WorldCat is the world’s largest library catalogue. It connects you to the collections of libraries worldwide, among them are the Library of Congress, which holds one of the largest Chinese collections outside of China

The HathiTrust Digital Library is an enormous collaborative repository of digital content from research libraries around the world. Here you will find a selection of open access resources for China studies. 

Internet Archives is a digital library providing free public access to collections of digitised materials. A list of East Asian (mainly Chinese language) newspapers and periodicals can be found here

National Library of China is the national library of the People’s Republic of China and is one of the largest libraries in the world. It offers some online freely accessible databases of Chinese rare books, such as the 中华古籍资源库 (Chinese Ancient Books Resource Database); and also the 民国图书数字化资源库 (Republic of China Book Digital Resource Library) for publications from the Republic era. A list of their digital resources can be found here.

National Central Library, the national library of the Republic of China (Taiwan) provides access to many open-access indexes and databases, see here. Examples include:

  • National Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations in Taiwan (台灣博碩士論文知識加值系統). You can search theses and dissertations of colleges and universities in Taiwan from 1956 to the present, and download authorized items in full text
  • NCL Taiwan Periodical Literature (期刊文獻資訊網) - a bibliographic database of Taiwan journals, many of which are online available
  • Taiwan eBook provides open access to Chinese books published between 1911-1949 held by libraries, research organizations and government institutions throughout Taiwan.

抗日战争与近代中日关系文献数据平台 (Data Platform of the Anti-Japanese War and Modern China-Japan Relations) is a platform of digitised books, newspapers, journals and documents relating to China’s modern history. Despite its title, it covers much more than just China-Japan relations.

Modern History database (MHDB) integrates the Modern History Institute of Academia Sinica (中央研究院近代史研究所)’s digital resources and offers one platform to search across all its databases.

National Social Science Database (国家哲学社会科学学术期刊数据库) developed by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is the most comprehensive open academic journal database in the fields of social sciences in China.

Library of Congress’ Chinese Rare Book Digital Collection draws from the 5300 titles of Chinese rare books housed at the Asian Division of the Library. It brings together printed books, manuscripts, Buddhist sutras, works with hand-painted pictures, local gazetteers, and ancient maps that encompass a wide array of disciplines and subjects.

Harvard-Yenching Library's Digital Collections are listed on their Research Guide for Chinese Studies. In particular, the 'open access' collections are publicly available and digitised.

The University of Hong Kong Libraries’ digital initiatives includes online access to content such as their Cantonese Opera Clay Print Libretto collection, and Hong Kong Oral History Archives.

The Institute of Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo has digitised and offers 汉籍善本全文影像资料库 (Full-text image database of rare Chinese books).

Recommended resources

China Families offers a growing body of information about men and women of many different nationalities, professions and age, who lived and worked in China between the 1850s and 1940s, where you can search for the names of people you think might have lived in China and find records and links to resources. 

Old Hong Kong Newspapers is a digitised collection of major old Hong Kong Newspapers published from early Hong Kong to nowadays, which is accessible through the Multimedia Information System of Hong Kong Public Libraries.   

Not sure where to start?