Skip to Main Content

Primary Source Materials in China

Researching special collections and archives in or about China? This site will describe both physical and digital repositories.

Chinese Texts Online

Harvard's Dr. D Sturgeon's project, the Chinese Text Project is an excellent source for pre-Qin and Han dynasty texts.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong hosts Modern Chinese Literature Research Portal (中国现代文学网)an exciting new collection of searchable texts about modern Chinese literature.


Historical Photographs of China is an online collection of digitized images of pictures taken between 1870 and 1950. Its 6,000-plus images can be searched by keyword, date, and so on. The collection's designers are continuing to expand it and are seeking feedback from users.

Chinese History Dissertations

Chinese History Dissertation Reviews features overviews written in English of defended, unpublished doctoral dissertations in the field of Chinese history; coverage in 2009-2012 only.

Digital Resources on China

Below are free digital libraries and archives covering images, photographs, prints, newspapers, manuscripts and archives about China or Chinese culture. 

This is a free digital libraries and archives covering images, photographs, prints, newspapers, manuscripts and archives about China or Chinese culture.


  • Europeana: The site offers a collection of many leading European digital images and resources including over a million objects about China and beyond. You may want to search in pinyin or simplified hanzi. Researchers can discover digital images of paintings, relics, photos, prints and other various video and audio clips of Europe’s rich heritage and interactions with Asia. 
  • Princeton University Online Catalog of Shadow Figures: The Princeton University East Asian Library has just released a fully searchable, image-rich, free online catalog of its collection of Chinese shadow figures. The catalog includes photographs of each of the over 2,000 items in the collection, along with searchable categories and descriptions.
  • The New York Public Library's Digital Collection: The Digital Collection provides free and open access to over 800,000 images from the Library’s collections. These digital images include photographs, posters, documents, maps, manuscripts and other source materials in many academic fields. These resources can cover China and other countries in Asia as well.   
  • Smithsonian Collection Search Center: “The Smithsonian Collections Search Center is an online catalog containing most of Smithsonian major collections from our museums, archives, libraries, and research units. There are 8.1 million catalog records relating to areas for  Art & Design,History & Culture, and Science & Technology with 860,477 images, videos, audio files, podcasts, blog posts and electronic journals.”
  • The National Palace Museum of Digital Archives: Provided by the National Palace Museum in Taiwan, this site contains a variety of image and text databases; many covering biographical studies, historical archives, digital images of relics and paintings from Taiwan and China.
  • The British Museum Images: One of the oldest, largest and famous museums in the world, the British Museum Images holds over 6,000 images in its database. 
  • Lian Huan Hua Collection, Asia Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawaii at Manoa: Lian Huan Hua literarlly means "linked serial pictures." They are pocket sized picture-story books first published by a Shanghai publisher in the 1920s. The Library has collected more than 150 titles of lian huan hua that were published mostly during the Cultural Revolution, particularly between 1971-1976, when the publication of lian huan hua was rare and difficult at that time.
  • Asia at Work, Asia Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawaii at Manoa: This site features digitizing photographs, drawings, and paintings in books published from the early 20th century and before.
  • China: Trade, Politics and Culture, 1793-1980: Provided through Adam Matthew Digital, ideal for any independent project covering almost every aspect of Chinese history, you can find primary sources such as unpublished manuscripts, letters, prints, photographs and maps from 1793 to 1980. (Available ONLY through NYU)

    For more images, check out NYU's databases