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Chinese language collections: Catalogues and guides

The British Library's Chinese language manuscripts, printed books and periodicals can be found in a variety of catalogues. Some of these are online, and some in hard copy. 


General Chinese manuscript catalogues

The following catalogues exist for manuscripts:

  • Register and classified inventory
  • R. K. Douglas, Catalogue of Chinese printed books, manuscripts and drawings in the library of the British Museum (London, 1877) 
  • Supplementary catalogue of Chinese books and manuscripts in the British Museum (London, 1903)
  • Wade-Giles catalogue, which contains some of the more important items (see the Printed books section below)
  • Auguste Prévost, Catalogue of Chinese manuscripts in the British Museum (1854) (shelfmark Or.11623)

The first four items on this list are available on the open shelves in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. The last can be ordered to the reading room via Explore the British Library (please ask the reading room staff for assistance).

If you cannot find what you are looking for in these catalogues, a handlist of Chinese manuscripts can be consulted on application to the Chinese section (contact details below).

Stein Collection

Stein and Other Chinese Central Asian Manuscripts Manuscripts from the Stein, Hoernele and other Chinese Central Asian Collections are not included in the catalogues listed above. These manuscripts are in Chinese, Tibetan, Uighur, Prakrit, Khotanese and other languages, on paper, wood and other media, and number more than 40,000.

Many of these manuscripts have been digitised and catalogued and are available on the website of the International Dunhuang Project, with a list of available catalogues.

Please note that many of these manuscripts are fragile and, therefore, restricted. Any application to see the collection can be made through an online form. Up to one month's notice is required.

Printed books

The catalogues of the Chinese language collections, which are available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room, consist of three sequences:

  • Items acquired before 1966 (regardless of the date of the imprint) are catalogued in Wade-Giles romanisation (on microfiche).
  • Items acquired after 1966 (regardless of the date of the imprint) are catalogued in Hanyu pinyin romanisation (in a card catalogue).
  • Items catalogued after November 1993 (regardless of the date of acquisition and imprint) are catalogued in the UK Union Catalogue of Chinese Books. This is a single, publicly accessible union catalogue of all major Chinese language collections in the UK, namely those in the British Library and the university libraries of Oxford (Bodleian Library), Cambridge, London (School of Oriental and African Studies Library), Leeds (Brotherton Library), Edinburgh and Durham. It enables searching for Chinese materials in both romanisation and simplified (jiantizi) or complex (fantizi) Chinese characters. This project is sponsored by the Research Support Libraries Programme (RSLP).

For translations of Chinese material into western languages, and western language works on China, see Explore the British Library.


The British Library's collection of Chinese newspapers and serials is largely based upon the large number of titles from Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong acquired through local publications ordinances from the late 19th century. It includes a run of the Jingbao (Peking gazette) from 1820, which is almost complete for 1840-1908 and was acquired from the Foreign Office. Some 700 current periodical titles are taken (and the total number of titles held is over 2,500).

To locate items in these collections, see the Wade-Giles and pinyin card catalogues (see the Printed books section above) and the UK Union Catalogue of Chinese Books.

For more information on these holdings, refer to

  • A bibliography of Chinese newspapers and periodicals in European libraries (Cambridge, 1975)

This item is available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. For further information on current holdings, see the contact details below.


Asian and African Studies
British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7873
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7641

E-mail: Ask the Reference Team