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Chinese Studies: Pre-Modern Literature

A guide to resources for the study of China

NOTE: This page is a work in progress. Improvements to content and format are forthcoming.

Anthologies of Chinese Literature in English Translation

Online Resources

Chinese Text Project (

An extensive online, open-access, full-text searchable, digital library of pre-modern Chinese texts: (Classics 經, Philosophy 子, History 史, Literature 集). Includes public domain translations (such as those of James Legge).

Chinese Ancient Texts (CHANT) Database

This collection contains texts collated from the best editions by Hong Kong University professors. The database includes:

   Oracle Bones 甲骨文 

   Bronze Inscriptions 金文

   Excavated Texts Written on Wooden Strips and Silk 竹簡帛書

   Pre-Qin and Han 先秦兩漢 Works of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Literature. 

   Wei, Jin, Nanbeichao 魏晉南北朝 Works of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Literature. 

   Leishu 類書 (Literary Excerpts Organized by Category)

Scripta Sinica (Chinese Texts at Academia Sinica)

Full text searchable database including access to the "Thirteen Classics" and all 24 Chinese dynastic histories. Click the button that reads "免費使用" to access. Then click 經 to select one of the classics or 史 to select one of the dynastic histories.

Hanquan 寒泉 (Cold Spring) Open Source Digital Collection

Select from the menu on the left of the homepage to conduct a full-text search of any of the follow works:

The Thirteen Classics

The Twenty-four Dynastic Histories and the Qing draft history

Thirteen different works of traditional philosophy

*Quan Tang shi  全唐詩 (Complete Tang Poems) over 50,000 Tang Dynasty poems

*Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑑 (Comprehensive Mirror of History) by Sima Guang 司馬光

*Xu tongjian 續通鑑 (Continuation of the Mirror of History)

*Taiping guangji 太平廣記

Hong lou meng 紅樓夢 (A Dream of Red Mansions)

*Song Yuan xuean 宋元學案

*Ming ru xuean 明儒學案

*Zhuzi yulei 朱子語類 (Zhuxi's Conversations with Hist Disciples)

*Siku quanshu zongmu 四庫全書總目

* Texts unique to this database.

Academic Journals for the Study of Premodern Chinese Literature

Clicking the links below will provide you with multiple access points for each journal. The issues available often differ for each access point, so pay attention to the available issues associated with each link.

Asia Major (1923–present)

CLEAR (Chinese Literature Essays Articles Reviews) (1978–present)

China Review international (1983–present; book reviews)

Early China (1975–present)

Early Medieval China (1994–present)

Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies (1936–present)

Journal of Asian Studies (1941–present)

Journal of the American Oriental Society (1849–present)

Journal of Chinese Religions (1980–present)

Journal of Song-Yuan Studies (1970–present)

Late Imperial China (1985–present)

Ming Studies (1975–present)

Nan Nü: Men, Women, & Gender in China (1991–present)  A peer-reviewed journal featuring original studies related to men, women, and gender in the fields of Chinese history, literature, linguistics and language, anthropology, archeology, art and music, law, philosophy, medicine/science, and religion form ancient to contemporary times. Click the link and then select the top option "Brill Online Journals" to access the current issue (and back issues).

Monumenta Serica (1935–present)

Renditions: A Chinese-English Translation Magazine (1974–present)

Tang Studies (1982–present) A peer-reviewed interdisciplinary publication covering all topics related to Tang China, but particularly encourages scholarship that is directly engaged with primary sources from the Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasties periods. Major disciplines regularly represented in the journal include literature, linguistics, history, religious studies, and art history.

T'oung Pao (1890–present)  Published in Leiden, Netherlands, T'oung Pao is one of the premiere journals of sinology.  Most articles deal with pre-modern Chinese topics. Click the link and then select the top option "Brill Online Journals" to access the current issue (and back issues).

The Five Classics 五經

The Book of Odes or The Book Of Songs (Shijing 詩經)

The Book of Documents or The Hallowed Documents (Shang shu 尚書)

An anthology of Zhou 周 era (1045–221 BC) documents on the philosophy of early Chinese governance including the "Mandate of Heaven" (tianming 天命).

Notable Translations:

  1. Legge, James. The Chinese Classics, Volume III: The Shoo King or the Book of Historical Documents. London: Trubner, 1865 (many reprints). Complete Chinese text with English translation and extensive annotations. Legge’s translation is also available on the website of the Chinese Text Project (
  2. Karlgren, Bernhard (1950). "The Book of Documents," Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities. 22: 1–81. (New Text chapters only) Reprinted as a separate volume by Elanders in 1950.

The Book of Changes (Yijing or I-Ching 易經)

Notable Translations:

Richard Wilhelm. The I Ching or Book of Changes (1967).


The Classics of Ritual:

    A. The Records of Ritual (Liji 禮記)

    B. The Book of Ceremonial and Etiquette (Yili 儀禮)

    C. The Rituals of the Zhou Era (Zhouli 周禮)

The Spring and Autumn Annals (Chunqiu 春秋)

Notable Translations:

Three Major Commentarial Traditions:

  •    Master Zuo's Commentary (Zuo zhuan 左傳)

Zuo Traditions: Zuo zhuan Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals, Durrant, Li, and Schaberg, trans. (2016) eBook. Hardcopy in 3 vols. also available.

