Chinese Collection


The Yale University Library has been collecting Chinese language materials for about 170 years. Six titles of traditional stitch-bound Chinese texts were deposited to Yale in 1849, when the College Library became the first academic institution in the United States to collect Chinese books. The early acquisitions of Chinese books were mainly arranged for the Yale Library by missionary printer, scholar, and diplomat Samuel Wells Williams (1812-1884), who was Yale’s inaugural professor of Chinese language and literature. Yung Wing 容閎 (1828-1912), Yale Class of 1854 and the first Chinese student to graduate from an American college, gave his personal library to his alma mater. Yung Wing’s major donations in 1878 and 1911 laid the foundation of the Chinese collection.

The collection has also received valuable donations from prominent scholars including the personal collections of Professors Arthur Frederick Wright and Mary Clabaugh Wright, and the state gift of 1,346 books from President Hu Jintao 胡锦涛 of the People’s Republic of China upon his 2006 visit to Yale. Yale’s Chinese collection is one of the largest and finest collections in North America. The strengths of the collection are in literature, language, history, archaeology, art history, religion, and the social sciences.

The Chinese collection recently has been shifting from a predominantly print-based to an increasingly electronic-centered one. Databases of full-text primary sources, research tools, and online socioeconomic data are replacing the traditional large multi-volume literature and historical reprints. 

Departments/disciplines/programs/subject areas supported

The Chinese Collection supports the Chinese academic program of the Council on East Asian Studies and the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, as well as the Chinese Studies related course concentrations for graduate programs in anthropology, comparative literature, divinity, economics, film and media studies, global affairs, history, history of art, political science, religious studies, and sociology.   

The primary subject areas collected are in humanities and social sciences, with an emphasis on Chinese language primary sources and scholarly works. Due to limited budget, translation works into Chinese from other languages are excluded from the scope. The Chinese Collection is also responsible for collecting materials published in the field of Chinese studies (primarily history and all humanities disciplines) published in North America, Europe, and other imprint areas outside of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. The collection does not acquire Chinese language materials in natural sciences, engineering, modern medicinal sciences, or law (except legal history). The Arts Library, Divinity School Library, and Law School Library also actively collect Chinese language materials. The Divinity School Library collects materials in Chinese Christianity. The Arts Library has a recent interest in the fields of modern art and architecture in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The Southeast Asian Collection covers the Chinese language materials published in Southeast Asian countries with a focus on modern literature and local history of overseas Chinese community. 


The Chinese collection’s primary mission is to acquire resources for the support of instruction and research in Chinese studies at Yale. Recent acquisitions reflect the broad disciplinary range of this field. In addition, the Collection acquires contents on other topics published in the Greater China region as required by the Yale University Library and Yale users. While the needs of the Chinese studies program guide selection decisions, the collection also serves as a resource for the large and growing number of Yale students, faculty, and staff who come from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau or are native speakers of Chinese language.  

Formats collected

  • The primary focus of collection development is on electronic resources, monographs, monographic series, serials, proceedings, and reprints.
  • Dissertations, exhibition catalogs, government documents, pamphlets, manuscripts, maps/atlases, and audiovisual materials are acquired very selectively.
  • In principle, the Chinese Collection relies on the Film Study Center for the acquisition of feature films in Chinese language.
  • In recent years, subscriptions have been added for major electronic aggregators and online historical archives as well as newly available full-text digital classics and socioeconomic statistical databases.
  • Rare books are not collected.

Languages collected

The resources are collected primarily in Chinese. English language materials from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau are actively acquired but only published in low quantities.

Chronological and geographical focus

The geographical areas covered are Greater China region, including Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.

The chronological focus is on acquiring current resources.

Collaborations within Yale

  • Art Library: Acquire materials on modern art and architecture published in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong for the Art Library
  • Center for Science and Social Science Information: Collaborate to acquire subscriptions to Chinese census and GIS datasets
  • Divinity Library
  • Law Library: Collaborate to acquire Chinese newspapers
  • Southeast Asian Collection

Subject Librarian

Librarian for Chinese Studies
East Asia Library
Department of Area Studies and Humanities Research Support (DASHRS)
(203) 432-4438