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Subject guide

Chinese Studies

Overview of databases, reference works and websites for research in Chinese Studies

The sinological collection is located in the University Library. Its reference collection can be found in the Asian Library

Follow the Asian Library on Facebook en Twitter for announcements, library tips & tricks and collection highlights.

The Asian library has the largest collection of books, journals and other text material regarding China in the Netherlands and is one of the major sinological libraries in Europe. Not only does the Asian Library support the University of Leiden in its pursuit of scholarship, but also serves a social purpose within the Netherlands and the Benelux. The presence of a large Chinese language library is indispensable for research and education and increases the independence of our researchers.

The sinological collection includes over 300,000 titles and nearly 100 running subscriptions on journals originating from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, the United States and Europe.

The collection grows annually with approx. 2000 titles in Chinese, originating from the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, thanks partly to special projects and donations.

The collection of Western literature includes over 35,000 physical titles, a few hundred of non-current journals, and more than 100 running subscriptions on printed journals and newspapers. This collection of publications in Western languages has been accumulated over the centuries and includes mostly literature in English, French, German and Dutch.

A selection of Japanese publications strengthens the international profile of our sinological collection.

Additionally, the library provides access to more than 4,500 Chinese language e-journals, a selection of e-resources and thousands of e-books in English.

Leiden’s internationally acclaimed Chinese Special Collections feature among others, the Van Gulik collection, old and rare printed books, manuscripts, journals and archives of former Dutch Sinologists. The oldest printed Chinese book in our library dates back to the early 15th century. These rare books are accessible in the Special Collections reading room. Read the Collection Guide for detailed information.

The purpose of this section is to inform users about the basics of Chinese romanization in our library system and to facilitate searching the catalog.
Since 2016, we have been using the ALA-LC Romanization Tables for Chinese, which differs slightly from the official pinyin system. Works entered into the catalog before 2016 use the official pinyin system. See also "search tips" at the bottom of the page.

Romanization systems

Pinyin has become the standard for the romanization of Chinese characters. Next to the Chinese characters (both simplified and traditional), library users can therefore use pinyin to find Chinese-language materials in the catalogue. 

Be aware that publications in Western languages sometimes use different romanization systems in book titles, such as the Wade-Giles system. However, the catalog does in principle not use alternative systems for Chinese-language records. For people who are more familiar with the Wade-Giles system, this conversion table can be useful.

(For a complete overview of pinyin rules used outside the library catalogue, refer to the Basic rules of the Chinese phonetic alphabet orthography).

Separating syllables

When transcribed into pinyin, each Chinese character must be separated with a space. 
明清文学 Ming Qing wen xue
商务印书馆 Shang wu yin shu guan

Do not join:

  • General, nonspecific geographic terms
    东北 Dong bei (NB: 东北 Dongbei refers to Manchuria)
  • Titles and titles of royalty
    秦始皇帝 Qin shi huang di
  • Terms of address
    张大夫 Zhang dai fu
  • Names of buildings and other constructions
    黄鹤楼 Huang he lou
    圣果寺 Sheng guo si

Joining syllables 

Two or more syllables are connected together (without hyphens) in various cases: 

