The RAS China Library

LOCATION: 3rd Floor, House of Roosevelt, 27 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Lu, Shanghai

In June 2017, the library of the Royal Asiatic Society (RAS) China in Shanghai was re-located to the historic House of Roosevelt building at Number 27 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Lu on the Bund. The Roosevelt Club has provided a beautiful space on the third floor for the RAS library, which will be a resource centre and a quiet place of study for all RAS members. The RAS library will also host selected events and programs on the RAS calendar. The new library is near the site of the original RAS building, which is now the Rockbund Art Museum.

This move would not have been possible without the coordinated efforts of the management team at the House of Roosevelt, the office of the British Consulate General in Shanghai and supporters of the Royal Asiatic Society China, whom we gratefully acknowledge.

The RAS China Reading Room

888 Dong’an Road, Building 13 (Corner of Longteng Avenue)
Metro: Longhua Middle Road (Lines 7 and 12), Exit 5

In early October 2020, RAS China began to take occupancy of a new second library facility on the first floor of the Harmony Bay complex on 888 Dong’an Road in Shanghai. This new facility, known as the RAS Reading Room, will stand alongside our current main library collection inside the House of Roosevelt on the Bund and permit us to have both a dedicated location for sections of our collection and a workspace for our volunteer library staff.

We will also have room for expansion as we expect new donations of books in the coming year.  Head Librarian Sven Serrano will maintain dedicated hours on weekend afternoons.  Please contact him if you wish to visit or volunteer at either of our two facilities.

(SvenAarne 13636304961 on Wechat)


THE RAS LIBRARY was founded in 1868 by with the purchase of Alexander Wylie’s collection of 718 books on “various subjects related to China”. Over the next 70 years it grew to become one of the most complete collections of English Language books on Asia in the world.

By 1937 it contained over 30,000 books and was housed on the third floor of the RAS building on Museum Road near the Bund (now the Rockbund Art Museum on Huqiu Road).

During the late 1930s with thousands of refugees flooding into Shanghai, it was a tranquil haven for the residents of the International Settlement. It was recorded that over 6000 people would visit the library each month.


The RAS library survived the Japanese occupation and the Civil War, but was forced to close its doors in 1951. Most of its original collection now resides at the Xujiahui Library (The Bibliotheca Zi-ka-wei).

In 2007, THE RAS LIBRARY was resurrected by a group of enthusiasts, and as part of that process we are starting to rebuild the RAS Library. Like the original RAS Library, our focus is on material related to China.

The Library currently holds over 3,000 books and archival material, many of which are old and not available elsewhere. Approximately 10% of our collection was published prior to 1945; our oldest book was published in 1857.

The RAS library is a private English Language library open to RAS members and RAS guests or special visitors. We are a read only library with no borrowing permitted.  Members may view the library’s collection or use the space for studying (free wifi available). We accept donations of books and DVDS and other archival material.

RAS Library Hours 

Holiday notice: the RAS Library will be closed from Wednesday 23 December to Tuesday 4 January. We will be open again on Wednesday 5 January.

The RAS Library is open to all members in good standing and to visiting scholars by appointment starting 1 March during the hours listed below.

Scholars and members requiring access to the full collection must make an appointment with the Librarian Sven Serrano using the WeChat QR code below.

Business dress code applies.

Mondays : 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Wednesdays: 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Fridays:  2:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Sundays: 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Librarian QR code

Captives of Empire – The Japanese Internment of Allied Civilians in China 1941–1945
Dr Greg Leck

The book and magazine collection at the RAS Reading Room, our first ever branch of the RAS Library, is taking shape this year with an emphasis on special collections: books on Chinese film and our collection of works on Japanese literature, art and history,

as well as books on foreign architecture in China. Currently on display at the Reading Room is your librarian’s favourite volume, a magnificent encyclopaedia compiled by our good friend Dr Greg Leck entitled Captives of Empire – The Japanese Internment of Allied Civilians in China 1941–1945.

Dr. Leck, a veterinarian by profession, meticulously researched and compiled nearly every aspect of life of the internees in sections devoted to camp life, food, housing, the guards, sports, entertainment, the war outside the wire, and finally, Liberation. Profusely illustrated with rare photographs, and artwork by the internees themselves, the book devotes whole chapters to each of the nearly twenty internment facilities run by the Japanese in China, including roll lists with the names, occupations, and dates of internment for every internee.


Sven-Aarne, our librarian, had this to say about the book:

I have had the joy of answering several inquiries from relatives living outside China and have been able to use the lists to inform them when and where their family members were held. Dr Leck has visited Shanghai in the past and he continues his research about the history of our grand city. We hope to see him again here someday soon.