A Guide to Searching Japanese Scholarship

This guide introduces some of the resources that I use most frequently when looking for Japanese language scholarship. The assumed reader is a Sinologist working at a North American university, but the post might also be useful for others with a similar background. The first part describes how to find works on a particular topic; the second part provides tips on locating a particular work after having found the relevant bibliographic information.

Finding Japanese Language Works

1. 東洋学文献類目検索 ( Ver. 7 | Ver. 6 )

A Digitalized version of the Annual Bibliography of Oriental Studies 東洋学文献類目, published by Kyoto University’s Institute for Research in Humanities (人文科学研究所). Also includes non-Japanese language works. There are two “versions” of the database, with slightly different periods of coverage:

Version 7: Contains items covering 1934-1980; 2001 and later. As of the date of this post, I have confirmed the inclusion of items from the year 2012.
Version 6: Contains items covering 1981-2010?

2. 国立国会図書館サーチ

Searches the holdings of the National Diet Library (NDL) as well as several outside databases. The database includes not only books, but also titles of individual journal articles. (I mainly use it for searching the latter.)

Note: Holdings of the NDL include a significant body of PhD dissertations, but they rely on donations from individual universities and are not comprehensive. For more on searching for dissertations, see this page: 国会図書館調べ方案内: 国内博士論文. My understanding is that there is no single database that provides comprehensive coverage of all universities, and it is necessary to check the catalogue of each degree awarding institution. (On the other hand, many dissertations consist of already-published articles, which will show up when searching NDL’s holdings.)

3. CiNii Articles

Searches NDL’s index of journal articles as well as indices of various journals and university repositories. My impression is that most items found on CiNii will also be available on NDL’s database, but it is a good idea to double check on this database because it will occasionally have links to university repositories where you can download free PDF copies of the articles. (There are also articles that are only available by subscription.)

4. 科学研究費助成事業データベース

Provides access to proposals and reports of research projects that have been awarded funding by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (日本学術振興会). Useful for learning about ongoing research projects that may not have been published.

5. Published Books (Important!)

Most books by Japanese scholars consist of revised versions the author’s already-published articles, so if you know the name of the relevant author, it might be best to first check his/her book publications. Not only will you be able to read more updated versions of the original articles, it will also save you a lot of time compared to tracking down the many individual articles that might have been published on minor journals that are hard to locate.

6. 史学雑誌

Every year, the May issue of the journal Shigaku zasshi 史学雑誌 is devoted to reviewing scholarly publications of the previous year. One scholar will be responsible for a chapter covering a particular geographic area and time period (Ming-Qing China, for example). Useful for historians who need to catch up on recent scholarship.

Locating Japanese Language Works

Some articles are available in PDF copies through CiNii, but the great majority are only available through paper copies. The major journals are available in many university libraries, but you might need to make interlibrary requests for the minor journals. Again, if an article is hard to access, check if it has been incorporated into the author’s book publications (refer to #5 above).

If a book is not immediately available at your library and you want to take a quick look at its table of contents, try searching it on Webcat Plus. This database provides the table of contents for some (but not all) books. Sometimes the information is abridged, so the safest way is still to check the physical book itself.

Many online library catalogues do not handle searches in East Asian languages well, so it might be best to search using the Romanized title. Worldcat (as well as Harvard’s Hollis catalogue) is very good with searches in East Asian languages, so if you do not know the correct Romanization of a book title, search it on Worldcat first to find out the Romanization.

Indexing Images of Everyday Life from Medieval Japan

This post is about a very interesting reference book, An Index to Painted Scrolls: Everyday Life in Medieval Japan 絵巻物による日本常民生活絵引 (Kadokawa shoten 1964-68; Heibonsha, 1984). The project was originally conceived and carried out under the editorial supervision of Shibusawa Keizō 澁澤敬三 (1896-1963), a powerful businessman who was once president to the Bank of Japan (1944) and Minister of Finance (1945-46), but was also known as a researcher in folklore studies.

Essentially, this is an index to scenes in medieval Japanese paintings that concern daily lives of the common people, with an amazingly attentive eye to details. The book was not published until after Shibusawa’s death, but his short essay dated 1954 explains that he had initially conceived of the project more than ten years ago, when he noticed that scenes from medieval paintings could offer excellent sources for studying the lives of the common people, if only they could be “indexed” properly.1 Starting in 1955, he gathered a group of collaborators who made sketches of scenes from the scrolls, numbered individual components within these scenes, and labeled them using carefully-defined categories. In all, the group indexed 26 works (most of which are painted scrolls) from around the late Heian to the Muromachi period [date to be confirmed].

A scene with eighteen components labled.

日本常民生活絵引 総索引
A section of the index.

