Royal Asiatic Society China

Scope and Content

Established as the Shanghai Literary and Scientific Society, in 1857, the Society became affiliated to the Royal Asiatic Society the following year, becoming the Royal Asiatic Society (North China Branch). This material was collated in the interaction of the two Societies; the closure of the North China Branch and subsequent questions regarding it closure; and in its reopening and reestablishing links with the Royal Asiatic Society. These are:

  • Letter from Joseph Edkins, Secretary, Shanghai Literary and Scientific Society, to Professor Horace Hayman Wilson concerning the formation of the Society and to send a copy of its Constitution. Letter and Constitution handwritten, letter dated 2 December 1857.
  • "A Catalogue of the Library of the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (Including the Library of Alex. Wylie Esq.) Systematically Classed. By Henri Cordier, Hon. Librarian". Printed pamphlet, printed in Shanghai at the "Ching-Foong" General Printing Office, 1872.
  • Postcard send to Dr. J.C. Fergusson to remind of a meeting that day. Signed [ ] Daly, Honorary Secretary. The postcard bears a hand-painted picture of a Chinese flag-carrier and gong player. Undated, c.1911 (John Calvin Fergusson was President of the Society from 1911-1913).
  • Photocopy of a letter from the Honorary Secretary, Royal Asiatic Society, North China Branch, to the Librarian, Royal Asiatic Society, to inform him of the list of articles published by Mrs Ayscough was in the 1912 volume of their Journal. Typed, dated 6 August 1923.
  • Correspondence concerning electing a Corresponding Fellow for the Royal Asiatic Society from the Royal Asiatic Society North China Branch - 3 letters from the President, Royal Asiatic Society North China Branch; Arthur de C. Sowerby, elected Fellow; and Secretary, Royal Asiatic Society. Typed, dated 24 September - 1 December 1941.
  • Letter from D.E.J. Abraham, Vice-President, Royal Asiatic Society North China Branch, to The Secretary, Royal Asiatic Society, to announce the closure of the North China Branch and the gift of its possessions to the People's Government of China. Typed, dated 19 November 1952.
  • Letter from A.J. Hayim to the Secretary, Royal Asiatic Society, to enclose a card from Mr and Mrs Abraham which they requested to be forwarded to the Society. (The card is not with the letter.) Handwritten, dated 29 June 1954.
  • Business card of Oliver Edmund Clubb, Consul General of the United States of America, in envelope addressed to Sir Mortimer Wheeler, which is annotated, "Dr. Edmund Clubb, N. China Branch". Undated
  • Correspondence regarding obtaining and republishing copies of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society North China Branch. Seven letters, typed, dated 22 March 1966 - 4 February 1975.
  • Letter from Dennis Duncanson, Vice-President, Royal Asiatic Society, to Fr. Edward J. Malatesta, University of San Francisco, to inquire on information that Malatesta may have of the whereabouts of the former library of the Royal Asiatic Society North China Branch. Typed, dated 9 August 1990.
  • Correspondence between Sir Peter Leslie and Dennis Duncanson, Director, Royal Asiatic Society, concerning the papers of Thomas William Kingsmill, member of the Shanghai Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Typed, 2 letters, dated 4 November - 15 November 1993.
  • Correspondence between B.L. Drake and Lydia Collins, Secretary, Royal Asiatic Society, concerning the possessions of Professor F.S. Drake, formerly of the Shanghai Branch. Two letters dated 6 March 1995 - 18 May 1995. The list, "List of Dr Drake's Collection stored in the Shanghai Museum (R.S.A.) Shanhghai" is with the letters. This is on fax paper and very faded, dated 31 May 1951.
  • Correspondence between Eric N. Danielson, Education Consultant and Historian, and Adrian Thomas, Secretary, Royal Asiatic Society, to inform regarding the former library of the Shanghai Branch of the Society which Danielson has discovered in the Shanghai Library and which is due to be put on public display. Two copies of emails, dated 26 -28 November 2002.
  • "Message to those considering reforming the Asiatic Society in Shanghai" from Professor Francis Robinson, President, Royal Asiatic Society, dated 6 March 2006.
  • Correspondence concerning the visit of Dr Liu Wei, Honorary Vice President, Royal Asiatic Society, Shanghai Branch, to the Royal Asiatic Society. Copies of emails and letter confirming invitation, dated 15 January -17 January 2007.
  • Postcard from Officers of "Shanghai RAS Library" to Edward Weech, Librarian, Royal Asiatic Society, to thank for the tour of the Royal Asiatic Society Library. Handwritten, dated 8 August 2017. The image on the postcard is of "Lane 481, Taixing Road, a shikumen longlang".
  • Letter from Professor A.J. Stockwell, President, Royal Asiatic Society, to Alan Babington-Smith concerning constiutional connection between the tow Societies. Typed, dated 30 October 2018.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Royal Asiatic Society China is a learned society based in Shanghai and Beijing, China. It was established in Shanghai in 1857 by a small group of British and American expatriates as the Shanghai Literary and Scientific Society, and within a year had achieved affiliation with the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland and become the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (NCBRAS). The first journal was published in 1858 and thereafter for 90 years. The Society's original home comprised a ground-floor reading room, library and lecture hall, but was expanded in 1874 to house a museum on the floor above. The Society was closed in 1952. The book collection went to the Shanghai Library and most of the museum exhibits to the Shanghai Natural History Museum.

In 2006 the society was re-established in Hangzhou and transferred to Shanghai the following year as the Royal Asiatic Society China in Shanghai. The Journal has been resurrected and a growing library and museum opened to members and scholars. In 2013 a chapter was established in Beijing as the Royal Asiatic Society in Beijing.

The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland was founded by the eminent Sanskrit scholar Sir Henry Thomas Colebrooke on the 15th March 1823. It received its Royal Charter from King George IV on the 11th August 1824 'for the investigation of subjects connected with and for the encouragement of science, literature and the arts in relation to Asia'. It continues as a forum for those who are interested in the languages, cultures and history of Asia to meet and exchange ideas.

Arrangement

The material was listed chronologically.

Access Information

Mostly Open. Some recent correspondence will remain closed. Please contact the archivist. ej@royalasiaticsociety.org The archive is open on Tuesdays and Fridays 10-5, and Thursdays 2-5. Access is to any researcher without appointment but it will help if an appointment is made via phone or email. Please bring photo ID.

Acquisition Information

The material is part of the institutional records of the Society from its dealings with other organisations.

Archivist's Note

This material was catalogued by Nancy Charley, RAS Archivist, in 2019.

Conditions Governing Use

Digital photography (without flash) for research purposes may be permitted upon completion of a copyright declaration form, and with respect to current UK copyright law.

Custodial History

These papers were sent and received by the Royal Asiatic Society in the course of its business.

Related Material

The Journal of the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society is held within the Collections. More details can be found here.

Geographical Names