  • Words of non-Chinese origin
    乌鲁木齐 Wulumuqi (not Urumchi)
    東京 Dongjing (not Tokyo)
  • Multi-character surnames and given names
    孙中山 Sun Zhongshan
    司马相如 Sima Xiangru 
  • Forenames, given names, and courtesy names    
    孔子 Kongzi
  • Married women
    蒋宋美玲 Jiang Song Meiling
  • Fictional characters
    贾宝玉 Jia Baoyu
    骆驼祥子 Luotuo Xiangzi
  • Names of persons of religious vocation
    惠能 Huineng
    释吉藏 shi Jizang
    玄奘法师 Xuanzang fa shi
  • Personal names as part of corporate names, conference names, or geographical names
    中山大学 Zhongshan da xue
    周恩来学术讨论会 Zhou Enlai xue shu tao lun hui
  • Names of countries 
    中华人民共和国 Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo
    中华民国 Zhonghua Minguo
    俄国 Eguo
  • Syllables associated with multi-character geographic names (NB: do not join the names of jurisdictions and topographical features to geographic names)
    西藏自治区文物管理委员会 Xizang Zizhiqu wen wu guan li wei yuan hui
    安徽省 Anhui Sheng
    太平洋   Taiping Yang
    长江Chang Jiang
    吴县 Wu Xian (NB: separate two-syllable place names in which the second syllable is a generic term for the jurisdiction)
    纽约市 Niuyue shi (NB: non-Chinese jurisdictions are romanized in the same manner as the names of Chinese jurisdictions)
  • Historical jurisdictions 
    锦州府 Jinzhou Fu
    昌平州 Changping Zhou
  • Archaeological sites, bridges, and other constructions of geographic extent are separated from the names themselves. Multisyllable generic terms are connected together. 
    泸州长江大桥 Luzhou Changjiang Daqiao (not Luzhou Chang Jiang Daqiao)
    黄壁庄水库 Huangbizhuang Shuiku (not Huangbi Zhuang Shuiku)
  • Personal names that appear within a composite geographical indication are separated from the strictly geographical term
    张自忠路 Zhangzizhong Lu
    鲁迅公园 Luxun Gongyuan
  • Racial, linguistic, or ethnic groups
    基督徒 Jidu tu
    毛南族 Maonan zu
    客家话 Kejia hua
  • Reign periods
    光绪己丑 Guangxu ji chou
    民国七十九年 Minguo qi shi jiu nian

Search Tips

Our catalogue has its own history and contains therefore different strata of bibliographical records. In old records syllables of general terms are connected together. The library staff is making effort to review these records and correct errors.

We therefore advise users not only to use different ways of searching (pinyin, characters) but also to search both separated and joined pinyin forms. This applies especially to older publications. 
Capitalization, punctuation or spaces found between characters in old records do not affect searches.

Characters are romanized without their tons. 

An apostrophe must be added before a joined vowel to avoid ambiguity, such as 西安 Xi'an (≠ 县 xian). A search using “xi’an” will also give results including “xian”, it is therefore better type “xi an” (with a space) when searching resources in Chinese. 

Note also that some personal or geographical names well established in other transcriptions were not systematically converted to pinyin: 蒋介石 Chiang Kai-shek, 陕西 Shaanxi.

Find our databases on Chinese Studies in the catalogue.

To the catalogue

Chinese Academic Journals (CAJ)

China Academic Journals is a vast collection of Chinese electronic journals. Our license covers four major subjects, resulting in access to over 4,000 journals:

  • education & social sciences 教育与社会科学综合 (2159)
  • economics and management 经济与管理 (1265)
  • literature, history and philosophy 文史哲 (982)
  • politics, military affairs, law 政治军事与法律 (782)

Need more help using this resource? Contact us at the library or read the User Guide CAJ.

Bibliography of Asian Studies (BAS)

The Bibliography of Asian Studies is a large database with thousands of articles on various subjects on East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia. It is a great starting point for collecting materials when doing research or writing a paper.

The great thing is you can read the article fulltext immediately from your screen - provided Leiden University has access. Find out if we do by clicking GetIt@Leiden which appears just below the article description - it will take you to a screen where you can click the links. Search BAS by typing in search words in the simple home search screen, but if you want to view a selection of articles, it is more convenient to browse BAS by subject and then choose for which country.

Search results can be refined (source type, subject, language, etc.) and ranked (date, author, relevance and source). Please note the advanced search screen is rather good to use, here you can for example restrict by year, plus many more options.

Chinese Reference Books (Apabi)

The Asian Library has access to 168 reference ebooks through the Chinese ebook portal Apabi. This is a collection of dictionaries and encyclopedias on various subjects, i.e. Chinese literature, films, Chinese who's who, Buddhism, ancient texts, Tibet, Chinese vegetables... and many more useful and interesting ebooks.

