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Bulletin of the European Association of Sinological Librarians

BEASL Number 10

Plans for a tour of sinological libraries in France

by Vincent Durand-Dastès (Sinodoc)

Bibiothèque national de France || Classical Studies || Modern Studies || University Libraries || City Libraries

As may be expected in such a highly centralised country, most of the sinological collections in France are kept in Paris, although a few very interesting ones do exist in villes de province and should not deserve to be left aside during a sinological trip to France. While in Paris, though, it would take you some time to get a general idea of the Chinese book holdings in town: they are quite scattered, as many unrelated institutions and libraries have a Chinese book department.

1/ Bibliothèque nationale de France

Most famous are the holdings of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF). The Département des manuscrits, division orientale, does not only hold Chinese manuscripts (i.e. the part of the Dunhuang manuscript collection brought back by Paul Pelliot in 1910), but also old xylographic books inherited from the Bibliothèque du Roi de France (with fine Qing dynasty imperial press editions) and modern studies and reprints about imperial China. The catalogue of the Dunhuang manuscripts has been completed (vol. 2 is presently not available). A catalogue of the printed books, by Maurice Courant, has also been published; it is quite old and outdated now, and a new computerised catalogue is not to be expected before the next century.

Even after the relocation of the BNF to its new building, the Département des manuscrits will remain in its present location (58 rue de Richelieu, 2nd arrondissement=arrt). The new BNF (quai de Tolbiac, 13th arrt) will also be housing Chinese books, but these will mainly comprise works on modern language and literature.

Note that access to the collection of the Département des manuscrits, division orientale and to the rez-de-jardin (researchers level of the new building; to be opened in 1998) is restricted: to get in you have to be a postgraduate student or prove that you are involved in a research project. The ordinary reader level (haut-de-jardin) in the new building is already open for visitors.

2/ Classical studies

A student on classical China should visit first the Bibliothèque de l'Institut des hautes études chinoises (IHEC) du Collège de France, 54 rue du Cardinal-Lemoine, 5th arrt. This building also houses the Chinese collections of the Société asiatique, who inherited Paul Demiéville's books. The IHEC library is one of the most comprehensive in France for studies on imperial China. Although not completed yet, its catalogue has been accessible on the Web since 1995 (check the EASL homepage). A printed catalogue of its congshu has also been published a few years ago by Françoise Wang.

Other Parisian libraries that are of great interest: the École française d'Extrême-Orient, (EFEO, 22 av. du Président-Wilson, 16th arrt) has an important collection of Chinese books and rubbings, as well as the nearby Musée des arts asiatiques-Guimet (6 place d'Iéna, 16th arrt), whose library is specialised in Chinese art, archaeology and religion (mainly Buddhism). The ancient book section of the Bibliothèque interuniversitaire des langues orientales (also nicknamed as Langues'O; 4 rue de Lille, 7th arrt) has a lot of 19th century editions and a few interesting local gazetteers. Its Japanese collections are quite big and it also holds rare Korean prints. In Chantilly, near Paris (30 min. by train), the Jesuits-owned Bibliothèque des Fontaines welcomes visitors in the nice surroundings of a small castle. It holds some part of the Jesuits holdings (about 4000 items) and of the collection brought from China by André d'Hormon (more than 3000 titles, mostly books from late Qing to the 1950s; catalogue by Lin Shujuan). Jesuit archives proper are now at the Archives des Jésuites (at Vanves, very near Paris, rue Raymond Marcheron) and other missionary materials are also kept at the Bibliothèque des missions étrangères in Paris (rue de Babylone, 7th arrt). Last, the small library of the Musée Kwok-On in Paris (57 rue du Théâtre, 15th arrt), specialised in traditional Chinese theatre and folklore, is unfortunately closed to the public for the moment, due to financial problems.

3/ Modern studies

The main library for modern studies is the Centre de recherche et de documentation sur la Chine contemporaine in Paris (widely known as Centre Chine, now in the same building as EFEO, 22 av. du Président-Wilson). It has the biggest collection of books and serials about modern and contemporary China in France. Another good collection of serials (and books, mostly about literature) is in the library of Langues'O (published catalogue by Eric Trombert). Recently, however, space problems in both institutions have made access to serials rather difficult.

A researcher on modern China should include a trip out of Paris to Lyon. The Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon (30 bd Vivier-Merle, Lyon, 3rd arrt) holds over 5000 books and documents formerly held at the Institut franco-chinois. Many were left there by Chinese students who stayed in Lyon from 1921 to 1946: it has a lot of rare minguo period books (published catalogue by Jean-Louis Boully). The collection has been enriched by recent purchases, as well as gifts from veteran China-watcher Général Guillermaz and others. Its catalogue should be available very soon at the library's Web server. Another centre with documentary resources about modern China in Lyon is the Institut d'Asie orientale (14 av. Berthelot, Lyon, 7th arrt), where it is advised to make an appointment previous to your visit.

4/ University libraries

The main university library, again, is the Langues'O library. But other universities in Paris (Paris VII, Paris VIII, Paris X) or outside (Bordeaux II, Aix-en-Provence, Lyon III) also hold Chinese collections, some of them of considerable size.

Besides, specialised research units make specific documentary resources available, like the Centre de recherches sur les langues de l'Asie orientale (on linguistics, 22 av. du Président-Wilson, Paris 16th arrt), the Daozang project (on taoism, same address), or the Chinese science research group (housed at the IHEC). Their access is sometimes restricted, but will never pose a problem with an appointment.

5/ City libraries

Besides the Lyon library, other bibliothèques municipales hold interesting and sometimes rare Chinese books: the library of Lille, for instance, inherited 500 Chinese books (mostly Ming and Qing editions, catalogue by Sun Lili and Anne-Marie Poncet) and 300 Japanese books (no catalogue yet) from Léon de Rosny, first teacher of Japanese at Langues'O at the end of the 19th century. Likewise the library of Troyes inherited books and photographs from Victor Collin de Plancy (1853-1922), a diplomat and traveller in China and Korea. On the modern side, the Bibliothèque Jean-Pierre Melville, a public library in the Paris Chinatown district, is currently building a collection on modern Chinese fiction.


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Matthias Kaun

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