Description of the collection

The Chinese collection of the National Library is a rich source of information on the history, culture and current affairs of China. The collection is the largest in Australia and focuses primarily on modern and contemporary China. The major strengths are in the subject fields of the social sciences, especially economics, statistics, politics and government, foreign relations and law; Chinese modern history (after 1911) and biography.

The Library actively purchases new materials from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan and has been steadily building its digital collections on China. These include Apabi eBooks, CNKI eBooks, iRead eBooks, series G (Politics/Military Affairs/Law), H (Education and social Sciences) and J (Economics and Management) of the China Academic Journals database.

A further strength of the Chinese collections are a number of scholarly research collections within the Chinese collection. They include the libraries of Walter Percival Yetts on Chinese archaeology and fine arts, of Fang Zhaoying on modern Chinese history, of the London Missionary Society, of Walter Simon on Chinese language and literature, and the Australian Buddhist Library, donated by Eric Liao.

The National Library houses the largest collection of Chinese pith paintings in Australia. They have been collected to complement and illustrate the Library’s extensive resources on 19th century China and its interaction with the West. Chinese pith paintings were produced as mementoes to take home for the many foreign merchants, sailors and other visitors to Canton. Instead of paper thin sheets of pith cut from the Tetrapanax tree were used. The pith paintings deal with many aspects of Chinese life which appealed to foreigners. They have been called the picture postcards of their day. The Library holds images on a wide range of subjects. 

Use of the Chinese collections

Materials in the Chinese Collection may be consulted in the reading rooms. Remote users may request material on interlibrary loan through their own library, or request photocopies of items through the Copies Direct service.

Chinese collection on Australia 

The National Library has rich holdings of Chinese language works about Australia, whether published in China or Australia 

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