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: 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.

Finding Secondary Scholarship & Primary Sources

Columbia University, Education for Educators: Chinese Primary Sources in English Translation Organized Chronologically, covers material from Shang Dynasty 1200 BC to the late 20th Century. Includes Discussion Questions.

Fordham University Internet Sourcebook: East Asian History

Click to view a selection of primary source documents from all eras of Chinese history translated into English.

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 be added, see this site.

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 included is a substantial selection of missionary correspondence and journals from China, Japan, Korea, and Siam (Bangkok). Maintained by Gale-Cengage.

Lillian Schoedler in Asia

Travel Writing, Spectacle, and World History brings together hundreds of accounts produced by women documenting their travels across the globe. Several accounts cover travel in Asia. The materials contained in this database range from the early 19th century to the late 20th century and include unique manuscripts, diaries, correspondence, guidebooks, postcards, sketches and photographs. From Adam Mathews Digital

[British] Foreign Office Files China (1919–1980). The six parts of this collection (listed below) make available all British Foreign Office files dealing with China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan between 1919 and 1980. Maintained by Adam Matthews Digital.

  • 1919-1929: Kuomintang, CCP and the Third International
  • 1930-1937: The Long March, civil war in China and the Manchurian Crisis
  • 1938-1948: Open Door, Japanese war and the seeds of communist victory
  • 1949-1956: The Communist revolution
  • 1957-1966: The Great Leap Forward
  • 1967-1980: The Cultural Revolution

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. 


The People's Republic of China (1949–1979): A Documentary History

This five volume set contains English translations of many key documents from the founding of the PRC in 1949 through the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the death of Mao Zedong. These volumes are located in the Social Science Reference Stacks (Floor 1).



Sources of Chinese Tradition, Volume 2: Book cover image

Volume 2 brings together more than two-hundred key source texts from 1600 to the 20th Century. 




China's Response to the West: A Documentary Survey 1839–1923, edited by Ssu-yü Teng and John K. Fairbank (1965).




Travel Writing

The American Presidency Project is maintained by political science professors John Woolley and Gerhard Peters and hosted at UC Santa Barbara. This database provides access to numerous documents related to US-China relations. You can search for key terms and limit your search to a particular president's era of administration.

Digital version of US Congressional Serial Set contains all the Reports, Documents, and Journals of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives from 1817 to the present. These documents constitute a rich source of primary source material on all aspects of American history. A print version of the Serial Set would consist of over 12 million pages.

The National Bureau of Statistics of China website provides a trove of official economic and demographic data reported monthly, quarterly, and annually. It can also be viewed in Chinese.

China Data Online is a valuable data source for China studies. It includes (1) China Statistical Databases; and (2) China Census Databases; It provides easy access to the various statistical yearbooks published by the National Bureau of Statistics of China, comprehensive statistics, and Census data of economy and population at national, provincial, city, county, and even township levels.

China Vitae is a resource of biographical information on more than 5000 Chinese leaders in government, politics, the military, education, business, and the media. China Vitae also tracks the appearances and travel of approximately 500 leading Chinese officials. Searchable information is available on date and location of activity, officials in attendance, topics raised, and source of the data. CV also records official announcements of new appointments to senior Party and government positions. China Vitae is maintained and operated by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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.

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.

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.

List of Scholars Actively Researching Modern Chinese History

BYU Faculty:

Diana Duan, BYU, Dept. of History

Eric Hyer, Brigham Young University, Political Science

Kirk Larsen, BYU, Dept. of History


Faculty at Other Universities:

Carol A. Benedict, Georgetown Univ., Walsh School of Foreign Service; History

Denise Y. Ho, Yale University, History

William Kirby, Harvard University, Director of the Fairbank Center for China Studies

Daniel Koss, Harvard University, EALC

Fabio Lanza, University of Arizona, History

Tom Mullaney, Stanford University, History

Andrew J. Nathan, Columbia University, Political Science & Weatherhead East Asia Institute

Michael Szonyi, Harvard University, EALC, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, University of California, Irvine, History

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."

Post Cultural Revolution Posters • University of California San Diego Library. Seventy-seven propaganda posters created by various Chinese agencies, 1968-1989.

Chinese Propaganda Posters. This database provides access to hundreds of images portraying events and personalities from the history of the Chinese Communist Party. Click on “Themes” to view posters for such topics as “The Long March,” “The Sino-Japanese War,” “The Great Leap Forward,” “The Cultural Revolution,” Mao Zedong and other Communist Party leaders, "Models and Martyrs," "Working Women," "Villains," etc.

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) 

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.

Morning Sun 八点钟的太阳

A film produced and directed by Carma Hinton, Geremie R. Barmé, and Richard Gordon about the Cultural Revolution

The film Morning Sun attempts in the space of a two-hour documentary film to create an inner history of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (c.1964-1976). It provides a multi-perspective view of a tumultuous period as seen through the eyes—and reflected in the hearts and minds—of members of the high-school generation that was born around the time of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and that came of age in the 1960s. Others join them in creating in the film’s conversation about the period and the psycho-emotional topography of high-Maoist China, as well as the enduring legacy of that period.

Histories of Modern China

Cambridge History of China

Cultural Revolution Studies

Documentary Film

Morning Sun 八点钟的太阳

A film produced and directed by Carma Hinton, Geremie R. Barmé, and Richard Gordon about the Cultural Revolution

The film Morning Sun attempts in the space of a two-hour documentary film to create an inner history of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (c.1964-1976). It provides a multi-perspective view of a tumultuous period as seen through the eyes—and reflected in the hearts and minds—of members of the high-school generation that was born around the time of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and that came of age in the 1960s. Others join them in creating in the film’s conversation about the period and the psycho-emotional topography of high-Maoist China, as well as the enduring legacy of that period.

Asian Studies Librarian

Tim Davis's picture
Tim Davis

Office: 4523 HBLL

I'm currently working from home. Please e-mail me if you need help with Asian-related research questions or if you are having trouble accessing library resources. I'm happy to help!

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

Asian Collection 4th Floor Map (Click to Enlarge)

Helen Foster Snow Papers (BYU Special Collections)

Helen Foster Snow Papers

Helen was born in Cedar City, Utah and educated in Salt Lake City. She later travelled to China during the 1930s becoming involved in student movements and supporting the establishment of industrial cooperative ventures. She met several of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, including Mao Zedong. She wrote widely on her experiences and took many photographs; her manuscripts, letters, and photos are housed in BYU's Special Collections.


L. Tom Perry Special Collections Call Number: MSS 2219 On-site Use Only:  Ask at Special Collections Help Desk (1130 HBLL).

LinkCollection Intro and Finding Aid

China Daily News Article: Zhao Xu and Zhang Yuan, "Up Close with Helen" (2019).

Helen Foster Snow: Witness to Revolution (Film)

Produced by Combat Films (New York: Filmakers Library, 2001)