Searching, Discovering Chinese Materials

CLIO, the online library catalog, contains records for almost all Chinese-language materials, including books, periodicals, microforms, and databases.

When searching CLIO, the Chinese romanization system one should use is Library of Congress Pinyin, which is based on China's Pinyin system but has significant exceptions.

You may look at the examples listed in Library of Congress New Chinese Romanization Guidelines to quickly understand the exceptions. The linked files also includes a table of Correspondence of Wade-Giles to Pinyin

You may use Chinese characters for searching Chinese language materials in CLIO, but Chinese character search will not yield the best search results, hence using Chinese characters is not recommended.

However, almost all CLIO records, except for titles on order, received but not cataloged yet, are included in WorldCat. WorldCat can be searched by using either Library of Congress Pinyin or preferably, Chinese characters, traditional or simplified, to see the holding status at Columbia and elsewhere. Many researchers simply start by searching WorldCat, and then connect to CLIO to find the call number (a library item's unique ID and location number). Please note that not all library materials of Columbia one may find them in CLIO are available in Worldcat. Almost all cataloged materials available in CLIO are in WorldCat though.


Starr East Asian Library's Chinese-language books can be found by searching CLIO and WorldCat.  Most books have Library of Congress subject headings and classification numbers and they are inter-shelved together with the Japanese, Korean, Tibetan and Western-language books of the same subject headings.

Books that are located in the Offsite Library Shelving Facility (or ReCAP, Research Collections and Preservation Consortium) can be delivered for pickup in the library in Kent Hall by selecting the "Request from Offsite" option on an item's CLIO record and filling out the online form, or by filling out a request form in person at the Circulation Desk. If you do not have Columbia UNI, you cannot fill out the online form, you please feel free to ask Circulation Desk people to help you with the request. This is also applied for requesting journals, rare books, special materials, and multimedia materials, etc. that are stored in ReCAP.

Most of Starr East Asian Library's holdings of rare books and special materials have been cataloged in CLIO.  However, some rare/special items may not be processed or cataloged. The Chinese rare/special items in other Columbia University libraries, such as the Rare Book & Manuscript Library in Butler Library, may not be fully cataloged. Please contact the Chinese Studies librarian or librarians in respective libraries for assistance.

For information about electronic books, please refer to E-books of Chinese E-Resources listing Chinese e-book collections.


Information about periodical holdings, including current issues, is available in CLIO. Current issues of periodicals are housed in the Chinese periodical area in the second alcove on the north side of the Reading Room. Bound volumes of past issues are shelved together with the rest of the collection in the library stacks, or more likely in offsite. Due to space limitations, only the periodical titles of most recent time are kept in the library in Kent Hall. Older volumes are housed offsite. You may request offsite journals to be delivered to the library. Check CLIO and the record show the information of locations.

Many periodicals are now available online in full-text through Columbia's subscription to journal article databases. These databases include, but not limited to, the following:

You may find journal articles online through these and many other databases, or use print journals in the library holding, normally via requesting from offsite. However, we suggest that, unless with a special research need for print copies, users should use databases including the full texts or full images of the journals instead of requesting print journals or scanned copies of journal articles from offsite.

For more information about electronic journals, please see Journals of Chinese E-Resources listing journal article databases.


The Library receives approximately 20 Chinese-language newspapers from the People's Republic, Taiwan, and Hong Kong in paper copy via air mail. As they are received, they are put on racks in the Chinese periodical area. Two or three months of back issues are stored temporarily under the table in front of the current periodical alcove before being moved to storage when microfilm copies arrive. At that time, paper copies are discarded. If you wish to see paper copies in storage, please check with the circulation desk or with staff in Room 318 (9:00-5:00 p.m.). The vast majority of Chinese newspapers are only received on microfilm on a yearly basis.

The full text articles of hundreds of newspapers from the People's Republic of China are readily available through Columbia's subscription to the China Core Newspapers Database.  The full texts of a dozen or so leading newspapers of Taiwan is available in Xin wen zhi shi ku (Newspapers in Taiwan). In addition, Ren min ri bao (People's Daily) is available electronically, with coverage from 1946 to two years ago.

Guang ming ri bao (Guangming Daily) 光明日报, 1949-2010; Shen bao (Shun pao) 申报1872-1949 and Taiwan ri ri xin bao (Taiwan nichinichi shinpo) 臺灣日日新報-漢文版, 1905-1911, etc. are also available.

For more information about newspaper e-resources, please see Newspapers of Chinese E-Resources listings.

Reference Works & Oversize Materials

All reference books shelved along the sides of the main reading room at 300 level have records in CLIO. Reference books include dictionaries, encyclopedias, bibliographies and the most recent copies available of many statistical yearbooks. They have Library of Congress call numbers and are shelved in call number order.

Due to space considerations, a small number of reference titles (mostly large sets) are shelved in the regular stacks in the library, but marked as non-circulating. If more than one copy of a reference title is available, the additional copy or copies are often shelved in the regular stacks and are for loan. A few oversize maps are located on the shelves under the display cabinet near the Library exit.

Reference titles available for access in electronic format include:

For more information about reference e-resources, please see the section of Chinese E-Resources listings.

Other Materials

The library's holdings also include collections of multi-media materials, rare books and special collections such as oracle bones, paper gods, and other types of materials.

The library has recently become very strong in Chinese film studies ranging from film posters to independent films and documentaries on DVDs. Other branches of the Columbia University Libraries also hold some Chinese-language materials. These materials may not be fully included in the library online catalog timely; and if they are, some catalog records may not have been completely cross-referenced, updated according to current Library of Congress romanization and classification, as typically in the case of the Chinese Oral History Project collection of reminiscences and personal papers. The Chinese Studies Librarian may be asked for help.

Recent Acquisitions & Purchase Recommendations

New Chinese-language materials, including books, journals and other types of materials processed and cataloged into CLIO, can be found at New Arrivals, which are for the recent three months by default. New arrivals can be seen by adjusting format, publication date and arrival time. New materials can also be searched out in CLIO New Arrivals.

Faculty and students are welcome to recommend titles for purchase, or gift. You may submit an online recommendation form, or contact the Chinese Studies Librarian by e-mail.

Getting help

  • Circulation Desk
    For basic questions, the circulation desk staff can provide assistance. They can assist in interpreting a record in CLIO, or helping place a search for a book that is missing from the shelf but not checked out. If the basic information about a book, serial, or newspaper is known, they can provide quick assistance. They also refer your bibliographic questions to librarians.
  • Reference and Consultation
    The library has discontinued the Reference Desk, which was staffed with librarians 2:00-5:00p.m. But you may make an appointment with the librarian for reference, bibliographic instruction or in-depth consultation, or for any issues related to Chinese collections and services.

    The librarian's office hour: Monday 4:00-5:00pm, or by appointment; please ask for him at the Circulation Desk. It is always good to send an e-mail note in advance.


Chengzhi Wang, Ph.D.
Chinese Studies Librarian
307M Kent Hall
(212) 854-3721