All encyclopedias, dictionaries and other reference works are scanned from cover to cover and fully searchable in fulltext.

Oxford Bibliographies - Chinese Studies

Oxford Bibliographies is very useful resource to get started with a research.

Oxford Bibliographies in Chinese Studies provides an authoritative guide to the key works across the whole field, pointing researchers and practitioners at all levels to the most important scholarship in European languages as well as in Chinese (and Japanese), and giving scholars working in other fields easier access to scholarship on China. The subjects covered in the initial launch provide broad guidance to major areas of study, while later additions focus more specifically on key issues or topics of debate.”

Within Leiden

Museum Volkenkunde
For art and material culture you can always check the collections of the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden. The museum also has an image database with collections objects. All objects contain a picture and a basic description. You can search the system within certain categories such as the kind of object, geographical place of origin and cultural boundaries, but you can, of course, also use your own search terms.

Outside Leiden

Internationale Institute of Sociale History (IISH)

The IISH in Amsterdam houses several collections on Asia, for example the "Henk Sneevliet Archive", on the early history of the Chinese Communist Party, and a unique collection of the Chinese people's movement in the spring of 1989. The institute is also host to Stefan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Posters.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum holds the largest art history collection in the Netherlands, housed in the monumental museum created by Cuypers. Books, periodicals, auction catalogues, annual reports relating to the collection of the Rijksmuseum are collected here. Books and periodicals cannot be borrowed, but they can be read in the reading rooms. Their data has been stored in the Library Catalogue Rijksmuseum Research Library

The Kunstmuseum Den Haag and the Keramiekmuseum Princessehof in Leeuwarden are both important because of their vast collection of porcelain and earthenware.

The Blauer Leihverkehr is a free interlibrary loan service offered for the East Asian collections of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and the South Asian collections of the Heidelberg University Library. More information at Can't find it at UBL.

The Taiwan Resource Centre for Chinese Studies (TRCCS) is a collaborative project between Taiwan's National Central Library and the UBL since 2014. The TRCCS holds an initial donation of a selection of books and DVD's on art, society, literature and film, published in Taiwan. The collection will grow annually by donations of the NCL.

In addition, the TRCCS offers a range of databases for Taiwan and Chinese studies, such as PeriPath Index and Taiwan Periodical Literature System.

The NCL began in 2012 to establish Centers overseas in order to broaden and deepen cultural exchanges between the Chinese and the Western worlds. Other Centers of the NCL are, among others, the School of Oriental and African Studies (London), the University of Texas at Austin, Leipzig University and the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Since 2020, the TRCCS collection from the National Central Library (NCL) of Taiwan are available for interlibrary loan. Users of Leiden University Libraries can request books Online via the “Books Information Search System”.  Costs are generously covered by the NCL. Kindly refer to the detailed procedure.

TRCCS e-Resources

The TRCCS has kindly provided the Asian Library with the following e-Resources:









National Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations in Taiwan

National Central Library




PerioPath: Index to Taiwan Periodical Literature System

National Central Library




Union Catalog of Rare Books Database

National Central Library




Rare Books Image Search System

National Central Library




Bronze and Stone Rubbing Database

National Central Library




Digital Archive of Rare Books

National Taiwan Normal University Library




Full-Text Image System for Books of Japanese Ruled Period

National Taiwan Library




Full-Text Image System for Periodicals of Japanese Ruled Period

National Taiwan Library

9 經典人文學刊庫 聯合百科電子出版有限公司 Sinica Sinoweb United Digital Publications Co.
10 國粹學報全文資料庫 漢珍數位圖書股份有限公司 

Guo cui xue bao Full-text Database

Transmission Books & Microinfo
11 漢籍全文資料庫 中央研究院 Scripta Sinica Academia Sinica


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