SOAS University of London

SOAS celebrates partnership with Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art to secure future loan of Percival David Library and archives

11 December 2017

SOAS University of London this week celebrated the strengthening of its relationship with the Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art through the signing of a new Loan Agreement.  The Agreement, signed by the School’s Director Baroness Valerie Amos CH and the Chair of the Percival David Foundation, Colin Sheaf, coincided with the inaugural Professorial Lecture by Professor Shane McCausland, who has held the Percival David Chair in Chinese Art since 2015.

The new Loan Agreement covers the Percival David Library, study collection and Sparks archive, as well as other items. The library and archives are currently in the process of being catalogued and made available with the School’s collections. Once fully catalogued, the intention is to return the library, archive and the study collection to public access. The core collection of imperial Chinese ceramics belonging to Sir Percival was transferred from what is now the Doctoral School in Gordon Square to the British Museum in 2007, and now attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.


Above: Baroness Amos with Chair of the Percival David Foundation, Colin Sheaf

Professor McCausland said: “Now is a time when the arts of China and buyers from China are ever more prominent in the market, while SOAS is one of the world's leading centres for the research and teaching of Chinese arts. So it's very exciting that the Percival David Foundation's library, including many very rare books and study materials, is now on long-term loan at SOAS, which only adds to the attraction of coming to study or conduct research here.”

Professor Richard Black, Pro-Director for Research and Enterprise, who has led the School’s negotiations with the Foundation since 2013, said: “I am delighted that the complex legal issues around Sir Percival’s library and collection have now been addressed, allowing us to put this important material back into the public domain.  I am certain we now have the basis for a strong and lasting collaboration with both the Foundation and the British Museum in our shared objective of promoting understanding of Chinese art.”

Colin Sheaf, Chair of the Percival David Foundation, added: “Sir Percival always stressed the didactic importance of his collections, as catalysts for active and emerging scholarship. The Trustees are thrilled that his Library will now remain in Bloomsbury at SOAS, this supremely appropriate centre for Asian study and research”.    

The Loan Agreement was celebrated at Professor McCausland’s inaugural lecture on 7 November. The lecture, which was co-sponsored by the Foundation, explored the agency of art at the court of China's deposed Last Emperor, Henry Puyi, in the Warlord Era of 1920s China.  The lecture focused in particular on two gifts – a fan and a ten-leaf album of paintings – given by the ex-emperor to his tutor Sir Reginald Johnston, who went on to become Professor of Chinese at SOAS and bequeathed parts of his collections to the School on his death. Professor Dr Sarah E. Fraser, Vice Director of the Institute of East Asia Art History, Heidelberg University and Professor Craig Clunas, the most recent holder of the Percival David Chair at SOAS and now at the University of Oxford, also spoke at the event.

Read more about the historic relationship between SOAS and the Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art.