The library, which currently holds over 50,000 volumes (not including periodicals), owes its existence to a grant made to the University in 1948 following the recommendations of the Scarborough Interdepartmental Commission of Enquiry on Oriental, Slavonic, East European and African Studies. With these funds a basic sinological lending library was assembled which included significant holdings of Chinese collectanea (congshu). The Chinese Faculty Library, as it was then known, was housed in and around the offices of the academic staff, first at 7 Merton Street, then in Beaumont Street, before becoming part of the new Oriental Institute Library in 1961. It moved to the basement of the Institute for Chinese Studies, Walton Street, in 1994 and became known as Institute for Chinese Studies Library. It became an administrative part of the Bodleian Library and was renamed Bodleian Chinese Studies Library. In 2014 the library moved to its present location in the basement of the University of Oxford China Centre in the Dickson Poon Building on Canterbury Road and changed its name once again to Bodleian K B Chen China Centre Library. It was officially opened on 8th September 2014 by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.

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