The story of China Books begins with Henry H. Noyes (1910-2004), who founded China Books & Periodicals Inc. as the sole importer of
books and magazines from mainland China to the United States.
Born in Guangzhou, China to missionary parents, Noyes left China for San Francisco and then Toronto in 1919. He later earned his MFA in English Literature at the University of Toronto in 1933, and earned his Ph.D. 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. His books include “Hand Over Fist” (1980), “China Born: Adventures of a Maverick Bookman” (1989) and “Valley of the Sun” (1993).
Noyes first established China Books & Periodicals on the Near North side of Chicago in 1960. The Cold War trade embargo made it difficult to obtain permission to receive shipments from China, but Noyes was able to register with the U.S.
Government and received a license to import 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 expanded the business to San Francisco, where it flourished as a retail store at 2929 24th Street in San Francisco’s vibrant Mission District.
The San Francisco storefront became the focal point for much Bay Area political activism in the late 1960s’ counterculture movement, where China Books gained an unexpected windfall as the sole supplier of “Quotations From Chairman Mao” (also known as the “Little Red Book”), and by the late 1970s, China Books found an ever-growing and increasingly diverse audience comprised of scholars, students, travelers, and other individuals interested in all things China.
As an importer of political documents, newspapers, magazines, and books, China Books was instrumental in the creation of numerous collections of post-1949 reference materials on contemporary China at major American university libraries and research institutions. The old San Francisco storefront remains a Mission District landmark where the “Bountiful Harvest” mural by the Precita Eyes Muralists can still be seen: http://www.precitaeyes.org/mural-arts/murals.html
Today China Books remains the oldest and largest publisher, importer and distributor of books from and about China to North America. Now headquartered in South San Francisco, California, and a part of Sinomedia International Group, China Books has expanded its wholesale, retail, and publishing operations with strategic partnerships in China and abroad, resulting in a worldwide distribution network, multimedia and library services, and an ever-increasing list of books and products specializing in promoting Chinese history, society, language and culture.