Chinese collection

Thunder gods and other protective figures on a Ming-dynasty Chinese printed concertina
Detail from a Ming edition of The Precious Scripture of the Jade Pivot (Yushu Baojing), ORB.99/161

The Library has over 100,000 printed books and 2,500 periodical titles in Chinese language

About the collection

The collection includes:

  • notable printed pieces from the Ming and Qing dynasties
  • the 868 AD Diamond Sutra (Jingang jing)
  • more than 450 oracle bone pieces
  • 24 volumes of the Ming dynasty compilation Yongle Dadian, corresponding to 49 chapters - the largest collection in Europe
  • 5 Ming dynasty banknotes
  • notable imperial manuscripts from the Qing dynasty

Our collection of Chinese newspapers and serials is largely based upon the titles from Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong acquired through local publications ordinances from the late 19th century, including a run of the Peking Gazette (Jingbao) that is almost continuous from 1820 to 1910.

Chinese material can also be found in mapsvisual art, the India Office Records and India Office Library.

The collection includes material in Manchu, Tangut and Naxi among others.

What is available online?

The International Dunhuang Project has conserved and digitised Chinese material from Dunhuang and the Silk Road (Stein collection).

Online Gallery and Digitised Manuscripts have a selection of digitised material. 3D models of some Chinese items are available on the British Library SketchFab page.

Online repositories of external institutions that we collaborate with contain digitised items from our Chinese collection:

The Endangered Archives Programme has digitsed collections from China.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Several catalogues are available in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room to help you find Chinese manuscripts and printed books in our collection.

A number of key electronic resources for the study of East Asia are available. For licensing reasons, most of these may be accessed only from the Reading Rooms.

Further information