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Chinese Studies: Pre-Modern Chinese 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.

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 The Chinese Classics, Volume III: The Shoo King or the Book of Historical Documents.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)

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:

James Legge (trans.), The Chinese Classics, v. 5. The Chʻun Tsʻew with the Tso chuen (1895; rpt 1960)., edn. (Chinese text only).

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 version

   The Guliang Commentary (榖梁傳 Guliang zhuan)

   The Gongyang Commentary (Gongyang zhuan 公羊傳)


Master's Literature (Philosophy)




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

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosphy: Mark Csikszentmihalyi. (2020). "Confucius"

Chinese Text Project"Lunyu 論語“ (The Analects)

Notable Translations:

  1. D.C. Lau, trans., Confucius: The Analects (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979); Bilingual Edition, with Chinese text (HK Univ. Press, 2000)
  2. Edward Slingerland, trans. Confucius: Analects (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2003)
  3. Arthur Waley, trans., The Analects of Confucius (New York: Random House, 1938)
  4. Simon Leys, trans., The Analects of Confucius (New York: Norton, 1997)
  5. Raymond Dawson, trans. Confucius: The Analects (Oxford Univ. Press, 1993)
  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 Philosphy"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)





Xunzi 荀子 (ca. 312–230 BC)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosphy"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).

Dao de jing 道德經 (The Way and Its Power)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Alan Chan. (2018). "Laozi"

Notable Translations:

  1. Henricks (trans.)
  2. D. C. Lau (trans.)


Zhuangzi 莊子 (The Writings of Master Zhuang)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Chand Hansen. (2014). "Zhuangzi"

Notable Translations:

  1. Burton Watson (trans.). Complete Works of Zhuangzi.
  2. A. C. Graham (trans.)
  3. Victor Mair (trans.) 
  4. Brook Ziporyn (trans.)


Liezi 列子 (The Writings of Master Lie)



Poetry of Du Fu 杜甫 (712–770), 6 vols., 2015 (Stephen Owen, trans.)

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)

Chinese Literature Anthologies 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

Search the HBLL Catalog for any of these journals by name.


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 Song-Yuan Studies (1989–present)

Late Imperial China (1985–present)

Ming Studies (1975–present)

Monumenta Serica (1935–present)

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

Tang Studies (1982–present)

T'oung Pao (1890–present)

Premodern Chinese Literature

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).


Oxford Reference: A Dictionary of Chinese Literature. Edited by Taiping Chang (2017).

From the Shi jing 詩經 (Classic of Songs) of the eleventh century bc, to the to the wanglu wenxue 網路文學 (Internet literature) of the twenty-first century, this authoritative dictionary covers key terms relative to the study of Chinese literature, from antiquity to the present day. This work includes 240 entries (arranged alphabetically) on key literary figures, trends, schools, movements, and literary collections are included, as well as detailed descriptions of traditional literary works, plays, dramas, stories, novels, and other main literary texts.

 General Literary History:

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

 PL 2307 .Z456x 2012

Information on Individual Texts and Authors​

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

 HUM REF PL 2265 .A63 2010

Dictionary of Literary Biography  

• Vol. 358:  "Classical Chinese Writers of the Pre-Tang Period" (Curtis Smith, ed.) 2011

HUM REF PN 451 .A6 vol.358