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If modifying a current entry with important changes or an urgent update, please list the date somewhere following the new information. (For example, when noting the change also list the date in parentheses, e.g. (September 2015).)

When adding a new entry, please provide the name of the archive under the appropriate geographic location (or add a new one), a brief annotation about its collections (as you know them), relevant link(s), and any additional pertinent or practical information (e.g., updates from recent field experience, photocopying issues, links to reviews on the web, etc.). Incomplete information can be modified at a later date and/or by other researchers based on their own experiences.



Beijing Municipal Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (November 2011) and an important update (by Charles Kraus, November 2015) on introduction letters and file request limits. As of April 2018, reports are that the BMA has closed all post-1949 materials and are currently reexamining them.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Two reviews on this archive exist on Dissertation Reviews, one from February 2012 and an urgent update from August 2013. As of September 2015, several scholars had reported that the archive remains indefinitely closed to the public. In January 2017, a scholar received word from a source in China that the archive is now open again as of December 1, 2016, but it appears only two fonds are available to access (the protocol department (117) and the international organizations division (113)). According to the source, other fonds are still undergoing high-level review, and the archive no longer provides any printing services. Furthermore, all visitors are now required to provide letters of introduction, which are then only valid for three months. Although the source noted that foreigners are permitted access, this has yet to be confirmed.Update In October 2017, a recent visitor posted their experience on the Woodrow Wilson Center site. Several PRC history scholars also discussed the archive on a public list, with one providing the following additional info: “The central government issued a 'no visit or use' order to ALL archives because of the Russian government attempt to open all Russian files for inspection.”

Xicheng (District) Archives
A report by a scholar on H-PRC (February 2017), looking at urban communes records, compared the archival environment to functioning more like a DMV than for scholarly research, describing it as such: “The place is basically a room with a large window behind which the archivists sit. Visitors pick a number at the entrance and wait to be called, but usually there is not much of a crowd. I was assigned a spot at the window, at a dedicated computer – all the sources are digitized – so, day after day, I could not but overhear the conversations between district residents and the archivists. Most of the exchanges were quick and terse (“What kind of document do you want?” “Why do you need it?” “Is there a fee?”), but some hinted at personal and collective dramas.” More surprising to this scholar was that, when questioned regarding an observation this scholar made about people not being able to obtain their marriage records, archival staff confirmed that pre-1981 marriage records (from the paichusuo (派出所)) seem to have been “thrown away” for unspecified reasons.


Chongqing Municipal Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (April 2012)


Fujian Provincial Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews(April 2013)

Zhangzhou Municipal Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews(May 2015)


Guangdong Provincial Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (January 2014)

Guangzhou Municipal Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (January 2014)

June 2017 update on both these archives A scholar reported that they were “not allowed to even check the PRC catalog” because their introductory letter was from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, but that if the letter had been a local introductory letter “with more details” that might have sufficed. An MA student from Sun Yat-sen University was also not allowed to see any PRC documents, although not sure whether or not she had a letter at all.There is a fast internet connection at the Guangzhou archives for which you register for with a cell phone number (Guangdong does not have this feature). The building is also much quieter than Guangdong, but it is difficult to travel to and isolated as written in the original review above. There is also now no midday break on either Wednesday or Thursday at GD, while GZ remains closed on Wednesday. More details: “The 30-page reproduction rule still stands at both GD and GZ – the limit is per time you register with them (so if I return next summer, I will get a new 30-page limit)… Another thing to note is that you are allowed to go in and check the paper catalog on weekend days (no calling actual files, though). … in terms of food options, there are at least 2 student cafeterias within a 1/2 mile from the Guangzhou Municipal Archive. I have enjoyed eating pretty good Taiwanese-style shaved ice two days in a row in a small shop among a cluster of other eateries (I also saw a Hunan joint, a cafe, and a Korean place) across from a gate into the residential area of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. There is also reputedly a very nice reservation-only, dinner-only Italian restaurant in the area.”


Liuzhou Archives
Sensitive contents censored, but otherwise more open. No copying service available. (January 2017)

Guilin Municipal Archives
In a request to see ten supposedly open catalogs from the 1970s, only two were fulfilled, while the other eight denied on the grounds that they “should have been deleted” from the open catalog. (January 2017)

Nanning Municipal Archives
In early 2016, at least one researcher was told that to view archival documents on a topic listed in the catalog required permission from the Nanning party commission.


