Digitising Chinese oracle bones

Micro-CT scan image of a Chinese oracle bone
Oracle bone

This project digitised and put online more than 480 Chinese 'oracle bones' and strengthened our links with institutional partners in China.

Published date:

About the project

As part of the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange, the Library received funding from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to develop and strengthen its links with Chinese institutions, and to deliver a project based on cooperation and mutual exchange.

The project focussed on the 3,000-year-old Chinese oracle bones. These are the oldest items in the British Library and they present challenges in handling, cataloguing, exhibition, conservation and digitisation.

From April 2015 to March 2016, we worked alongside our colleagues of the National Library of China in Beijing to better understand how to preserve these precious items for future generations and to make them permanently accessible worldwide using digital technologies.


The project was divided into a technical/conservation strand and a curatorial/research strand. It included the following activities:


This project enabled the Library to:

  • offer permanent worldwide online access to its oracle bones collection
  • create stronger and more diverse links with the National Library of China and several UK institutions
  • share knowledge and experiences
  • create the basis for developing future research and digitisation activities.


East Asia

Resources for the study of East Asian languages and cultures