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Chinese language collections

The British Library holds extensive collections of Chinese language material in the form of manuscripts, printed books and periodicals.

Please note that there are delivery issues affecting some books published between 1900 and 1985 with shelfmarks in the range 14002 to 19968 following their move to a new storage facility. Please see further information on moves of Asian language materials.

Garden of Rarity

Pages from Shaoyouyuan ershisi xiaozhaotu ('Views in the garden of rarity'), 1815, by Xia Xiangeng. 15323.b.15. Copyright © The British Library Board


The collections

Most of the British Library's Chinese-language material is held in the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections. Items in Manchu, Mongolian and the languages of Chinese ethnic groups are also included in these collections.

We hold more than 90,000 printed books, together with 2,500 periodical titles.  Current collecting policy aims to maintain a broad coverage of the humanities and social sciences by obtaining material from the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. There are also very significant manuscript holdings. More details of these collections are available here.

Points to note


Books, periodicals and manuscripts in Chinese are catalogued in a number of separate catalogues, not in Explore the British Library. 

For books and periodicals in western languages from and about China, however, see Explore the British Library.

Manuscripts from Chinese Central Asia

Manuscripts in Chinese, Tibetan, Uighur, Tangut, Prakrit, Khotanese and other languages, on paper, wood and other media, from Chinese Central Asia (many from Dunhuang) number more than 40,000. These are curated by the International Dunhuang Project (IDP) at the British Library. Many of these manuscripts are fragile and, therefore, restricted. Any application to see the collection can be made through an online form or if you wish to make an enquiry about the collection please email Up to one month's notice is required.

Items in Chinese elsewhere in the British Library

Although the Chinese Section of the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections purchases some volumes on traditional Chinese medicine to supplement its large holdings of Qing period (1644-1911) medical works, publications on the natural sciences and technology are obtained by the Science, Technology & Business section. Other items in Chinese are to be found at British Library Newspapers and the Map Library in London, and the Document Supply Service at Boston Spa.


Asian and African Studies
British Library
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United Kingdom

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

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