Shijiazhuang Municipal Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (April 2012)


Harbin Municipal Archives
One scholar reported in spring 2018 that they were refused access to the archive despite having an introduction letter from a Chinese university that had worked elsewhere.

Hong Kong

Chinese University of Hong Kong, University Services Centre
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (November 2015)


Hubei Provincial Archives
Instant Access at Hubei Provincial Archives" (by Charles Kraus, November 2015)

Wuhan Municipal Archives
More than one scholar has been unsuccessful in getting archival access. One scholar reported that they were denied access in spring 2018 and that the archival regulations there specifically state that one needs an introduction letter from the “competent authorities” (有关主管部门), and that this was interpreted to mean a letter of permission from whichever local 当局 of archives one wishes to access. The letter of introduction from a Chinese university, which had been sufficient at other municipal and provincial archives, did not suffice.

Inner Mongolia

Inner Mongolia Autonomous Regional Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (April 2014)


In October 2015, several scholars on H-PRC discussed conflicting experiences they've had dealing with various Jiangsu archives over the years.

Changshu Municipal Archives
"If it’s in the catalog...": Off the Beaten Path at Changshu Municipal Archives by Charles Kraus (November 2015)

Changzhou Municipal Archives
One researcher was initially told that all government and municipal documents were not publicly available, but upon pressing found out that a very limited (“several pages”) open catalog does exist. The staff insisted on searching the digitized system themselves. A more senior staff member then needed to approve all documents before providing researcher access. In the end, this researcher was able to print some documents and take notes on a laptop for handwritten documents. There is also a collection of Changzhou gazetteers located at the archives that are easily accessible.

Huaian Municipal Archives
A researcher in early 2016 found these archives relatively open and accessible, but the staff is responsible for searching keywords in the digitized system. The search system at this archive is organized according to organs (按机构划分) so in order to see documents from different departments you need to tell the staff (otherwise they won't search). Except for a few sensitive documents, they printed everything one researcher wanted from the results and allowed photographs of original documents. Although some files post-1976 were not available, and those between 1966-1975 generally not made public, this researcher recommended that it was worth a visit particularly if working on northern Jiangsu.

Jiangsu Provincial Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (April 2013) and more recently Navigating the Jiangsu Provincial Archives (by Charles Kraus, November 2015). From the latter: “I was able to see and read files forwarded from the Central Committee and State Council which I was told I could not see at other archives, including the Hangzhou Municipal Archives.” Another researcher visited in 2016 and found “thousands of open files from 1949 to 1966” but not much on the period after 1976 and that there were no open documents from the provincial committee after 1981. Moreover, it was not possible to print or take photos, so one should plan time accordingly. The archive might move in 2016, so be sure to check the website for updates.

Nanjing Municipal Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (February 2013) and urgent update (August 2013)

Suzhou (Sukun) Kunqu Company Archive
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (May 2015)

Suzhou Municipal Archives
Leaving the Suzhou Municipal Archives Empty Handed (by Charles Kraus, November 2015). It seems that much of their post-1949 files are still classified. A researcher in early 2016 found the staff friendly, access to 1970s documents better than at other archives, an open catalog (up until 1983, nothing after was open), and easy access to using the digitized system. However, none of the documents could be printed. Similar experience reported at the end of 2016. NOTE This archive moved in 2016 to 北园路269号, near the Suzhou Museum and Humble Garden(拙政园).

Wuxi Municipal Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (April 2013) and an update by Charles Kraus (November 2015). Another researcher described a visit in early 2016 as an unpleasant experience characterized by unfriendly staff, no open catalogs, and inability to search through the digitized system. The way to find documents was asking the staff to search on their computers for multiple variations of keywords. However, even after the staff located documents, the researcher was then denied access to most of what was found (“About 90%”) and told that of the remaining set only the first page of a document could be copied.

Xuzhou Municipal Archives
In early 2016, a researcher found open, easily accessible catalogs. However, when this researcher mentioned the research topic, a staff member said that this topic was too sensitive and that he wouldn't allow access to all the materials even if the archive had them. As a result, on a follow-up visit, the staff had censored the requested materials and informed the researcher about a new notification from the Central Committee concerning the administration of archives which included censoring even open catalogs for potentially sensitive information (though no specification on what was sensitive and what not). Unfortunately, because this researcher asked to see a set of open materials that fell under this criteria, certain materials have now been reclassified. Even so, of what was finally delivered from the initial request, this researcher found and was able to take photos of many useful documents.


