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Waley was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent England, as Arthur David Schloss. He changed his surname to the maiden name of his grandmother, Waley, in 1914, because he was a Jew. He was appointed Assistant Keeper of Oriental Prints and Manuscripts at the British Museum in 1913. During this time he taught himself Chinese and Japanese. In 1929 he left to concentrate himself fully to his literary and cultural interests.
- A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems, 1918
- More Translations from the Chinese (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1919).
- Japanese Poetry: The Uta, 1919
- The Nō Plays of Japan, 1921
- The Tale of Genji, by Lady Murasaki, 1921-1933
- The Temple and Other Poems, 1923
- Introduction to the Study of Chinese Painting, 1923
- The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, 1928
- The Way and its Power: A Study of the Tao Te Ching and its Place in Chinese Thought, 1934
- The Book of Songs (Shih Ching), 1937
- The Analects of Confucius, 1938
- Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China, 1939
- Translations from the Chinese, a compilation, 1941
- Monkey, 1942
- Chinese Poems, 1946
- The Life and Times of Po Chü-I, 1949
- The Real Tripitaka and Other Pieces, 1952
- The Nine Songs: A Study of Shamanism in Ancient China, 1955
- Yuan Mei: Eighteenth Century Chinese Poet, 1956
- The Opium War through Chinese Eyes, 1958
- The Poetry and Career of Li Po, 1959
- Ballads and Stories from Tun-Huang, 1960
- The Secret History of the Mongols, 1963
- Alison Waley, A Half of Two Lives (London, 1982)
- Ivan I. Morris, Madly Singing in the Mountains: An Appreciation and Anthology of Arthur Waley (London,: Allen & Unwin, 1970).
- John Walter de Gruchy, Orienting Arthur Waley: Japonism, Orientalism, and the Creation of Japanese Literature in English Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8248-2567-5.