A New Database of Resources Related to the War of Resistance Against Japan, Modern Sino-Japanese Relations, and Other Republican-Period Topics
Free and easy access to an unusually rich variety of sources (primarily books, newspapers, and periodicals) is the hallmark of the Database of Sources Concerning the War of Resistance against Japan and Modern Sino-Japanese Relations (Kang Ri zhanzheng yu jindai Zhong Ri guanxi wenxian shuju pingtai), launched in 2017. Continuously expanding with new uploads, this database contains both familiar and rare sources for the study of not just the two topics that make up the database name but also many other aspects of Republican China.
Republican China, searchable database, Sino-Japanese relations, War of Resistance against Japan
The Database of Sources Concerning the War of Resistance against Japan and Modern Sino-Japanese Relations (抗日战争与近代中日关系文献数据平台 Kang Ri zhanzheng yu jindai Zhong Ri guanxi wenxian shuju pingtai) debuted in 2017, online at www.modernhistory.org.cn. This ambitious project is a collaborative endeavor led by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), the Chinese National Library, and the Chinese National Archives. The idea for this database was conceived by the late Bu Ping (步平 1948–2016), an eminent specialist in modern Sino-Japanese relations and head of the Modern History Institute of CASS. He played a key role in the prelaunch preparation, and now the institute hosts the site, with technical support from Baidu. A line item in CASS funds was established for this project.
In the burgeoning arena of online sources for the study of Republican China, this database stands out because it offers free, easy access to an unusually rich variety of both well-known and obscure materials—and promises even more in the future with continuing uploads of additional sources. Although the stated focus of this site encompasses the War of Resistance against Japan and modern Sino-Japanese relations, the materials now online cover considerably more than those two broad topics. As shown on the database dashboard, the chronological span of sources is bracketed by [End Page 259] the late nineteenth and early twenty-first centuries, but the bulk of the sources date from the 1930s and 1940s. A sizable amount of material from the 1910s and 1920s is also available. The post-1949 sources, including books published in Taiwan, are mostly about Republican-period subjects. All specialists on Republican China should become acquainted with this impressive resource.
Easy and free access ranks high among several noteworthy features of this database. One can browse the site without registration. Alternatively, after a simple registration procedure, a user is allowed to download (up to 2,000 pages monthly) and to create a personal storage file for items in use. A registered user can also submit corrections to the online citations for vetting and approval. A downloadable user's manual is located at the lower right hand corner of the home page.
This database is divided into the following sections: archival documents (档案 dangan), books (图书 tushu), newspapers (报纸 baozhi), periodicals (期刊 qikan), "red" sources (红色文献 hongse wenxian), video (视频 shipin), audio (音频 yinpin), pictures (图片 tupian), maps (舆图 yutu), special topics (特色专题库 tese zhuanti ku), and scholarly works (研究性论著 yanjiuxing lunzhu). Items designated as red sources (that is, Chinese Communist, Marxist, and leftist materials) and special topics are cross-referenced in other sections according to the type of material. In late 2018, the books section had the largest number of entries (over 18,000), followed by slightly more than 1,200 titles in the periodicals section. The newspapers section contained more than 400 titles. (These numbers change constantly as new items are uploaded.) The pictures section consisted of 4,664 digitized images of photographs by Sidney D. Gamble (1890–1968), made available online by Duke University. The audio section contained contemporary recordings of works by Chen Tianhe (陈田鹤 1911–1955) and Jiang Dingxian (江定仙 1912–2000). A few of Chen's handwritten scores were cross-referenced in the books and special topics sections. The only item in the archival documents section was the massive Record of Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, with Jiaotong University Press listed as the publisher and 2013 as the date of publication. No item had yet appeared in the video or scholarly works sections; a small percentage of entries, labeled zanwu tupian (暂无图片 image not yet available), had titles but no content. The overwhelming majority of the print sources were in Chinese. Among non-Chinese sources, English and Japanese items far outnumbered French and German ones.
Searches can be done in a variety of ways commonly found in most online library catalogs, including searches on "word anywhere" (全部字段 quanbu ziduan), title, keyword, author, and publisher; there are also dashboard filters and an advanced search function. One distinct feature of this site is that the tables of contents of books and the article titles in periodicals are searchable as "word anywhere," thus enabling [End Page 260] the user to browse through an exceptionally broad array of sources that may prove to be useful or even unexpectedly significant. One should always look beyond the basic citation that pops up after an initial search. A click on the "details button" (查看详情 chakan xiangqing) will lead to a new page with more information: for instance, the full table of contents of a book, a thumbnail history of a newspaper plus the dates of the issues available for perusing, or the table of contents of a specific issue of a periodical or the dates of issues available on the site. This cursory introduction can by no means do justice to the richness of the database. I will offer a few examples below to illustrate its array of sources.
