National Library of China

The National Library of China (simplified Chinese: 中国国家图书馆; traditional Chinese: 中國國家圖書館; pinyin: Zhōngguó guójiā túshūguǎn) or NLC in Beijing is the largest library in Asia, and one of the largest in the world with a collection of over 23 million volumes. It holds the largest and among the richest worldwide collections of Chinese literature and historical documents.

The forerunner of the National Library of China, the Capital Library, was founded on 24 April 1909 by the Qing government. The name of the library was at that time 'The Metropolitan Library' (Jīng​shī​ tú​shū​guǎn​, 京师图书馆). It was first formally opened after the Xinhai Revolution, in 1912. In 1916, the library received depository library status. In July 1928, its name was changed to National Beijing Library and was later changed to the National Library.

The National Library of China's collection inherited books and archives from the "Imperial Wenyuange Library" collection of the Qing Dynasty and that, in turn, included books and manuscripts from the library of the Southern Song Dynasty. The library also contains inscribed tortoise shells and bones, ancient manuscripts, and block-printed volumes. Among the most prized collections of the NLC are rare and precious documents and records from past dynasties in Chinese history, and it also houses official publications of the United Nations and foreign governments and a collection of literature and materials in over 115 languages.

Notable collections and items in the library are:

  • a collection of over 270,000 ancient and rare Chinese books and historical documents, and over 1,640,000 traditional thread-bound Chinese books
  • over 35,000 inscriptions on oracle bones and tortoise shells from the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th–11th Century BC)
  • more than 16,000 volumes of precious historical Chinese documents and manuscripts from the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang
  • copies of Buddhist sutras dating to the 6th century
  • old maps, diagrams, and rubbings from ancient inscriptions on metal and stone
  • rare copies of ancient manuscripts and books of Five Dynasties periods, including a large number of ancient manuscript volumes on different subjects
  • books and archives from imperial libraries dating to the Southern Song Dynasty (c. 1127)
  • the most complete surviving Ming Dynasty copies of the Yongle Encyclopedia ("Great Canon of the Yongle Era")
  • a copy of the Siku Quanshu ("Complete Library of the Four Branches of Literature") of the Qing Dynasty
  • essential literary and books collection from Qing Dynasty's imperial colleges and renowned private collectors

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