Chinese History, Politics & Society


Chinaknowledge – A Universal Guide for Chinese Studies, Ulrich Theobald Nice, concise yet academically sound encyclopedia with entries on the major developments of each historical period, as well as background on language, literature, religion, etc. Though written in English, entries provide a fair bit of information in Romanized Chinese and characters, which makes this far more useful than ordinary internet reference works.

Donald K. Jordan’s China Resources Page, University of California, San Diego There’s a lot to be found here, including a comprehensive table of dynasties and reign names (with characters and pronunciations); background essays on language, the calendar, the lineage system, etc.; and numerous other reference tools.  Links are particularly strong in the areas of religion and Taiwanese culture. Readers get a dose of both Professor Jordan’s erudition and his strong opinions, but the latter are not disguised -- some entries are helpfully marked “Harangue”!

China the Beautiful, Ming L. Pei This site is a bit of a portmanteau, and organized according to the idiosyncrasies of the webmaster.  Recommended more for a casual browse than for a reference for serious research, but can be rewarding as such.  The sections on the arts, for instance, give useful basic introductions with visual or aural examples, and the history sections collate some handy links, portraits of emperors, and the like.  Should be a starting rather than ending point, however.

The China Beat A now-defunct collective blog that was managed out of the University of Irvine, the China Beat solicited contributors from the worlds of China scholarship and journalism in order to provide additional background on China stories in the news and analysis of China coverage, but many essays go beyond that to offer fine short introductions to scholarship and teaching materials on selected subjects. Therefore, the four years of archives are mandatory reading.


History of China, Leon Poon, University of Maryland Based on the Army Area Handbook for China, this is not a site for specialists (nor does it claim to be), but rather a basic introduction to Chinese history in a nutshell.  The nicest feature of this site is that its creator has added relevant Chinese characters to the text, thereby rectifying an omission of nearly all English-language Chinese history textbooks, and providing a useful learning tool.

Chinese History Research Site, University of California, San Diego Focus is on modern Chinese history, with bibliographies, reviews and guides to archival and other sources for researchers.  Students looking for introductions to the field might find especially useful the book reviews and historiographical essays written by doctoral students in the Chinese history program at UCSD.

Classical Historiography for Chinese History, Benjamin Elman, Princeton University,  This site is mainly designed for the training of researchers in Chinese history up to the 20th century, who will find here copious bibliographic resources in Asian and Western languages, as well as much practical guidance.  There is a good deal here for undergraduates and the general reader, however, especially in the bibliographies of translations of and literature on the Chinese classics.

Frog in a Well -- The China History Group Blog An entertaining blog with a largely modern bent, run by professional historians and students. Posts range from unusual takes on historical topics that would interest general readers to useful tips for researchers and grad students. See also site links to sister blogs on Korea and Japan.

The PRC History Group The online presence of a scholarly discussion group, this website offers links to libraries, archives, and other resources, guides to scholars working in the field, and an annotated "document of the month."

Chinese History Forum A moderated discussion forum which attracts participation from professionals, students and learned amateurs. Membership is dependent on a passing grade in the administrators' Chinese history examination!

Digital Text and Image Databases

Thomas H. Hahn Docu-Images  Galleries of images of urban and religious life (contemporary and historical), Cultural Revolution images, and more.

China Local, Harvard University. A wealth of resources illuminating local history, beginning with the former Jinhua prefecture in Zhejiang province and continuing throughout China. These include maps (some with live links), translations of primary texts (including genealogies, gazetteers, dedication tablets, etc.), virtual tours of communities and structures, and pages on special topics such as Wu regional drama.

IAO Databases, Institute d’Asie Orientale, Lyons. Several databases that are extraordinarily valuable for researchers and students alike are housed here.
• The Virtual Shanghai site ( includes primary source texts and scholarly articles as well as photographs and maps, all searchable by individual category. Eventually a live map (GIS) system will be added.
• Historical Photographs of China A collaborative project between IAO, University of Bristol, and University of Lincoln, this database is strong in the history of foreign relations, diplomacy and imperialism. At present its holdings include photographs from the Shanghai Municipal Police and China Maritime Customs service, and the collections of Fu Bingchang and G. Warren Swire.
• Historical Chinese Postcard Project Fascinating collection of early photographs postcards from China (1896-1920.) At present search engine is under construction.
• Chinese Torture/Supplice chinoises Visual, multimedia and written sources (including fiction as well as historical documents) and research essays make up this project designed to examine critically the "cliché of Chinese torture." The site is in both French and English.

Ling Lung Women’s Magazine, Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University A digitized run of a women’s magazine published in Shanghai from 1931 to 1937, this resource provides a fascinating and endlessly revealing glimpse into the changing mores of middle-class female culture and consumption in China’s coastal cities.  Even those with no or marginal Chinese literacy will get a kick out of the lavish (for the time) illustrations, photos, and advertisements for everything from Hollywood and Shanghai movies to beauty products and medicinal aids.  No search capabilities, but each issue has a table of contents.  

Arnold Arboretum China and Tibet Photographs. Two digital collections of photographs from botanical expeditions also include documentation of social life and built environments in the regions -- South Central China and Tibet: Hotspots of Diversity ( and Botanical and Cultural Images of Eastern Asia, 1907-1927 (

Hedda Morrison Photographs, Harvard University 5,000 photographs taken during Morrison's residence in Beijing, 1933-1946, depicting the city and other parts of north China.

