Seminar on Modern China: The People and the State

Spring 2013

Listed in: Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-470  |  History, as HIST-478; Jerry P. Dennerline (Section 01)

Questions about research in this course? Contact Sharon H. Domier, Dunstan C. McNutt.

  • Overview
  • Databases
  • Reference
  • Full Text
  • Media
  • Data
  • Primary Sources
  • Web Resources
  • Citing Sources


Welcome, welcome young historians. China has a long and rich history, and you have a myriad of choices for your research projects. We have compiled lists of resources that we think will help you on your journey, but there is so much more available that we expect we will need to work with you individually as you determine the extent of information you require. 

Thanks to digitization efforts by scholars and libraries, there are a growing number of photograph and film collections that are available for you over the Internet. If you are interested in social media, Danwei, Weibo, China Digital Times offer insights into the minds of netizens and their interactions with the state. 

Databases: Find articles, book chapters, e-books

Bibliography of Asian Studies (1973 to present)
Index to articles and books in Asian Studies, including humanities and social sciences.

Historical Abstracts with Full Text (1955 to present)
Scholarly literature about world history since 1450 (excluding the United States and Canada).

China Academic Journals (1994 to present)
Full-text articles from 7,200 journals in mainland China, including core journals and specialty journals. Amherst has a full-text subscription to the Humanities portion. (Chinese interface)

ChinaMaxx (1939 to present)
Chinese e-book collection that works with Internet Explorer and Google Chrome. First 17 pages display for free. Users can click on the recommend button to ask the library to buy the full text. Click on the box to the right of the search box to browse and/or search the full collection.

Discover: Start here for books, articles & more
Simultaneously search research databases plus the Five Colleges Libraries Catalog to find full-text articles, books and more.

Anthropological Index Online (1970 to present)
Index to current periodicals in the Museum of Mankind Library (incorporating the former Royal Anthropological Institute Library)

Political Science Database (ProQuest) (1985 to present)
Full-text articles from leading political science and international relations journals.

PAIS Index (1972 to present)
Coverage of articles, selected books, government documents, research reports, etc., from a wide range of social sciences.

CIAO: Columbia International Affairs Online (1991 to present)
A comprehensive source for theory and research in international affairs.

Full-text backfiles of over two thousand leading academic journals across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. (Alumni access)


Chicago Manual of Style
Provides answers to style and editing questions.

Han Yu Da Ci Dian
Comprehensive Chinese word dictionary

Cumulative Bibliography of Asian Studies. Boston: G.K. Hall. AC Frost Reference: DS5 .C94

Berkshire Encyclopedia of China: Modern and Historic Views of the World’s Newest and Oldest Global Power. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Pub. Group, 2009. AC Frost Reference: DS 735.A2 B47 2009
Biographical Dictionary of Republican China. New York: Columbia University Press, 1967. AC Frost Reference: DS 778 .A1 B5

The Cambridge History of China: Republican China, 1912-1949. Vol. 12. Cambridge University Press, 1983.
The Cambridge History of China: Republican China, 1912-1949. Vol. 13. Cambridge University Press, 1986.
The Cambridge History of China: The People’s Republic. Vol. 14. Cambridge University Press, 1987.
The Cambridge History of China: The People’s Republic. Vol. 15. Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Encyclopedia of the History of the Communist Party of China (CPC)

Encyclopedia of Modern China. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons/Gale, Cengage Learning, 2009. AC Frost Reference: DS 755 .E53 2009


Full Text Collections

While the databases tab focused on scholarly materials, there are a number of full-text collections that provide access to both current and historical newspapers.

Access World News (Newsbank) (date coverage varies) 
Electronic editions of over 2,600 local, regional, and national U.S. newspapers as well as 1,500 international sources. Fully searchable and browsable by map.

FBIS: Federal Broadcast Information Service (1974-1996) 
News in translation (by the CIA) from radio, television, and newspapers around the world, continued by World News Connection.

Historical Newspapers (ProQuest) 
Combined search of the historic Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post

Here is some additional content that you might find helpful in your research.  

China U.S. Million Book Digital Library Project

Chinese Pamphlets: Political communication and mass education in Hong Kong and Mainland China

Mass education materials published in Hong Kong and in Mainland China, particularly Shanghai, in the years 1947-1954. These cartoon books, pamphlets, postcards and magazines, on topics such as foreign threats to Chinese security, Chinese relations with the Soviet Union, industrial and agricultural production, and marriage reform, were produced by both Kuomintang (Nationalist) and Gongchantang (Communist) supporters.

Ming-Qing Women's Writing (McGill University)

The past decade has witnessed a surge of research interest in Chinese women's literature, history, and culture of the Ming-Qing period (1368-1911) among scholars, researchers, and students in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, North America, and Europe. Women's history and culture are among the most rapidly changing and exciting avenues of new research in the China field and writings by women constitute a significant resource for ground-breaking studies. Chinese women's writings not only allow us to access women's experiences through their own voices, they also provide a gendered perspective on Chinese culture and society. -- website.


Blogs, Internet, Social Media

Danwei 单位

Danwei started in 2003 as a daily report on the Chinese media and Internet with translations, original articles, videos and blog posts. In 2011, it moved and became a website and research firm that tracks the Chinese media and Internet.

Douban  豆瓣

launched on March 6, 2005, is a ChineseSNS website allowing registered users to record information and create content related to film, books, music, and recent events and activities in Chinese cities.

China Digital Times

China Digital Times (CDT) is an independent, bilingual media organization that brings uncensored news and online voices from China to the world. 

