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The East Asian Library of the University Library System (ULS) at the University of Pittsburgh selected 37 titles (approximately 10,500 pages) for a pilot digitization project in 2005. The pilot project enabled the ULS to experiment with adapting new methodologies, tools and techniques for creating, processing, and indexing digital library content for foreign language materials.

About the Project

The University Library System (ULS) at the University of Pittsburgh received a two-year grant (2003-2005) from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to catalog and preserve through microfilming 3,000 acidic and rare books from our Chinese monograph collection, which is part of the East Asian Library (EAL). These collections included works produced in the early to middle decades of the twentieth century and publications created during the Cultural Revolution from 1966-1976 that provide insight into the political, economic, and educational conditions of China. The University of Pittsburgh was the only institution in the NEH Brittle Books and Serials category to receive an award that includes a component to digitize materials for access. The pilot project was funded with in-kind costs by the University of Pittsburgh.

Selection of the Texts

Between the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 and the Communist victory of 1949 (the Republican Era), the first half of the twentieth century witnessed a staggering transformation of Chinese society. While the nominally ruling Nationalist Party was never able to establish a fully stable government, though its approach has often been criticized as dictatorial and insensitive to the needs of the peasantry (who were successfully mobilized by the Communists), nevertheless, independent schools and universities were established, an independent judiciary evolved, and indigenous as well as joint-venture capitalist enterprises flourished. Moreover, there were distinctly new freedoms of movement and assembly.

After the founding of the Communist Party in 1921 and the beginning of civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists in the late 1920s, however, areas under Nationalist and Communist control governed in radically different styles. The range of published books from Nationalist and Communist areas reflects this difference. Nationalist Party bureaucrats, in the service of reforms in education, health care, transportation, and business, collected massive amounts of statistical and ethnographic materials. Publications from Communist areas are far more ideological, and less interested in describing local society than in prescribing revolutionary change. These prescriptive materials, nonetheless, give a rich picture of the practical evolution of Communist government during the long transition from Empire to the People's Republic.

The Republican era is of deep interest to scholars today both as a key era in China’s modernization, and for its similarities to the current era of market reforms in China. Making Republican-era materials widely available would thus serve a wide variety of scholarly interests.

Since the digitization of selected monographs was a pilot project by the University of Pittsburgh's Digital Research Library, only 36 titles (37 volumes with approximately 10,500 pages) published before 1955 were selected from the East Asian Library (EAL). The goal of this pilot project was to enhance the access to these rare and unique primary documents and reference books for both researchers and librarians.

The titles cover two categories: primary sources and reference tools. The subject areas range from politics, economy and law to history, education and literature. Primary sources are divided by subject: history (4), law (2), literature (1), political science (4) and social sciences (8). Reference tools are arranged by type: bibliography (1), chronology (1), directory (1), handbooks (2), statistics (7) and yearbooks (5).

Pilot Project Goals & Objectives

The DRL's main purpose for partaking in the pilot project was to test whether its current array of tools for converting and delivering texts in a digital environment could be successfully applied to a small set of non-Western print material (i.e., Chinese). To reach this goal, the DRL outlined several primary objectives:

  • Perform a detailed analysis of the inherent structure of the texts selected by the East Asian Library (EAL) to guide in the creation of structural metadata and pagination;
  • Modify existing production processes to accommodate non-Western material;
  • Romanize bibliographic and structural portions of the texts into Pinyin (ASCII);
  • Convert the texts into digital image files, adhering to internationally-recognized imaging standards;
  • Create a website for the global dissemination of the texts;
  • Provide visitors to the website with the ability to:
    • View and print the digital pages;
    • Browse the texts by subject and title;
    • Navigate a hyperlinked table of contents for each text; and
    • Search the bibliographic and structural elements of the texts.

The DRL did not attempt to convert the page images into full-text (Unicode) via a Chinese character OCR engine or re-key the texts due to its present inability to offer full-text search and retrieval via the middleware.

Page Image Numbering

We recommend you follow the text's table of contents to navigate each text. Often the texts contain pages that did not contain a printed page number. The following pagination "rule" were implemented to help users navigate the texts.

  • Pages at beginning of book with no assigned numbers. The page image (and sequential page images) were assigned the letter "a", "b", "c", etc. until the text's Page 1 was reached.
  • Pages with no number following pages that do. A page image that did not contain a printed number on the page following a page that did, the page image was assigned the preceding page number plus the letter "a", "b", etc. (For example, an image following Page 14 would look like "14a").


The thirty-seven volumes selected for digitization by the University of Pittsburgh were created by cooperative bodies in China and published before 1955. The books are in the public domain according to the Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China (adopted 7 September 1990, effective as of 1 June 1991, revised 27 October 2001).

The University of Pittsburgh wishes to acknowledge the Center of Chinese Research Materials (CCRM) for granting permission to digitize and make accessible via the World Wide Web nine Chinese monographs reprinted by the CCRM. We appreciate this contribution to the project and support of our endeavors to offer online access to these valuable materials for scholars and researchers around the world.


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