Chinese Collections at the Bodleian Libraries

Chinese books have been part of the Bodleian Libraries’ collections since the Library’s foundation in 1602.

The first known acquisition of a Chinese book dates to 1604. Our founder – Sir Thomas Bodley – was instrumental in starting this collection, even though he did not speak or understand Chinese.  His handwriting appears in the 1604 book.

The collection grew over the following four centuries and it continues to grow today.

It is now one of the most significant Chinese rare book and manuscript collections outside China, containing the largest number of Chinese books that arrived in Europe in 17th century.

As part of a ten-year project funded by Chung Hon Dak Foundation, the Bodleian have digitised over 1,800 items, as well as worked with the local Chinese community to explore the collections in more detail. 

Here you can explore six highlight objects and themes introducing the collections.


Explore the digitised Chinese collections on Digital Bodleian