Sidney D. Gamble Photographs, Duke University More than 5,000 photographs from various regions of China and Japan taken between 1917 and 1932 by the social scientist.

The Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr. Collection on Muslims in China, Harvard University, Over 1,000 photographs from the 1920s and 1930s of Muslims and Christian missionaries, primarily in western China but also in Muslim communities in the east.

Special Historical Topics

Online Documentary: The Nanjing Atrocities, Masato Kajimoto Originally derived from the author’s 2000 masters thesis in the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, this is the best-documented and most evenhanded Nanjing Massacre site in English at present.  The site has been enhanced with brief video clips, photo galleries, and a message board.  A good starting point that can be supplemented with more recent scholarship.

Stefan Landsberger’s Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages. There are now several websites featuring Chinese propaganda posters of the Cultural Revolution era and beyond, but this is by far the most comprehensive.  Artwork is helpfully organized by topic and by artist, with useful background information on the relevant political campaigns and citations for further reading.  Move your mouse over each poster for an English translation of the slogans.

Morning Sun, Long Bow Group A website built to accompany the Cultural Revolution documentary of the same name, one could spend several days exhausting the resources here.  The site contains clips from propaganda films and TV shows, sound files of songs and radio broadcasts, photos, essays and other secondary readings, and even the record of one family’s household confiscation.  You should already know the basics about the period to get the most out of this resource.

Tiananmen – The Gate of Heavenly Peace, Long Bow Group Another website made to accompany a Long Bow Group documentary, this one on the 1989 student protests and crackdown. Not as comprehensive as the more recent “Morning Sun” site, but still provides a wealth of valuable visual and audio material, and bibliographic references.  The site also documents the controversy surrounding the film itself, a worthwhile classroom discussion point of its own.

China News Digest Infobase (CND 资料信息库 ) – enter via Several “Virtual Museums” of major events and eras can be accessed from the Chinese or English versions of the main China News Digest site by scrolling to the links under “Infobase”.  The Cultural Revolution and China ’89 museums are especially valuable, as they contain many primary sources from participants and eyewitnesses.

Contemporary Society

Transnational China Project, Baker Institute, Rice University Contains curriculum resources and transcripts of commentary on major current affairs, but students and researchers may be most interested in the image archives, which include contemporary advertising and consumer culture, the Three Gorges project and more.

Frontline: China in the Red A website to accompany the excellent 2003 Frontline documentary examining the changes that rapid economic modernization has wrought upon rural and urban lives at various levels of society during the past ten years.  The site offers access to the film itself, as well as filmmaker and interviewee bios, roundtable discussions, multimedia presentations and links for further reading.

Gender Research Centre, Hong Kong Institute of Asia Pacific Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong, In addition to information on the academic and community activities of the center – the first such research unit established in Hong Kong – the links section provides an extremely useful list of connections to gender studies and women’s organizations throughout Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and beyond.

Women Web (婦女聯合網站) Women’s Rights Promotion Foundation (婦女權益租金發展基金會) Taiwan A bilingual clearinghouse of information related to women’s groups, activism, gender studies and more in Taiwan and in Asia more broadly.  Here users will find reports on the status of women, news, sociological data, databases of experts and institutions, and links.

Institute for Tongzhi Studies ( 華人性別研究中心 ). The Facebook page of a research and exchange program based in New York, and devoted to issues of gender, sexuality and the rights of sexual minorities.


Formosa: 19th Century Images, Reed College A digital library of engravings, woodcuts and other visual representations of Taiwan, mostly from Europe and America.  Accompanied by an annotated bibliography of traveler’s accounts of Taiwan in Western languages from this time period.

Taiwan Documents Project A collection of documents relating not to Taiwan in general, but specifically to the “Taiwan Straits Situation,” i.e. the present-day national and international status of the island and its historical evolution.  Focus is therefore on treaties, international communiqués, and other statements of international policy.  Though the editorial commentary of the site tends to favor independence, overall its presence is relatively muted.

Research Unit on Taiwanese Literature and Culture, Bochum University. Bibliographies, research notes, online publications and links in English, German and Chinese.  The disciplinary focus here is literature, but many of the links and resources are also general in nature.

North American Taiwan Studies Association (NATSA) This site mainly serves to connect scholars and announce the organization’s annual conference, but the Links section leads to a nice variety of academic, community, news and general cultural and social resources.

Info Taiwan. The official site of the ROC government  dispenses quite a bit of useful basic information on Taiwan history and culture.  Statistics, historical essays and links can be found in the “Who We Are” section, as well as (carefully curated) photos, and information on food culture, religion, and more.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Heritage Project. Photos, documents, timelines, and archival access for public heritage sites from Hong Kong's broad geography and history.

Hong Kong Museum of History, Collections and Services. Online collection guide and materials downloads from Hong Kong's public history museum.

Hong Kong Oral History Resources, Hong Kong Central Library. A guide to the many oral history collections conducted by and held in public and private institutions around Hong Kong, as well as bibliographic guides and research guidelines.


Human Rights

In addition to the general international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the following focus particularly on issues related to greater China.

Human Rights in China This is a Chinese NGO in exile, with offices in New York and Hong Kong, and extensive networks within China.  Their bilingual website offers reports on current work, publications, and some archival material.

China’s Human Rights Worth exploring to gain an understanding of how a counter-narrative of human rights to that of the international NGOs has been constructed by official sources in China.  A bilingual site sponsored by the China Society for Human Rights Studies, a government-sanctioned academic “NGO.”