Searching and Discovering Chinese Materials

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

The Library of Congress New Chinese Romanization Guidelines have examples for us to quickly understand the exceptions. The linked files also include a table of Correspondence of Wade-Giles to Pinyin. Or the conversion of Wade-Giles and Pinyin can be easily googled out.

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

However, almost all CLIO records (except for titles on order and those 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 check CLIO to find the call number (a library item's unique ID and location number) so as to locate a needed item. 


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 English and other 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 library Circulation Desk. Most Chinese rare books (and special collections) of the library are stored in the stacks of Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room and have to be used on-site. 

If one does not have Columbia UNI, then the the online form cannot be used. The Circulation Desk people may be asked for help with the request. This is also applied for requesting journals, rare books, special materials, and multimedia materials, etc. that are stored in ReCAP.

Chinese e-books can be searched out from CLIO too. Efforts have been made for CLIO to have individual e-book records as many as possible. However, many e-resources such as e-books, e-dissertations/theses have general database information in CLIO but not individual titles. But they can be searched out in the individual databases. Please refer to E-books of Chinese E-Resources listing Chinese e-book databases/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 (except for only a few titles such as Kao gu《考古》 and Wen wu《文物》shelved in the library stacks) are stored in offsite. You may request offsite periodicals to be delivered to the library, physically or more preferably periodical articles in PDF. Check CLIO and the record shows the information of locations.

Most periodicals are available online in full-text or full-image 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 holdings, normally via requesting from offsite. However, we suggest that, unless with a special research need for print copies, you please 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.


While subscribing more e-newspapers, the library continues reducing the subscription of physical Chinese-language newspapers from mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. As print newspapers 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. Just in case one needs 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 accessible in newspaper databases; and a number of newspapers are only received on microfilm on a yearly basis.

The full text articles of hundreds of new and old newspapers from China are readily available through subscribed newspaper databases

For more information, please see Newspapers of Chinese E-Resources listings.

Reference Works & Oversize Materials

Reference books include dictionaries, encyclopedias, catalogs, bibliographies and the most recent copies of popular statistical yearbooks. All reference books shelved along the sides of the main reading room at 300 level have records in CLIO. 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 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 in the main reading room.

Reference titles available for electronic access include but not limited to the following:

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 a great number of films and multimediarare books and special collections such as oracle bones, paper gods, personal and organizational archives, and other types of materials.

The library has 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 completely included in the library online catalog timely.

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 six months by default. New arrivals can be seen by adjusting format, language publication date and arrival time. New materials can also be searched out in CLIO  New Arrivals.

Recommend titles for purchase and gifting sources are welcome. Please submit an online recommendation form, or contact the Chinese Studies Librarian by e-mail.

Getting help

  • Circulation Desk
    For basic and direct 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, periodical, 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 physical Reference Desk for long. But you may make an appointment with the librarian for face-to-face reference, bibliographic instruction or in-depth consultation, or for any issues related to Chinese collections and services. 

For those who are new to the library community, please familiarize yourself with the library online information about the collections, databases and tools, including Research guides.

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


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