Jilin Provincial Archives
吉林省档案馆 "Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (October 2015)

Longjing Municipal Archives
The Increasing Irrelevance of 开放: Tales from Longjing by Charles Kraus (September 2015)

Tumen Municipal Archives
Surprise, Surprise, Tumen Municipal Archives by Charles Kraus (September 2015)

Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture Archives
See You Again, Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture Archives by Charles Kraus (September 2015)


Shaanxi Provincial Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (March 2012). Two reports, one from February 2018, that few PRC materials can be found in the catalogs, and all materials 1960s to present were off-limits (unless one can prove they are a 处级干部 or above).

Xi’an Municipal Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (March 2012)


Qingdao Municipal Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (May 2015)

Shandong Provincial Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (May 2015)


Baoshan District (Shanghai) Archives
Baoshan District Archives by Charles Kraus (October 2015)

Changning District (Shanghai) Archives
Changning District Archives by Charles Kraus (October 2015)

Huangpu District (Shanghai) Archives
Huangpu District Archives by Charles Kraus (September 2015)

Jing'an District (Shanghai) Archives
Kraus reported on H-PRC (February 2017) that access to Huangpu and Jing'an were better than other districts, but not easy.

Shanghai Municipal Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (April 2013), urgent update (August 2013), and another further update (May 2015). Also, some tips on printing at the SMA, by Charles Kraus (October 2015).

Zhabei (District) Archives
Kraus reported on H-PRC (February 2017) that these archives may be defunct.


Sichuan Provincial Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (March 2012). Report from April 2018: post-1949 materials are totally closed.


Tianjin Municipal Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (October 2011), update (May 2015), and At the Tianjin Municipal Archives, No Waiting by Charles Kraus (November 2015). Update May 2017 A scholar reported that the archives personnel were refusing to make ANY reproductions whatsoever and that the search site was down to be “scanned for viruses” at the time of visit. A scholar visiting in spring 2018 reported that they can access the materials with a passport and letter from a professor in Shanghai; many of the requested materials from the 1950s this scholar requested had not yet been digitized. Another scholar importantly notes that the archives' online catalog (publicly available on the website) has been much reduced in the last year or so, but that this does not seem to be a reflection of what one finds in the electronic catalog available onsite.


Kunming Municipal Archives
In 2016, one scholar with an introductory letter from a local university was denied access and told that the archive required a letter from the 外事办.

Yunnan Provincial Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (April 2012). In 2016, one scholar received accessed for 1940s-1950s materials (with letter from a 社科院) while another was denied access (letter from a local university history department). These archives are apparently notoriously difficult to access.


Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (January 2014)


Hangzhou Municipal Archives
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (December 2011) and Hangzhou Municipal Archives by Charles Kraus (September 2015)

Jiaxing Municipal Archives
The Prospect: Jiaxing Municipal Archives by Charles Kraus (September 2015)

Ningbo Municipal Archives
Ningbo Municipal Archives by Charles Kraus (November 2015)

Wenzhou Municipal Archives
Zen and the Art of Archival Research in China; or Don’t let the Wenzhou Municipal Archives Bring You Down by Charles Kraus (November 2015)

Yiwu Municipal Archives
As of April 2018, one scholar reports no longer being allowed to print any of the previously “open” documents.

Zhejiang Provincial Archives
Zhejiang Provincial Archives by Charles Kraus (September 2015)

Other Asia


The Costen Children's Library, Princeton
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (March 2016)
The rare books collection includes children's books from 20th century China, including the early PRC. To find these easily, follow the DR instructions: “To search specifically within Special Collections, click the 'More Limits' button at the bottom right and use the drop down menu for 'Location' to choose 'Rare Books and Special Collections.'” A time period or range can also be specified.

National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) II - College Park, Maryland, USA

Rockefeller Foundation - Sleepy Hollow, NY, USA
"Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (December 2015)
Their list of China archival collections includes various sets of papers and Foundation records covering the first few decades of the PRC.


Bundesarchiv Berlin
This archive holds various documents and media related to PRC interactions with the German state, most notably with the former GDR (DDR) in the 1950s-1980s. The website itself also includes a trove of photographs that can be searched by keywords.

