The National Library of China hosts vast and comprehensive holdings, including extensive collections in foreign languages and many historical books. By 2008, the NLC's collection totaled 26,310,000 volumes and artifacts. It is renowned for its collection of ancient and rare materials. The NLC houses 270,000 rare records and 1,640,000 ancient records. The most valuable collections are the inscriptions on animal bones and tortoise shells from the Shang Dynasty (Oracle Bones), Dunhuang Manuscripts, the Zhaocheng Tripitaka of the Jin Dynasty, the Yongle Encyclopedia, and the Complete Library of the Four Branches of Literature. Among its earliest editions in foreign languages are incunabula printed in Europe from 1473 to 1477.
The National Library of China comprehensively collects all available books in Chinese. Books in 115 foreign languages constitute half of the whole collection, making the library the largest collector of foreign publications in China. The NLC also has special collections of manuscripts of notable authors, documents on revolutionary history and doctoral dissertations in China. It is also one of the depository libraries for publications of the UN and other international organizations as well as foreign governments. With the development of various new types of information media, the NLC has also begun collecting more electronic publications.
As the national center for the interlibrary loan system, the NLC has established ties with 558 libraries in China, dealing with an average 30,000 requests annually. It has also formed partnerships with 557 libraries in 117 countries and regions for exchanges of publications.