The Zuo Tradition / Zuo zhuan Reader: Selections from China's Earliest Narrative History (2020). eBook.

The Tso chuan: Selections from China's Oldest Narrative History. Burton Watson, trans. (1989).

  •    The Guliang Commentary (榖梁傳 Guliang zhuan)
  •    The Gongyang Commentary (Gongyang zhuan 公羊傳)


Chinese Philosophy (Master's Literature)





Kongzi 孔子 or Confucius (ca. 551–479 BC)

Notable Translations:

  1. Edward Slingerland, trans. Confucius: Analects (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2003)
  2. D.C. Lau, trans., Confucius: The Analects (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979); Bilingual Edition, with Chinese text (HK Univ. Press, 2000)
  3. Simon Leys, trans., The Analects of Confucius (New York: Norton, 1997)
  4. Raymond Dawson, trans. Confucius: The Analects (Oxford Univ. Press, 1993)
  5. Arthur Waley, trans., The Analects of Confucius (New York: Random House, 1938)
  6. Tsai Chi-chong, The Analects, graphic novel in English trans. (Princeton Univ. Press, 2018)




Mengzi 孟子 or Mencius (ca. 372–289 BC)

  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Bryan Van Norden"Mencius"
  • Chinese Text Project: "Mengzi" (Digital Chinese text with translation by James Legge, d. 1897)

Notable Translations:

  1. D.C. Lau, tr. Mencius (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970; rpt. 2009)
  2. D.C. Lau, tr. Mencius. Bilingual Edition (University of Hong Kong Press, 2009)
  3. Bryan W. Van Norden, tr. Mengzi: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2008) eBook.





Xunzi 荀子 (ca. 312–230 BC)

  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Paul Golden: "Xunzi"
  • Chinese Text Project: "Xunzi" (Digital edition of Chinese text)

Notable Translations:

  1. John Knoblock, tr. Xunzi: A Translation and Study of the Complete Works. 3 vols. (Stanford University Press, 1988-94)
  2. Burton Watson, tr. Basic Writings of Hsün Tzu (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963; reprinted 2003).


There are also online audio files associated with How to Read Chinese Poetry. You can listen to a native speaker read the poems discussed in this book out loud. Click to access online audio files and Chinese transcriptions of the poems.

De Gruyter Library of Chinese Humanities Series

Prose Literature & Fiction

Masterworks of Late Imperial Fiction

Honglou meng 紅樓夢 (Dream of Red Chambers)

Sanguozhi yanyi 三國志演義 (Romance of the Three Kingdoms)

Shuihu zhuan 水滸傳 (The Water Margin)

Xiyou ji 西遊記 (Journey to the West)

Rulin waishi 儒林外史 (The Scholars)

Literary Histories and Handbooks Pertaining to Premodern Chinese Literature

Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature, 2 Vols. (1986).

A two volume encyclopedia with good background entries on major literary figures and texts. The first part of the book contains substantial essays on different literary genres: poetry, prose, drama, Buddhist literarure, Daoist literature, etc. Located in the Humanities Reference Collection on Level 5.


Compiled by Song Lihua 宋莉華 (2021)

This three volume set of photographic reproductions of some of the earliest studies of Chinese literature by Western scholars. These studies date from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Very useful for getting a sense of how early scholars understood the Chinese literary tradition.

Early Medieval China bibliographic guideEarly Medieval Chinese Texts: A Bibliographic Guide  Published: 2015 A guide to over 90 influential primary sources from the period of political disunity (220–589 AD), including essential works of literature, religion, history, and philosophy. The essays are arranged alphabetically by title and contain valuable information on authorship, contents, history of editions, modern scholarship, and translations. It is located in the Asian Reference Stacks on the 4th floor. (Having trouble finding it? Visit 4523 HBLL).

Ancient and Early Medieval Chinese Literature: A Reference Guide, 4 vols. (2014)

This reference guide focuses on Chinese literature from ca. 700 BC to the early 7th century AD. Alphabetically organized, it contains 1,095 entries on major and minor writers, literary forms and "schools," and important Chinese literary terms. Includes detailed, up-to-date bibliographies and source information. 

Call Number: HUM REF PL 2265 .A63 2010 (Level 5, Humanities Reference)

Dictionary of Literary Biography (Gale Electronic Database)

Concise biographies written by experts. 

Search this database by author name.

This volume is included in the database: 

Classical Chinese Writers of the Pre-Tang Period (Curtis Smith, ed.) 2011. eBook.

Physical book also available, Call Number: HUM REF PN 451 .A6 vol. 358 (Level 5, Humanities Reference)

 General Literary History (in Chinese):

中国诗歌通史 Zhongguo shige tongshi [Comprehensive History of Chinese Poetry] 10 vols. (2012).

 Call Number: PL 2307 .Z456x 2012 (Level 4; Asian Collection)