International Institute for Social History
The IISH holds a variety of materials related to international socialist and communist organizations and movements, such the World Federation of Democratic Youth and World Federation of Trade Unions. It also contains materials specific to the PRC, such as the Chinese People's Movement Collection and the Democratic Opposition in China Collection. Stefan Landsberger's propaganda poster collection also officially resides at this archive. The catalog includes both the library and archives. Access is very easy, all one needs is to provide contact information on a computer in order to have materials called to the Reading Room. There are no restrictions on photography. Specific inquiries and requests can sometimes be made in advance via email.

State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), Moscow
The GARF has two reading rooms, which are located in different parts of Moscow. Most of the China files are stored in Reading Room 1. The archives contain more at least one thousand China files, mostly on Sino-Soviet cooperation (in the field of culture, politics, technology) from 1930s to 1960s, as well as reports on China's relations with other countries (during and after the Split) Archives search engine is available only in Russian. It is important to note that you can work with documents only after five-seven days after the archives receives your request, so it is recommended to plan your visit in advance. As in all Russian archives, it is only allowed to photograph files from the screen. Since most of the documents are stored in paper form, it is necessary to write a special application for photographing (one page costs about 40 rubles). It takes about a week for administration approval of the application. After that it is allowed to make a photocopy .


The Chinese Rare Book Collection, Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne
website "Fresh from the Archives" review on Dissertation Reviews (April 2016) According to the DR review, this collection includes 400 diaries from the Cultural Revolution period, as well as “a large number of primary and secondary school textbooks, children's books, guidebooks, propaganda posters, Red Guard newspapers and other publications produced in the early history of the PRC.” NOTE Many of the links within the DR review are broken, so it's better to start directly from the collection website.

Archival Law

The Archives Law of the People’s Republic of China (中华人民共和国档案法) was adopted in 1987 and amended in 1996. General provisions for the declassification of archives may be found in Chapter IV, which regulates the use and publication of archival holdings. Chapter IV, Article 19 reads:

Archives kept by State archives repositories shall in general be open to the public upon the expiration of 30 years from the date of their formation. Archives in economic, scientific, technological and cultural fields may be open to the public in less than 30 years; archives involving the security or vital interests of the State and other archives which remain unsuitable for accessibility to the public upon the expiration of 30 years may be open to the public after more than 30 years. The specific time limits shall be defined by the national archives administration department and submitted to the State Council for approval before they become effective.

The way the law and subsequent regulations are formulated, there is significant room to restrain access to materials pertinent to the “security or vital interests of the State.”

Access to archives by foreign nationals is regulated by the “Measures for the Implementation of the Archives Law of the People's Republic of China” (中华人民共和国档案法实施办法) from 1990, with further specifications in the “Provisional measures for the use of national archives by foreign organizations and individuals” (外国组织和个人利用我国档案试行办法) issued in 1991. Article 22 of the 1990 “Measures” opens up for foreigners to access declassified archives on the condition that they have “an introduction from the relevant responsible department and the approval by the archive in question” (有关主管部门介绍以及其前往的档案馆的同意). Provincial, municipal, and county regulations may or may not further specify what qualifies as a “responsible department” (e.g. a university department, a CCP office).


The Archives Law of the People’s Republic of China
English Chinese

Measures for the Implementation of the Archives Law of the People's Republic of China

Provisional Measures for the Use of State Archives by Foreign Organizations and Individuals

Measures for Open Archives in State Archives at Different Levels


Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Regional Archives Administrative Regulation


Jiangsu Provincial Archives Administrative Regulations

Nanjing Municipal Archives Regulations

Nanjing Municipal Archives Provisional Measures for Open Archives

Suzhou Municipal Archives Regulations

Wuxi Municipal Archives Administrative Regulations


Shanghai Municipal Archives Regulations


Ningbo Municipal Archives Provisions for Using Archives


Provisional Measures for Open Archives at Different Level Archives in the Kunming Municipality

Online Archives and Scanned/ Digitized Collections

《中共中央文件选集》& 《建国以来重要文献选编》

抗战文献数据平台 (Despite the name, includes some material from early PRC and a lot from Party's pre-1949 history)

Collections of primary sources


Comprehensive (?) “DIY” Index Link - contains both 繁體字 and 简体字 so try a term in both when searching with ctrl+f

WorldCat entry (incomplete) Link

Harvard Yenching Link

Princeton Link


Columbia Link

Stanford Link

Oral History Databases

Duke University Memory Project Link

Pitt CR/10 Project Link

archives.txt · Last modified: 2021/09/30 20:49 by khasnulina