The forerunner of the National Library of China, the Imperial Library (京师图书馆, Jīngshī Túshūguǎn), was founded on 24 April 1909 by the Qing government. It was first formally opened after the Xinhai Revolution, in 1912. In 1916, the library received depository library status. In July 1928, its name was changed to National Peiping Library and was later changed to the National Library.
The National Library of China's collection inherited books and archives from the "Imperial Wenyuange Library" collection of the Qing Dynasty and that, in turn, included books and manuscripts from the library of the Southern Song Dynasty.
The library also contains inscribed tortoise shells and bones, ancient manuscripts, and block-printed volumes. Among the most prized collections of the NLC are rare and precious documents and records from past dynasties in Chinese history, and it also houses official publications of the United Nations and foreign governments and a collection of literature and materials in over 115 languages.