Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Chinese Studies: Pre-Modern Chinese History

A guide to resources for the study of China

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

Chinese History Reference Materials

Counsel of Foreign Relations: Timeline of U.S. Relations with China (1949–2020)

Since 1949, U.S.-China relations have evolved from tense standoffs to a complex mix of intensifying diplomacy, growing international rivalry, and increasingly intertwined economies.

Chinese History: A New Manual by Endymion Wilkinson, 5th ed. (2018). This is an excellent resource for finding relevant scholarship and primary sources on an impressive variety of potential research topics (Language, Literature, History, Religion, Geography, Peoples, Culture, Philosophy, Fine Arts, Trade, Technology, etc.). Because the book is over 1200 pages, you will need use the table of contents and indexes to find relevant information on your topic. We have two copies in the library one in Social Science Reference Stacks (1st Floor), the other in Asian Reference Stacks (4th Floor). Pleco offers a digital version of this work as an in-app purchase. Call Number: DS 735 .W695 2018

Good Single-volume Histories of China

The Cambridge Illustrated History of China

Patricia Ebrey. Published: 2010.

The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600

Valerie Hansen. Published: 2000.

A History of Chinese Civilization

Jacques Gernet; C. Hartman & J. R. Foster (trans.). Published: 1996

Finding Secondary Scholarship & Primary Sources

The Chinese Text Project is an extensive online, open-access, full-text searchable, digital library of pre-modern Chinese texts from the four major categories of the Chinese bibliographic tradition: (Classics 經, Philosophy 子, History 史, Literature 集)



Scripta Sinica (24 Dynastic Histories)  

Full text searchable database including digital access to the "Thirteen Classics" and all Twenty-four 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.

Visualizing Cultures: Image Driven Scholarship was launched at MIT in 2002 to explore the potential of the Web for developing innovative image-driven scholarship and learning. The mission of Visualizing Cultures is to use new technology to reconstruct the past as people of the time visualized the world (or imagined it to be). Topical units to date focus on Japan in the modern world and early-modern China.

China, America, and the Pacific (18th–20th Centuries). This database contains an extensive range of archival material connected to the trading and cultural relationships that emerged between China, America and the Pacific region between the 18th and early 20th centuries. Manuscript sources, rare printed texts, visual images, objects and maps document this fascinating history. Maintained by Adam Matthews Digital.

Asia and the West: 19th Century Diplomacy and Cultural Exchange. 19th Century British Foreign Office and United States consular and diplomatic records from China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. These records reflect the day-to-day activities with the indigenous populations, the expansion of trade, and the exercise of extraterritorial rights and treaty provisions. Also missionary correspondence and journals from China, Japan, Korea, and Siam (Bangkok). Maintained by Gale-Cengage.

The China Mission History Repository holds original materials and reproductions relevant mainly to the history of Roman Catholic missionary activities in China from the late-imperial era to the present.


The North China Herald Online Newspaper (1850–1940) is the prime printed source for the history of the foreign presence in China from around 1850 to 1940s. No other newspaper existed over such an extended period or covers the era with such depth and variety. Full-text searchable.

The Twenty-Four Dynastic Histories

(Shi ji 史記 to Ming shi 明史)

The histories in this series are printed in two columns; the left column reproduces the original classical Chinese text, the right column contains the same text translated into Modern Chinese (baihua 白話). The side-by-side translation can help to speed up your reading of these historical works. Location: Chinese Stacks of the Asian Collection (HBLL Level 4), Call Number: DS 735. A2 E65 2004. 

Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1: From Earliest Times to 1600 (2000). A collection of seminal primary readings on the social, intellectual, and religious traditions of China compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Irene Bloom. This anthology is divided into four chronological parts, beginning with the earliest Chinese writing—bronze age Oracle-Bone inscriptions of the late Shang dynasty (1571-1045 BC)—and continuing through the end of the Ming dynasty (1644 AD). A substantial part of the volume is dedicated to the Neo-Confucian revival of the Song and Ming.

The China Journal (1995–present) The China Journal is a cutting-edge source of scholarship, information and analysis about China and Taiwan. TCJ has published informed and insightful commentary from China scholars worldwide and stimulated the scholarly debate on contemporary China for more than thirty years. Interdisciplinary in scope, TCJ provides deep coverage of important anthropological, sociological, and political science topics.

The China Quarterly (1960–present) The China Quarterly is the leading scholarly journal in its field, covering all aspects of contemporary China including Taiwan. Its interdisciplinary approach covers a range of subjects including anthropology/sociology, literature and the arts, business/economics, geography, history, international affairs, law, and politics. Edited to rigorous standards by scholars of the highest repute, the journal publishes high-quality, authoritative research, keeping readers up to date with events in China. 

Journal of Asian Studies (1956–present) The Journal of Asian Studies (JAS) publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed empirical and multidisciplinary work on Asia, spanning the arts, history, literature, the social sciences, and cultural studies. Coverage includes South and Southeast Asia, China, Inner Asia, and Northeast Asia, JAS welcomes broad comparative and transnational studies as well as essays emanating from fine-grained historical, cultural, political, and literary research. The journal also publishes clusters of papers that present new and vibrant discussions on specific themes and issues.

