CONSTRUCTION work started yesterday on a £15m centre for the research of China.

The new building, at St Hugh’s College, will have a floor space of 5,491 sq m over five floors plus a Chinese central courtyard and garden.

Once it is completed in 2014, it will feature the new University of Oxford China Centre Library, which will house 60,000 volumes and a large part of the Bodleian’s Chinese book collection.

Andrew Dilnot, former principal of St Hugh’s and chairman of the China Centre fundraising committee, said: “The study of China in all its aspects, from ancient to modern, literary and artistic to scientific and environmental, political and economic to philosophical, is hugely exciting and very important not just for this university, but for the whole world.

“The creation of this new centre for study, bringing together research space, teaching space, and space for the display of Chinese artefacts is a matter for great celebration.”

Construction work follows a four-year fundraising campaign that saw Hong Kong-based philanthropist Dickson Poon donate £10m towards the centre.

The Chancellor of Oxford University, the Rt Hon Lord Patten of Barnes, said: “I am delighted that work is now going ahead for our China Centre, and hugely grateful to our benefactor Dickson Poon for making this possible.”