After spending some years mining libraries and archives in the United States, Japan, China, and Taiwan for information concerning the Japanese occupation of Beijing (1937–1945), I found in this database about a dozen items I had not seen elsewhere. They included a Chinese-language tabloid published in the occupied city, Chinese-language publications by the occupation regime, and Japanese-language investigative reports. I also came upon obscure—in other words, difficult to obtain—periodicals published by university departments in wartime Beijing. In addition, my search revealed a long list of articles about the occupied city written and published elsewhere, in both the occupied and unoccupied areas. These are sources I would not have otherwise had the time—or perhaps the imagination—to uncover. Without access to this database, I probably would never have stumbled upon the printed score of a song titled "Longing for Beiping" (懷北平 "Huai Beiping") in a 52-page book of choral music published by the Ministry of Education in Chongqing in 1941.
A serendipitous search for the term zhinan (指南 guide) as title in the books section yielded 71 items. Two titles signal obvious relevance for the study of the War of Resistance and Sino-Japanese relations: Minzhong dong-yuan gongzuo zhinan: dier zhanqu zhandi zong dongyuan weiyuanhui de neirong (民衆動員工作指南:第二戰區戰地總動員委員會的内容 Guide for mass mobilization: the workings of the supreme mobilization committee of the Second War Zone), published in Xi'an in March 1938 (four months after Taiyuan was lost to the Japanese), delineates a United Front committee's military, political, and economic strategies to mobilize all segments of society to fight the enemy in the Jin-Cha-Sui (晋察绥) region; and Liu Ri zhinan (留日指南 Guide to studying in Japan), published by the Commercial Press in 1935, is a comprehensive handbook for those interested in studying in Japan—with the main goal of strengthening China, as noted in its preface. The other items resulting from this search were primarily travel guides to places ranging from Harbin to Taiwan. There were editions for some cities from various years—before, during, and after the war. Perhaps an article can be written comparing the two guides to Nanjing published in 1939 and 1946. About a dozen guides were intended for travelers using specific rail lines in the 1920s and 1930s. A few other guides offered advice about university admissions in China. One book, Huaqiao huiguo lüxing kaocha zhinan (華僑回國旅行考察指南 Guide for overseas Chinese on sightseeing and fact-finding tours in China), published by the Nanjing government in 1936, is equal parts travel guide, survey of Chinese laws and economy, and pitch for investment.
Another serendipitous search, for Hankou in the newspapers section, produced 15 titles (though 4 were duplicates), all published in that city. They included: (1) [End Page 261] select issues (August 31, 1894, to September 4, 1900) of Hanbao (漢報), the oldest in this group; (2) two prewar dailies, Hankou zhongxi bao (漢口中西報), for which there was sporadic coverage from 1907 to 1937, and Hankou xinwen bao (漢口新聞報), with a fairly complete run from March 3, 1915, to October 9, 1938; (3) scattered prewar and postwar issues of Hankou shimin ribao (漢口市民日報); (4) the January to July 1938 Hankou edition of Shenbao (申報); (5) issues of Xinhua ribao (新華日報) from January 11, 1938, to February 28, 1947, although the last Hankou edition was dated October 24, 1938; (6) a fairly complete run of wartime Dachu bao (大楚報) from March 3, 1939, to August 27, 1945 (though quite patchy in 1939); and (7) a nearly full run, from August 29, 1945, to April 30, 1949, of Huazhong ribao (華中日報), the name given to Dachu bao by Nationalist authorities when they took control of it after the war.
A project of this magnitude—still in an early stage of development—inevitably requires a certain degree of tweaking. That is so in this case. For example, reprinted works often carry the publication date of the reprint instead of the original work, creating obstacles and possible misinformation for users. Some books do not have the date of publication in the citation even though such information can be easily located. Titles of Western-language works, such as newspapers, should be cited by original title as well as in Chinese renditions. Perhaps the database host might also want to consider creating a preferred citation format for users.
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Chinese National Library, and the Chinese National Archives are to be commended for launching this ambitious project. The global community of specialists on Republican China can make excellent use of this database, especially as it grows. [End Page 262]