fulfill a pledge that John A. Macdonald made to British Columbia. To be part of the Canada, BC demanded that a transcontinental railway should be built to connect the west and east.

Map of Canadian Pacific Railway, Kootenay District, British Columbia, 1904


2. Manage Projects Closely

British Columbia gave the Canadian government ten years to build the railway. Despite the complexity of building railways across Canada, the Canadian Pacific Railway completed the project before the estimated time.


3. Take Initiative

Although the railway project was successfully completed, and there was now a connection between the Canadians coasts, there were not enough people actually using it, which affected business profitability. As a result, the CPR sold their lands near the railway to settlers and immigrants in order for them to occupy the Prairies. The settlers did not know how to farm in the Prairie environment, so the CPR created ready-made farms where buyers could purchase the land and immediately start seeding the soil. The CPR also created initiatives to educate farmers on how to cultivate prairie soil. In the early 1900s, the CPR spent more money than the Canadian government in promoting immigration and settlement.

Ready made farms in Western Canada, 1910


4. Create Business Opportunities

The CPR management noticed that passengers needed a place to stop and rest during long trips across the country, so they decided to build their own hotels. Seeing the potential of the tourism trade, the CPR began to explore possible attractions for their hotels. This led to the discovery of natural hot springs in Alberta and the founding of the Banff Hot Springs Reserve (later Banff National Park), Canada’s first National Park. The park became a popular destination for vacations.

Canadian Pacific Hotels from Atlantic to Pacific, 1942


5. Transform Barriers into Opportunities

The CPR business was tested on several occasions. A notable example was when a climber unfortunately died while climbing Mount Lefroy in Banff National Park. In order to avoid any future tragedies and possible negative word of mouth, the CPR began to hire Swiss hiking guides to lead tourists through the mountains and ensure their safety. In the 55 years that the program was in place, no one died.

The challenge of the mountains, 1907


6. Diversify

You always hear that you should never put all your eggs in one basket. The CPR definitely took that advice to heart. Around 1971, their main businesses were: railway, ships, hotels, mines, minerals and manufacturing, oil and gas exploration, airlines, telecommunications, trucking, and real estate.

Canadian Pacific Airlines: straight to the point, 1946


7. Innovate

There was a time when telegrams were very popular at Christmas time. People loved to see the CPR telegram boy come to their door in his gray uniform to give them a colored telegram designed by the CPR’s art department, along with messages from their relatives. But the CPR’s real innovation was the Santagram, which were telegrams sent by Santa Claus himself to children.


8. Be Socially Responsible

The CPR contributed to the education of children in Northern Ontario, by bringing a school car to remote areas of the province. The car came equipped with a chalkboard, desks, a map, a library, and an area for the teacher to live. The car would typically stay in the same place for five days, then move around to other regions, leaving enough homework for the children to do until its return.



Canadian Pacific Railway (Historica Canada)

Canadian Pacific Railway (UBC Library)

CPR history for students (CPR)

Our history (CPR)

The story of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR)

Sing Tao Weekly features The Chung Collection.

If you take a look at the Canadian Pacific Railway Company posters in our Chung Collection, you’ll be amazed by all of the wonderful paintings depicting early and mid 20th-century travel in Canada. These promotional posters were created to attract tourists to the many trains, hotels, world cruises, Canadian tours, and airplanes owned by Canadian Pacific Railway Company.

Several artists in Canada were recruited to design these materials, including Norman Fraser, A. C. Leighton, Peter Ewart, Kenneth Shoesmith, Roger Couillard and A. Y., among others.

Get to know a little about two of these artists.


Alfred Crocker Leighton (1901-1965)

Born in October 27, 1901, in Hastings, England, Leighton used his drawing skills to win a scholarship at the Brassey Institute, Hastings’ Municipal School of Art. Initially, he studied architecture to satisfy his father’s wishes, but after an intervention, his father agreed to let Leighton study art.

Between 1919 and 1924, Leighton worked as a toy designer and became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists after submitting one of his works. In 1924, he and a partner built a working scale model of the port of Liverpool, which caught the public’s attention along with the interest of certain Canadian Pacific Company executives.

Later that year, he was hired by the Canadian Pacific Company. He would travel on the company’s trains, jump off to sketch scenes, and then get back on the next train. He returned once more to the UK, before coming back to Canada and settling down in 1929. Leighton worked as Art Director of the Art Institute of Calgary, formed the Alberta Society of Artists, and established the Banff School of Fine Arts.

Learn more about Leighton’s history at the Leighton Art Centre website. This is a sample of his work in our Chung Collection:

Chateau Lake Louise, 1938


Canadian Pacific Empress of Australia, 1925


Peter Ewart (1918-2001)

Peter Ewart was born April 7, 1918, in Kisbey, Saskatchewan, but was raised in Montreal. Although Ewart enjoyed playing hockey and marbles with his friends, his true passion was painting and drawing, which lead him to study art in Montreal and later in New York City.

During World War II, Ewart enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). While in service, he was stationed in British Columbia for a time, first at Pat Bay and then at Spider Island. Ewart was so amazed by the beautiful BC scenery that he decided to settle there after the war.

After moving to Vancouver, Ewart was hired by the Canadian Pacific Company, creating over 20 posters and two serigraphic prints for them. But Ewart’s work goes beyond commercial illustrations. His paintings have been exhibited in the Royal Academy (London, England), Royal Canadian Academy, Canadian National Exhibition, and Mid-Century Exposition of Canadian Painting, among others.

If you want to get to know more about Peter Ewart’s history, check out the website Peter Ewart. This is a sample of his work in our Chung Collection:

The three sisters Canadian Rockies, 1955


Banff-Lake Louise region Canadian Rockies via Canadian Pacific, 1941


Canadian Pacific train in the Rocky Mountains, 1940


If you are interested in knowing more about Canadian Pacific Railway and graphic art, check the book “Canadian Pacific: creating a brand, building a nation“. To see these and other items of the collection, access Open Collections.



A.C. Leighton: a biographical sketch (Sharecom)

Artwork and images of the C.P.R. (The Chung Collection)

Go Canada! When gorgeous graphic design lured the world to the great white north (Collectors Weekly)

Peter Ewart: an artist’s journey (Peter Ewart)

The early years (Leighton Art Centre)

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

UBC Library





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