Fang Collection

Fang Zhaoying (1908–1985), better known as Fang Chao-ying, was a noted historian and bibliographer. He was born in China but spent most of his adult life in the United States. His love of books and history began in childhood. He studied at the prestigious Yanjing (Yenching) University, under the distinguished historian and writer, William Hung (Hong Ye). Later the two men collaborated on major Chinese bibliographic projects.

In 1933 Fang moved to New York to study at the Library School of Columbia University. There he married fellow student Du Lianzhe (Tu Lien-che). From 1934 they worked together at the Library of Congress with Arthur Hummel on the groundbreaking biographical publication, Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period (1644–1912) (1943). Fang produced more entries for this compilation than any other contributor. After the War, Fang was employed at Columbia University, then at the University of California, Berkeley, and for two years in the early 1960s as associate librarian at The Australian National University. He returned to Columbia in 1963 to become co-editor with L. Carrington Goodrich of another monumental work, the Dictionary of Ming Biography, 1364–1644 (1976). Late in life he collaborated on The Records of Ming Scholars, a selected translation edited by Julia Ching (1987).

Fang died in 1985 while in China lecturing. At his memorial service, the highly respected China scholar, Jonathan Spence, who had been his student in Canberra, praised Fang for ‘a kind of scholarly standard the existence of which I had only guessed at … enormous learning … [and] unfailing kindness’.

Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period (1644–1912) (1943)

Dictionary of Ming Biography, 1364–1644 (1976)

The Records of Ming Scholars (1987)


The Fang Collection was purchased from Fang Zhaoying in 1961-62, when he was on the staff of The Australian National University.


Printed Materials

The collection has the distinction of containing the oldest printed volume held by the Library, a Chinese Buddhist publication dated 1162. In all, the Library acquired approximately 6000 titles from Fang. About half are in Chinese and the rest in English or other Western languages. The subject scope is broad. Fang’s primary interests were Chinese history and biography, especially of the Qing (Ch’ing) dynasty (1644–1911) and the twentieth century. Other topics include Chinese art, archaeology, literature and philosophy. The Western language books include some rare seventeenth and eighteenth-century titles on Chinese art, culture and history. There are also substantial runs of Chinese serials, such as a complete set of the National Palace Museum’s illustrated weekly about its collections, Gu gong zhou kan (1929–36). A major scholarly journal on Chinese history, literature and civilisation, Fu ren xue zhi, is also held (1928–45).

The following are a few of the rarer works in the Fang Collection:

Confucius, Sinarum philosophus, sive Scientia sinensis latine exposita, studio et opera Prosperi Intorcetta, Christiani Herdtrich, Francisci Rougemont, Philippi Couplet ... / Adjecta est tabula chronologica sinicae monarchiae abhujus exordio ad haec usque tempora [auctore Philippo Couplet]. This is the original 1687 Latin edition of one of the major Jesuit works that influenced European Enlightenment thinkers by presenting Confucianism in a favourable way.

Da ban ruo bo luo mi duo jing / Xuanzang feng zhao yi (1162). The Library holds volume 42 only. It is by far the oldest printed volume held by the Library.

J.-B. Du Halde, A Description of the Empire of China and Chinese Tartary, Together with the Kingdoms of Korea and Tibet (2 vols, 1738–41). This is the English version of one of the most influential eighteenth-century Western works about China.

Sir Henry Ellis, Journal of the Proceedings of the Late Embassy to China: Comprising a Correct Narrative of the Public Transactions of the Embassy, of the Voyage to and from China, and the Journey from the Mouth of the Pei-Ho to the Return to Canton(1817). An account of Britain’s 1816 embassy to China, led by Lord Amherst.

Le Comte. Louis, Nouveaux memoires sur l’etat present de la Chine, 3 vols, 1697-98. One of the most positive early European descriptions of Chinese civilization, written by a leading Jesuit who was in China in 1687-92.

Magalhaes, Gabriel D., A new history of China, containing a description of the most considerable particulars of that great empire, 1688. The English version of a major French history of China.

Martini, Martino, Bellum Tartaricum, or the conquest of the most renowned empire of China, by the invasion of the Tartars, 1654. The English version of the first detailed description of the Manchu conquest of China.


The Library also holds one folder of manuscripts and papers of Fang. They include several letters in English and Chinese addressed to Fang in 1952–53. One of those in Chinese is from William Hung. Other correspondents include Nelson Wu and William Henry Scott. There is also a report, a photograph, an article and letters from the late 1930s, mostly by Rutherford J. Gettens. They mainly relate to examinations carried out on ancient Chinese oracle bones held at Harvard University.


The Chinese language works have been integrated into the Library’s Chinese Collection within the Asian Collections and the Western language books into the general collection. The manuscripts are held in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 1922.


de Bary, William Theodore, Obituary: Chao-ying Fang (1908–1985), Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 45, no. 5, November 1986, p. 1127.

Spence, Jonathan D., Fang Chao-ying … Delivered in 1985 at Mr Fang’s Memorial Service, in Chinese Roundabout: Essays in History and Culture, Norton, New York, 1992, pp. 351–4