Papers of Professor Walter Perceval Yetts

Scope and Content

Research papers and photographs of Professor Walter Perceval Yetts, British sinologist. Comprises: professional correspondence of Yetts, 1909-1940; writings and notes by Yetts, primarily relating to Chinese Taoist Hsien [仙] or immortals, 1920s-1947; research photographs accumulated by Yetts, 1920s-1950s, including photographs of Chinese ritual bronze vessels and steles, photographs of Chinese stone steles sculpture, reference materials relating to Chinese mythology and Taoist beliefs, and a smaller quantity of photographs of Chinese architecture and culture; and printed publications and offprints, 1924-1954, by Yetts, as well as a copy of the Taoist work 'Lieh-hsien Chuan' (? 18th century)..

Administrative / Biographical History

Professor Walter Perceval Yetts C.B.E., D.Lit., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. (25 April 1878-14 May 1957) was a British sinologist and surgeon.

Walter Perceval Yetts was born in Reading, Berkshire, England on 25th April 1878. He was educated at Bradfield College, Berkshire, University of Lausanne and University of London. He qualified as a physician and surgeon in 1903. Yetts served as a surgeon in the Royal Navy (1903-1912). He was appointed Acting Physician to the British Legation in Peking [Beijing]. During the First World War he served with the Royal Army Medical Corps. Following the war Yetts served as a medical officer in government departments. Walter Perceval Yetts married Gwendoline Mary Hughes (1884-1969) in 1912

Yetts developed a scholarly interest in Chinese epigraphy whilst working as a medical professional. In particular, the study of ancient Chinese ritual bronzes and Buddhist sculpture. In 1929 he contributed three volumes to the monumental catalogue of the collection of Asian art of George Eumorfopoulos. Yetts was appointed the lecturer in Chinese art and archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London in 1930. He became Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology. He retired as Professor Emeritus in 1946.

Yetts was a member of the Royal Asiatic Society (1910 onwards) and served on its Council and Publications Committee (1916-1945) and in 1945 was made an Honorary Vice-President of the RAS. He was Chairman of a Selection Committee for the International Exhibition of Chinese Art at the Royal Academy, 1935-36; Chairman of Council, The China Society (1940-45); and an Honorary Member of the Oriental Ceramic Society. Yetts was awarded Order of the British Empire: Officer (O.B.E.), 1919, Order of the British Empire: Commander (C.B.E.), 1944, and Order of Brilliant Star (China), 1947.

Professor Walter Perceval Yetts died on 14th May 1957.


The papers of Professor Walter Perceval Yetts have been arranged as follows:

PP MS 102/01 Correspondence

PP MS 102/02 Notes and writings

PP MS 102/03 Photographs

PP MS 102/04 Publications

Access Information


Acquisition Information

The papers of Professor Walter Perceval Yetts were transfered to SOAS Library in 2008 following the closure of The Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art building at 53 Gordon Square.

Archivist's Note


Custodial History

The papers of Professor Walter Perceval Yetts were previously stored at The Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art building at 53 Gordon Square, London. The provenance of the material before its storage at 53 Gordon Square is unknown.

Related Material

The School of Oriental Studies at the University of Durham holds Professor Walter Perceval Yetts's library of books in European languages.

The National Library of Australia holds Professor Walter Perceval Yetts's library of books in East Asian languages, comprising 715 Chinese and Japanese books, totalling about 4000 volumes.

Geographical Names