Journal of Contemporary China (1992–preent) The Journal of Contemporary China is a peer-reviewed journal providing exclusive information about contemporary Chinese affairs for scholars, business people and government policy-makers. The journal's fields of interest include economics, political science, law, culture, literature, business, history, international relations, sociology and other social sciences and humanities.

Foreign Affairs (1922–present) is a leading forum for the serious discussion of American foreign policy and global affairs. Published by the non-profit and nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Foreign Affairs tolerates a wide difference of honestly held and convincingly expressed opinion. Its articles do not represent a consensus of beliefs. CRF believes that Foreign Affairs can do more to guide American public opinion by a broad hospitality to divergent ideas than it can by identifying itself with one school.


Full-text, digital access to The New Yorker magazine (1992–present). Paper copies are available in the library covering 1933–2018 at this call number AP 2 .N6763 in the periodicals reading room (Level 2 North).

Full text access digital access to The Atlantic (1988–present). EBSCO Academic Search Premiere provides full color PDF files of each article.

Foreign Policy (1970–present) is an American news publication, founded in 1970 and focused on global affairs, current events, and domestic and international policy. It produces content daily on its website, and in six print issues annually. 

Asian Affairs (London; 1970–present) covers the whole region of Asia—Central Asia, the Middle East, South Asia, South East Asia and East Asia. The journal generally consists of articles on specific countries, locales, or historical episodes, as well as contemporary affairs. The Journal favors articles of a practical and general character above those which are highly technical, or which concentrate on academic theory. A substantial section of each issue consists of book reviews of new publications.

The CNKI Database (China National Knowledge Infrastructure) is a very comprehensive database for finding full-text scholarly articles in Chinese. BYU has access to journals in literature, history, and philosophy. To see only content to which we subscribe, click the "Subscribed" option at the top right of the upper menu on the database homepage..

A List of Useful Databases for Finding Scholarly Articles

Use the databases listed below to search for scholarly articles on your research topic.  Hovering over the "info" icon  will reveal detailed information about each database. For some very helpful tips on how to conduct a successful database search, click Here.

TIP: Use multiple databases when searching for articles related to your research project as each database has different coverage and unique features.

Databases for Finding Scholarly Articles in Chinese


China Online Journals (COJ) by Wangfang Data provides access to 237 Chinese university journals in Humanities and Social Sciences and 370 scholarly journals in the Arts and Humanities published in the People’s Republic of China. Articles are full-text and can be printed, down-loaded, or e-mailed. Searching is done in Chinese

National Social Sciences Database (China) provides current access to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) core journals. Many journals provide full-text links to article PDF files, others just provide citations (use Interlibrary Loan to request a copy of these). To make use of some features you will need to create a personal login (username and password). Searching is done in Chinese.

Airiti Library: Search this database to find citations for articles published in academic journals from Taiwan. After discovering an article you want, request a copy through Interlibrary Loan; this database does not provide access to full text articles.

Dragon Source 龙源 : Digital Magazines from China

Access hundreds of Chinese magazines. Topics include: Literature, Lifestyle, Business, Economics, Politics, etc.

List of Scholars Actively Researching Pre-Modern China

BYU Faculty

Jon Felt, Department of History

David Honey, Asian and Near Eastern Languages

Timothy Davis, Asian Studies Librarian


Faculty at Other Universities

ProQuest's Alexander Street is the world’s leading provider of academic streaming media to libraries. They have partnered with top video producers around the world to deliver more than 60,000 video titles across all disciplines. They are particularly strong in the fields of anthropology, history, diversity studies, theatre, film, music, dance, news, current affairs, and the social sciences. For video related to Asian Studies, click Here.

FRONTLINE produces works of investigative journalism that both question and explain complicated and controversial aspects of our modern world. Frontline has been one of American television’s top long-form news and current affairs series since 1983. They have won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 91 Emmy Awards and 22 Peabody Awards. You can watch more than 200 documentaries online, for free, any time.

Kanopy partners with public libraries and universities to stream thoughtful entertainment to your preferred device with no fees and no commercials. Click the logo above and log in with your BYU NetID to enjoy Kanopy's diverse catalog with new titles added every month. You can search for films on Asian topics and in Asian languages.

An extensive collection of streamable documentary video. Maintained by Infobase.

Sydney D. Gamble Photography Collection, Duke University

Sidney D. Gamble (1890-1968), sociologist, renowned China scholar, and avid amateur photographer, began taking pictures in China during his first trip to the country with his family in 1908. He returned three more times between 1917 to 1932 and continued photographing the daily life of Chinese citizens. He traveled 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. Gamble used a few of the photographs from his extensive collection in his scholarly publications and in slide lectures, the majority of images were never published or exhibited during his lifetime.

Historical Photographs of China is an open-access resource for more than 8,000 digitized photographs taken in China between 1850 and 1950.  Users may search or browse across the collections and conduct Boolean searches, refining results by date, viewing geo-tagged map results, and exploring connections between results. Users may download images of interest and save them to "My Workbench."

Primary Source Material in English Translation for Premodern Chinese History

Cambridge History of China