The archives of the Grand Secretariat currently housed at the Institute were originally kept at the Grand Secretariat Storehouse in the Ch’ing imperial palace. They were removed from the Storehouse when it underwent renovation in 1909. After the overthrow of the Ch’ing, these archives changed hands several times, and were, at one point, even sold to a paper recycling factory. Eventually, the Institute purchased them from Li Sheng-to, a book collector, in1929 thanks to the efforts of Fu Ssu-nien, the Institute’s first director.
There are over four thousand Ming(1368-1644) documents and more than three hundred thousand volumes of Ch’ing(1644-1911) archival materials in this collection, including imperial decrees, edicts, memorials, tribute document, examination questions, examination papers, rosters of successful examination candidates, documents from the offices of the Grand Secretariat, documents from the offices for book compilation, and old documents from Mukden. Memorials make up the bulk these documents.
The archives contain valuable source materials for institutional, social and economic historians. They record general administrative activities and legal cases, many of which cannot be found in Ch’ing legal compendia.