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Chinese Studies: Encyclopedias

A guide to resources for the study of China

What are reference works?

Reference works provide background information on important people, events, concepts, and topics central to a particular field of study—in this case Chinese Studies. These kinds of materials have different names. The most common name is "encyclopedia" bit they are also sometimes called "handbooks," "dictionaries," and "companions." The reference works listed below are specific to Chinese Studies. Reading them can also introduce you to research ideas you might never consider on your own.

Encyclopedias & Handbooks

The Encyclopedia of Taiwan Studies contains almost 600 entries providing a portal to the multifaceted world of Taiwan, with its vibrant culture, important developments, and radical transformations.

This version of the online Encyclopedia, contains 5 of its 15 sections. Release of the rest of the content is planned in two additional installments, to take place in the course of 2024.

Encyclopedia of Modern China, David Pong (ed.). 4 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, 2009. Ebook.


Accessing and searching this encyclopedia is a bit tricky. Follow these instructions:

(1) Click the link provided above, this will take you to Gale E-books "Advanced Search."

(2) Change search criteria from "Keywords" to "Publication Title" enter "Encyclopedia of Modern China."

(3) Click on the publication title link "Encyclopedia of Modern China" that appears in any entry that you see; this will take you to a search page for this 4 vol. work.

(4) Enter search terms in the box at the right of the screen that reads "Search within this publication." You can also click on the link "List of Topics" at the left side of the screen to browse a list of individual entries.

Chinese Encyclopedia

Zhongguo dabaike quanshu 中国大百科全书  Two copies. Location: Level 4, Asian Reference and in the regular Asian Collection.

Biography (Arranged Chronologically)

Art History

History of Contemporary Chinese Art 1949 to the Present (2020) by Zhou Yan. eBook.

Includes the following chapters:

  • Visual Utopia: Art in the Seventeen-Years (1949-1966)
  • Revolutionary Action: Art in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976)
  • Truth, Virtue and Beauty: Art in the Post-Cultural Revolution
  • Idealism and New Utopia: Avant-Garde Movement (1985-1989)
  •  Art under Impact of Globalization (1990-1999)
  • Institutionalization of Contemporary Art (2000-2015) 

Getting Started with Research

Research Quick Start Guides

Best Online Dictionaries & Dictionary Apps


For your Chinese to English, English to Chinese, and Chinese to Chinese dictionary needs, I recommend that you download the Pleco App to your device. There are many excellent features and dictionaries that can be purchased within the App. 

Oxford English-Chinese & Chinese-English Dictionary 

You may need to login with your BYU NetID. When prompted, select "Chinese" from among the dictionary choices.


Best Print Dictionaries (Located in Asian Reference)

Comprehensive Dictionaries (Multiple Volumes)

Hanyu da cidian  汉语大词典 (Comprehensive Dictionary of Chinese Words)

Asian Reference PL 1420 .H26 1987 (12 vols.)

Hanyu da zidian  汉语大字典 (Comprehensive Dictionary of Chinese Characters)

Asian Reference PL 1420 .H26 1986 (10 vols.)

Dai Kanwa jiten 大漢和辞典 (Morohashi)  Definitions in Japanese

Asian Reference PL 681.C5 M6 1966  (13 vols).     

Zhongwen da cidian 中文大辭典 (Comprehensive Chinese Dictionary)

Asian Reference PL 1420 .C57  (40 vols).

Cihai  辞海 (Sea of Words)

Asian Reference PL 1420 .T86 1979 (3 vols.)

Atlases of China

Digital Collections

Digital Collections for Chinese Studies Over 100 collections of digitized materials with collection locations mapped to an interactive map. You can search for institutions with collections by clicking on a location. There are also many ways to limit search criteria. Organized and maintained by George Washington University under the leadership of Yan He. To suggest a collection to add see this site.