The Librairie Française and the Manchu books at Capital Library, Beijing

Söderblom Saarela, Mårten. The Librairie Française and the Manchu books at Capital Library, Beijing. Manchu studies group. 6 March 2014. Consulté le 30 juin 2014, URL :

As the former imperial capital, Beijing is home to many of the greatest collections of Manchu literature in China. Students of Qing history will all be familiar with the First Historical Archives and the almost-as-inaccessible National Palace Museum Library in the Forbidden City. The reportedly largest collection of Manchu books in Beijing, that of the National Library, will perhaps remain known to us currently in the grad school pipeline only through hearsay, since their program of reorganization and digitization of all the books in the “ethnic classification” (mínzú lèi 民族類) seems to be dragging on indefinitely.

By contrast, one of the Manchu collections most accessible to the researcher is found at Capital Library (Shǒudū Túshūguǎn 首都圖書館) in the South-East of Beijing. The library’s older bathroom-tiled building has in the past year or so been complemented with a nice glass and steel extension, where anybody with a Chinese ID or foreign passport can register for a reader’s card. The expansion notwithstanding, the historical documents reading room is, as before, housed in the basement of the old building. Though not much frequented by researchers, it is staffed by a group of very helpful librarians; the basement holds a vast rare book collection, of which 84,203 volumes (prefixed by 乙 in the library catalog)—including more than 190 volumes of Manchu, Mongolian, and Tibetan books[1]—come from the Librairie Française, a Republican-era institution of legendary proportions. Although the details of the history of the collection are to the best of my knowledge still largely unknown, it is clear that its presence at the Capital Library can be attributed to the efforts and ultimate tragedy of an enterprising bookseller and publisher, Henri Vetch (1898–1978).

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Shoudu Tushuguan 首都圖書館

Sur Henri Vetch et la Librairie Française

  • 雷, 強 Lei, Chiang. 亨利.魏智及其北京法文圖書館 = Henri Vetch and his French Bookstore Peking. 圖書資訊學刊 = Journal of Library & Information Studies. 2013 (11-1), p.149-194. Consulté le 30 juin 2014, URL : (article en chinois, accompagné d’un résumé en anglais)


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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