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Chinese and Sino-Western manuscripts collection

Identifier: ubl054

Scope and Contents

The collection contains materials in Chinese and in mixed Chinese and Western languages. Several distinct thematic groupings can be distinguished:

The older Chinese manuscript holdings, which reflect the Sinological interest in the Netherlands during the last centuries. Among the early collectors the name of J. Th. Royer, lawyer, Chinese art collector and amateur sinologists should be noted.

The Chinese materials in the permanent loan collection of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in Amsterdam.

A collection of Yao manuscripts, acquired by the library in 1993. This collection of some twenty-seven manuscripts, originating from the Yao people in Yunnan and Guangdong, not only contains Taoist texts but also some school books and divination handbooks.

The personal archives from the Bibliotheca Publica Latina of several scholars, namely two 19th-century Dutch Sinologists and interpreters for the Netherlands-Indies government, C.F.M. de Grijs (BPL 1780-1783) and M. Schaalje (BPL 2104-2106), and of the Japanologist and Sinologist J.J. Hoffmann (BPL 2186). These extensive archives contain a wealth of information on a great variety of subjects, such as treaties, consular matters, Chinese in Indonesia, tax farming, folk religion, secret societies, opium, gambling, moral maxims, lexicographical notes, notes on Mandarin and Chinese dialects, medicine, wild silk cocoons, the Kongsi wars in Borneo (1850-1855), Christianity in China, Bible translations and Japanese studies.


  • Creation: 17th to 20th century

Language of Materials

Various languages, mostly Mandarin and Chinese dialects, also Dutch, English and French.

Conditions Governing Use

Regulations that apply during the use of these materials can be found on the website of Leiden University Library.


280 manuscripts (circa)

Abstract in Dutch

Collectie Chinese manuscripten, aantekeningen en brieven van Westerse sinologen berustend in de bijzondere collecties van de Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden, Witte Singel voor de vestiging van de Asian Library in 2017.

Abstract in English

Collection of Chinese manuscripts, notes and letters of Western sinologists held in the special collections of Leiden University Library at Witte Singel before the creation of the Asian Library in 2017.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

Most manuscripts can be found in the online catalogue.

The Chinese manuscripts (and 11 early printed books) that were kept in University Library at Witte Singel before 2005 is described in Kuiper [et al.] 2005.

The letters of European sinologists in the Bibliotheca Publica Latina collection can be accessed through the online catalogue, using either personal name or shelfmark.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Chinese manuscripts, notes and papers were left to Leiden University Library by European sinologists from the 18th century onwards. Many of the earlier Chinese manuscripts were acquired through the Dutch colonial presence in the Netherlands East Indies or the Dutch trading post at Deshima, Japan.

In 1856 a number of Chinese books was given in permanent loan by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences of Amsterdam (KNAW).

Chinese manuscripts, notes and papers were left to Leiden University Library by amateur sinologists like J.Th. Royer (1737-1807) and the father of Dutch japanology and sinology, the German-born J.J. Hoffmann (1805-1878), who taught at Leiden from 1855. The collections of C.F.M. de Grijs (1832-1902) and M. Schaalje (1840-1899), Chinese interpreters in the Netherlands East Indies, are also of note.

Among the more recent acquisitions a collection of twenty-seven Yao manuscripts deserves special mention.


At present, the University Library acquires Chinese manuscripts (and early printed books) on a very modest scale.

Related Materials

Until 2016 the main part of Leiden University’s Chinese collections was held at the East Asian Library at Arsenaal. These collections consist mainly of modern printed books, images, documentation materials, but there also special collections, including manuscripts and rare books (partly described in Schlegel 1883 and Schlegel 1886), such as the VGK Collection and Van Gulik Collection, and archives such as the Archive of the Kong Koan. In 2016-2017 the East Asian Library was incorporated in the new Asian Library at Witte Singel.


  • Kuiper, K., J.J. Witkam & Yuan Bingling, Catalogue of Chinese and Sino-Western manuscripts in the central library of Leiden University = Laidun daxue Zongtushuguan cang Zhong Xi wen chaoben yu shougao mulu. Leiden 2005. (Codices manuscripti, 33)
  • Schlegel, G., Catalogue des livres chinois qui se trouvent dans la Bibliothèque de l’Université de Leide. Leide1883.
  • Schlegel, G., Supplément au Catalogue des livres chinois qui se trouvent dans la Bibliothèque de l’Université de Leyde. Leide 1886.


The material can be requested in the online catalogue. It can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Processing Information

The manuscripts have a shelfmark beginning with Or., Acad. (KNAW collection) or BPL (De Grijs, Schaalje and Hoffmann).

Collection guide of the Chinese and Sino-Western manuscripts collection (17th to 20th century)
Collectie Chinese handschriften
Arnoud Vrolijk en Koos Kuiper, 2006 ; Marc Gilbert, 2017
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
This finding aid has been written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 1 November 2017: latest update

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

Witte Singel 27
Leiden 2311 BG Netherlands
+31 71 527 2857