Chinese Maps, Manuscripts and Printed Books

Over 1,000 items from the Bodleian’s Chinese maps, manuscripts and printed books collections, acquired since the 17th century.

The Bodleian Library's Chinese collections date back to the earliest period of the Library’s history. Sir Thomas Bodley himself was instrumental in building up the collection, and during the following century the Library acquired other Chinese works from several bequests. The Bodleian now holds as many as a quarter of all the extant Chinese books that arrived in Europe in the 17th century.

Towards the end of the 19th century the Library acquired two large collections of missionary publications. These works have an interest which goes beyond their value as expositions of Christian doctrine: some are written in local dialects, others provide glimpses of the popular Chinese religious and social customs which the missionaries encountered in the course of their work; all illustrate the process whereby traditional Chinese block-printing was gradually replaced by Western typography.

Digitized items include: MS.Chin.c.15 and MS.Chin.c.37, two painted albums depicting the manners and customs of the peoples inhabiting mountainous regions of Yunnan, Guizhou and southwest China; MS.Laud Or.145, the well-known manuscript rutter, or manual of compass directions Shun feng xiang song (‘Favourable Winds in Escort’), which may have been derived from accounts of the voyages of the great Ming Dynasty navigator Zheng He; and the Selden Map of China, one of the first Chinese maps to reach Europe.