This collection draws on materials in the University of Manchester Library Chinese Collection which contains over 500 rare printed books, dating from the Ming dynasty to 19th-century Qing China, smaller quantities of manuscript material and approximately 1,000 watercolour paintings, mostly 18th- and 19th-century, depicting many aspects of Chinese society. The contents reflect almost every aspect of Chinese life and culture, and include biographies, calligraphic manuals, dictionaries, grammar books, histories, religious scrolls, as well as philosophical, scientific and technical treatises. The collection also provides valuable evidence of the interests of European Sinologists and collectors in the 18th and 19th centuries.
There are a number of catalogues covering different parts of the Chinese collection, in English and Chinese. These are available as pdfs. More recent work to unlock the collection has been undertaken with support of the John Rylands Research Institute and Manchester Confucius Institute. From May 2018 to January 2019, Dr Johannes S. Lotze worked on the library’s Chinese collections and produced a report covering the collection strengths and highlighting individual items of significance. The project was generously funded by the Manchester Confucius Institute. You can read the report in full here.
The descriptions here are mostly based on a catalogue facilitated by Beijing Normal University: Li Guoying, Zhou Xiaowen, and Zhang Xianrong, Yingguo Manchesite Daxue Yuahan Lailanzi tushuguan Zhongwen guji mulu Bibliography of ancient Chinese books in John Rylands library at University of Manchester (Beijing, 2018). These have been revised and expanded by Dr Johannes S. Lotze (Postdoctoral Fellow in Medieval Chinese History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Dr Gregory Adam Scott (Senior Lecturer in Chinese Culture and History, University of Manchester).