Building and Researching Chinese Libraries: Preservation, Digitisation, and Dissemination
Celebrating 420 Years of Chinese Books at the Bodleian Libraries
Started: Thu 06 June 2024
Ended: Fri 07 June 2024
Building and Researching Chinese Libraries: Preservation, Digitisation, and Dissemination

Explore 420 years of Chinese scholarship featuring keynotes and panels on preservation, digitisation, and the future of Chinese collections.

This two-day conference opens with a compelling keynote by Prof. Wilt L. Idema, titled 'The Perfect Chinese Library: Some Thoughts of an Impatient User,' exploring the evolution and future of Chinese libraries.

Engage in specialised panels such as 'Innovations in Digitization and Preservation,' which delves into advanced techniques in digital humanities, and 'Curating and Digitizing Chinese Heritage: Global Perspectives,' featuring global experts discussing the challenges and strategies in maintaining and showcasing Chinese collections.

Additional panels will cover topics like the role of technology in conserving rare books and the impact of international collaborations on Chinese studies.

This conference is open to all.

Day 1 of the conference will be chiefly in English.
Day 2 of the conference will be in Mandarin.

More details and sign-up link on:



Four hundred and twenty years ago, in 1604, in the year of the dragon, the founder of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Sir Thomas Bodley acquired his first Chinese book for his Library, laying the foundation for the Chinese collections in Oxford. Sir Thomas acknowledged the donor who made his acquisition possible by writing the donor’s name and the date on the end paper of the book, but without knowing that he was holding the Chinese book in wrong order and upside down. The book was a partial copy of the popular Confucian essentials, known as ‘Four Books’ (四書). By the time of his death in 1613, Sir Thomas acquired 49 volumes of Chinese books, which was likely to be the largest such collection in Europe at the time. In fact, a quarter of all Chinese books arrived in Europe in the 17th century are currently held in the Bodleian Library. Today, Bodleian Libraries holds one of the finest and most important Chinese rare book and manuscript collections in Europe and the largest Chinese collection in the UK.
2024 is also a year of the dragon and it is the seventh jiazi year (甲子年, 60-year cycle in Chinese calendar) since the first Chinese book was acquired by the Bodleian in 1604. 2024 is also the 10th anniversary year of the opening of the KB Chen China Centre Library. The Bodleian Library, joined by the TEXTCOURT project, are holding international conference to celebrate the 420th year of the Chinese book in Bodleian Libraries. The conference focuses on the history of collecting Chinese books and its digitisation, dissemination, and conservation, as well as digital humanities and research approaches related to Chinese collections. You are warmly invited to join us at the conference to celebrate the special occasion and learn about the remarkable stories of Chinese collections and digital projects, view Bodleian Library’s precious treasures, and enjoy many more activities in the Weston Library on 6-7 June 2024.


We extend our sincere thanks to the Chung Hon Dak Fund and the European Research Council (ERC) for their generous support. This conference is a collaborative effort between the East Asian Section of the Bodleian Libraries, sponsored by the Chung Hon Dak Fund, and the “TEXTCOURT: Linking the Textual Worlds of Chinese Court Theater, ca. 1600-1800” project, which has received funding from the ERC under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 819953). Their invaluable support has made this enriching gathering possible, allowing us to delve into significant aspects of Chinese cultural heritage.