China Independent Documentary Film Archive

Zhang Yaxuan co-founded CIFA (China Independent Film Archive) in 2008 and curated its inaugural exhibition What Has Been Happening Here?---China Independent Film Documentary in 2009. In 2010 CIFA started to operate independently, as a non-profit academic organization. It continues to devote itself to the presentation and preservation of Chinese independent film in different ways, from film festivals, programming, website to archive and publication.


Many libraries are digitizing collections of materials from their archives and posting them on the web so that they are available for public viewing. These extraordinary collections contain a significant amount of primary sources (letters, photographs, account books, documents) and are usually accompanied by a scholarly essay that puts the collection and time period into perspective. (Please also look at the Web Resources section for more online exhibitions and resources)

Here are a few for you to consider: 

Bucklin China Archive

"In 1923, Harold Bucklin took his family on a remarkable journey from Providence, Rhode Island to Shanghai, China, where he produced an exquisite body of work of large format photographs of Pre-Revolutionary China using a Graflex camera."--from the website.

Sidney D. Gamble Photographs:

"From 1908 to 1932, Sidney Gamble (1890-1968) visited China four times, traveling throughout the country to collect data for social-economic surveys and to photograph urban and rural life, public events, architecture, religious statuary, and the countryside. A sociologist, renowned China scholar, and avid amateur photographer, Gamble used some of the pictures to illustrate his monographs"--from the website.

Hedda Morrison Photograph Collection:

Hedda Morrison studied photography in her native Germany, and from 1933 to 1938 managed Hartung's Photo Shop in Beijing. From 1938 until she and her husband left China in 1946, Morrison worked as a freelance photographer, selling individual prints or thematic albums of her work and creating photographs for other people's books on China. Her photographs document lifestyles, trades, handicrafts, landscapes, religious practices, and architectural structures that in many cases have changed or have been destroyed.--from the website.

Thomas Hahn Docu-Images:

The main subject areas covered are 
1. China and that country's rather rapid transformation from a rural to an urban-centered society. 
2. Historical photography of China, from the 1860s (late Qing) to the 1960s (Cultural Revolution). 


China Data Online
Includes monthly and yearly reports on national, regional, and local macro-economics, as well as statistical yearbooks and census data.

China National Bureau of Statistics

Primary Sources


Scholars and publishers compile collections of primary sources that can be found in library catalogs, such as the Amherst catalog, the Five Colleges catalog, or WorldCat. Examples include published manuscripts, diaries, or letters of an individual (Reporting the Chinese Revolution: the letters of Rayna Prohme), or sources related to a particular topic (The Great Famine in China, 1958-1962: A Documentary History). These can be found in the catalog by searching for a topic, and narrowing down using the following subject keywords:

  • Archival Resources
  • Archives
  • Correspondence [note: use this if you are looking for letters]
  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Notebooks, sketchbooks
  • Personal narratives
  • Photographs
  • Sources
  • Speeches

Click here for more tips on using the catalog to find primary sources (from Frost Library's Primary Sources Research Guide). 

Web Resources

Librarians used to draw a line between materials that we paid for and free things on the web. With the open access movement, this differentiation is much less important than it used to be. I have included some free materials in the Primary Sources page (archival collections of primary sources).

Here are a few more sites that will provide visual context for your projects.

Chinese Public Health Posters (provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine) 

China Posters Online (University of Westminster)

Political Cartoons on China by David Low (Britsh Cartoon Archive)

Serve the People! Images of Daily Life during the Cultural Revolution (William Joseph, Wellesley College)


Other websites for Chinese History - collections of resources and links

Classical Historiography for Chinese History Benjamin Elman at Princeton

Ming Studies Leo Shin at UBC

Citing Sources

A note from your librarian on searching for library materials and citing sources: 

Please, please do not translate a Chinese title into English without providing the original title in pinyin (and hanzi). Citations are provided so that your readers can look at the source you consulted. If you translate the title into English, they have to guess the original title and that only causes everyone headaches.There is a general convention for citing Chinese sources. See this style sheet from the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies as an example. 

Just to get you started, here is an example:

Hua Linfu 華林甫, “Qingdai yilai Sanxia diqu shuihan zaihai de chubu yanjiu” 清代以來三峽地區水旱災害的初步硏究 (A preliminary study of floods and droughts in the Three Gorges region since the Qing dynasty), Zhongguo shehui kexue 中國社會科學 1 (1999): 168–79.


Please remember that there are a number of different romanization systems for Chinese. Wade-Giles, Yale, Pinyin, Gwuoyeu Romatzyh, among others. Here is a chart that shows the differences.

In North America we used the Wade-Giles system in all library catalogs until 2000. Many scholars did as well, so if you are consulting older texts, you will need to be able to convert Wade-Giles (WG) to Pinyin. In Wade-giles, Mao Tse-tung. In Pinyin Mao Zedong. 

You may also see some scholars/government documents in Taiwan that use Gwoyeu Romatzyh (GR), which uses tonal spellings instead of tone markers. There are conversion programs and conversion charts that you can check to help you to read these romanization systems. 

In 2000 librarians made the switch over to pinyin in response to many years of requests by scholars. Unfortunately that doesn't mean that you will necessarily find what you want in the library catalog because the system of word division is different. In the library, each syllable is separate except for proper nouns (people's names, place names). So in the above citation, the library catalog would have the title listed like this: Zhongguo she hui ke xue. In an old catalog it would have been romanized like this in Wade-Giles: Chungguo she hui k'o hsüeh.

Most China scholars cite sources (or quote text) dividing word by word rather than syllable by syllable - which makes more sense if you are trying to read pinyin. You just need to remember the discrepancy when you try to look for the materials they cite.