About Us

Henry Noyes founded China Books in 1960 in Chicago with the goal of introducing China to the American public. At the height of the Cold War, when fear and misinformation prevailed, this effort was no small feat. Few bookstores dared deal in any materials from China, and those who did, including Henry, soon found themselves in FBI dossiers. When others would have given up, Henry made it work. Born in Guangzhou, China to American missionaries, he saw the potential in moving the conversation about China away from Cold War stereotypes.

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Henry Noyes and his wife Gertrude

China Books grew quickly. Henry soon went from selling books from the back of his car to, together with his family and a dedicated team of employees, running thriving stores in in Chicago, San Francisco, and New York. Quotations from Mao Zedong, often called the second best-selling book in the World, forever put China Books on the map as a bookseller able to meet the needs of academics as well as those in the counterculture movement. The books and magazines China Books offered were instrumental in helping establish university programs, research libraries, and feeding the China tourist craze of the 1980s and language craze of the 2000s.

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The old China Books and Periodicals location in San Francisco

Over the past decade, though it has found new ownership, China Books has stayed true to Henry Noyes’ unwavering spirit while seeking new ways to inform a burgeoning public interested in learning about China. Along with universities, a growing number of elementary, middle and high schools now look to China Books for textbooks as they establish or expand their Chinese language programs. The vibrant China Books publishing imprint has also been reborn; now embracing print and digital technologies and recognizing that many worthwhile topics in academic and general interest books about China have been overlooked.

As China Books enters its second half-century, more people than ever are discovering China for the first time. We look forward to continue providing the best books, magazines, language and educational materials from and about China.

Henry Halsey Noyes, who founded China Books & Periodicals Inc. as the sole importer of books and magazines from mainland China to the U.S. in the 1960s, died June 22, 2005 in San Francisco.

Born in Guangzhou, China to missionary parents, Henry Noyes established China Books & Periodicals in Chicago in 1960. The Cold War trade embargo made it difficult to obtain permission to receive shipments, but Noyes was able to register with the U.S. Government and received a license to import and sell materials from the People’s Republic of China, and China Books became the sole distributor of books, magazines and newspapers from mainland China in North America. Three years later, he moved the business to San Francisco, where it flourished as a retail store on 24th Street in San Francisco’s Mission District.

For the next 25 years, his company was the sole distributor of books, magazines, and newspapers from mainland China. The storefront was the focal point for much Bay Area political activism in the 60s, 70s, and 80s: during the 1960s counterculture movement, China Books gained an unexpected windfall as the supplier of “Quotations From Chairman Mao”; by the late 1970s, China Books found an ever-growing and increasingly diverse audience comprised of scholars, students, travelers, and other individuals interested in China, counting many controversial figures and groups, such as the Black Panthers, as his customers and friends. The storefront remained a Mission District landmark until its sale in 2002 and relocation to South San Francisco.

Noyes left China for San Francisco and then Toronto in 1919. He earned his MFA in English Literature at the University of Toronto in 1933, and earned his PhD in English Literature from the University of London in 1938. He taught Creative Writing at the University of Toronto and University of Manitoba in 1939, and taught as the head of the Creative Writing Department at the University of Missouri. Noyes is the author of “Hand Over Fist” (1980), and “China Born: Adventures of a Maverick Bookman” (1989) and “Valley of the Sun” (1993).

Son of William D. Noyes, missionary and Presbyterian Minister, and Mary Stevenson, cousin to Adlai Stevenson, and widower to Gertrude Noyes, Henry Noyes is survived by children Christopher and Nicolette Noyes, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

About China Books

China Books is the oldest and largest publisher, importer and distributor of books from and about China to North America. Today, as part of Sino United Publishing (Holdings) Ltd family, China Books has expanded with a worldwide distribution network and an ever-increasing list of books and products specializing in Chinese language and culture.


360 Swift Avenue #48
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Phone: (1800) 818-2017
Fax: (650) 872-7808
Website: http://chinabooks.com
Email: info@chinabooks.com


Office Hours

Mon. thru Fri. 9AM - 5:30PM
(Pacific Standard Time)