About the Chinese Collection

Thread-bound Chinese books

The East Asian (EA) Chinese Collection was established in 1936, the year in which the UC East Asian Collection was founded. At that time, the Chinese Collection consisted of 3,000 volumes, including Herrlee G. Greel’s personal gift of 2,100 volumes. In 1939 Greel applied for, and received, a $25,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, with which he purchased 70,000 volumes of Chinese books within a few years. From 1943 to 1944, the Chinese Collection was further enhanced through a purchase from the Newberry Library. The Newberry Chinese collection includes Ming and Qing rare books, as well as Buddhist Sutras. Besides Chinese language materials, it also includes Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan texts. Ever since the 1950s, under the direction of Dr. Tsuen-Hsuin Tsien, the Chinese Collection has continued to develop rapidly in quantity as well as quality, and has been recognized as one of the leading Collections in North America.

Chinese Engraved Block Printing
Chinese Engraved Block Printing

The Collection is especially strong in classics, history, art and art history, philosophy, and classical and contemporary literature. The strengths are also found in the holdings of pre-modern local gazetteers (地方志) and collectanea (叢書). Major collectanea include the Si ku quan shu, Si bu cong kan, Cong shu ji cheng, and Gu jin tu shu ji cheng. Sustained effort has been devoted to collecting primary resources in order to support research and curricular developments. These resources include a pre-1949 Chinese newspaper collection of more than 200 titles in microfilm format, the most comprehensive collection of its kind in North America, as well as a collection of about 1,000 titles of Chinese rare books and manuscripts produced between AD 800 and AD 1795. In the last number of years, the collection has continuously sought to collect large sets of primary resources in fields such as history, literature, and art and art history. Last year, an E-book database was created for the collection, representing a total of more than 2,000 titles selected from a pool of more than 12,000 offered by CNKI.

The University of Chicago Library also holds significant materials in English and other Western languages on China Studies. The Western-language materials are shelved within the general collection. An excellent collection on Chinese films is held by the East Asia Film Library, which features a total of more than 3,600 items, located in, and managed by, the Center for East Asian Studies.

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