What makes this book especially interesting and useful is that it indexes not just objects but also actions of people — from sitting, sleeping, fighting, to doing laundries, just to name a few. In this way, the book not only makes it easier to find images of particular topics, but also makes it possible to trace chronological changes in the depiction of the mundane objects and acts of everyday life. (A few months ago, I used this index to look for images related to medieval Japanese transportaiton, and was able to locate many images of roads, bridges and boats.) It is also noteworthy that all of this was undertaken at a time when material culture as an area of investigation did not receive as much attention as it does today.

More recently, there has been a project on Systemizing Non-Textual Sources for Humanities Researh (人類文化研究のための非文字資料の体系化) based in Kanagawa University, where a group of researchers published the first two volumes of the Index in English translation under the title Multilingual Version of Pictopedia of Everyday Life in Medieval Japan. This project also created several additional indices to East Asian paintings, including three on early modern Japan, one on Qing China (姑蘇繁華図), and one on Chosŏn Korea. Most of these publications are available for download on the project website.

  1. Shibusawa Keizō 澁澤敬三, “Can Image-Indices Be Made?” 絵引は作れぬものか, in Emakimono ni yoru Nihon jōmin seikatsu ebiki 絵巻物による日本常民生活絵引 (Heibonsha, 1984), vol. 1, viii.

Reference Works on Literary Collections from Tang to Qing

This is a list of reference works on Chinese literary collections (wenji) that I collected over the past few years, when I was tentatively thinking about writing my dissertation on the publication process of wenji. Although I no longer work on this topic currently, I do hope to come back to it some time in the future. Meanwhile, I hope this list will be of use to others who make use of wenji sources regularly. A PDF file of the same list can be downloaded here.

Some points to note:

  • This bibliography lists reference works on Chinese literary collections (wenji 文集). The focus is on individual anthologies (bieji 別集) that collect the writings of single authors; excluded from the list are works on general anthologies (zongji 總集) that collect writings by multiple individuals.

  • The works collected in here fall into one of the following categories: a) explanations on typical genres found in literary collections; b) bibliographies of extant editions; c) abstracts to known literary collections; and d) indexes to major literary collections, either by the title of each piece or by the topic of its content.

  • In compiling the list, I have been aided by Endymion Wilkinson’s Chinese History, A Manual (2000 edition, Section 30: “Literary Anthologies and Collected Works”).

  • I have tried to be comprehensive, but the list is stronger for the Yuan and Ming dynasties, and particularly weak on the Tang dynasty. I would very much appreciate suggestions on other relevant works.

Part One: Notes on Genres and Literary Forms

  • Edwards, E. D. “A Classified Guide to the Thirteen Classes of Chinese Prose.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 12, no. 3/4 (1948): 770–88.

  • Hartwell, Robert M. “A Guide to Documentary Sources of Middle Period Chinese History: Documentary Forms Contained in the Collected Papers (wen-chi) of Twenty-One T’ang and Sung Writers.” Bulletin of Sung-Yuan Studies 18 (1986): 133–82.

Part Two: Bibliographies, Annotations, and Indexes


  • Wan Man 萬曼. Tang ji xulu 唐集叙錄. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1980.

  • Chen Bohai 陳伯海 and Zhu Yi’an 朱易安. Tang shi shulu 唐詩書錄. Jinan: Qi Lu shushe, 1988.


  • Saeki Tomi 佐伯富. Sōdai bunshū sakuin 宋代文集索引. Kyoto: Kyoto daigaku tōyōshi kenyūkai, 1970.

  • Yoshida Tora 吉田寅 and Tanada Naohiko 棚田直彦. Nihon genson Sōjin bunshū mokuroku 日本現存宋人文集目錄. Tokyo: Kyūko shoin, 1972.

  • Sichuan daxue guji zhengli yanjiusuo 四川大學古籍整理研究所. Xiancun Song ren bieji banben mulu 現存宋人別集版本目錄. Chengdu: Bashu shushe, 1989.

  • Zhu Shangshu 祝尚書. Song ren bieji xulu 宋人別集叙錄. 2 vols. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1999.

  • Wang Lan 王岚. Song ren wenji bianke liuchuan congkao 宋人文集编刻流传丛考. Nanjing: Jiangsu guji chubanshe, 2003.


  • Yamane Yukio 山根幸夫 and Ogawa Takashi 小川尚. Nihon genson Genjin bunshū mokuroku 日本現存元人文集目錄. Tokyo: Kyūko shoin, 1970.

  • Lu Junling 陸峻嶺. Yuan ren wenji pianmu fenlei suoyin 元人文集篇目分類索引. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979.

  • Zhou Qingshu 周清澍. Yuan ren wenji banben mulu 元人文集版本目录. Nanjing: Nanjing daxue, 1983.

  • Huang Rensheng 黄仁生. Riben xiancang xijian Yuan Ming wenji kaozheng yu tiyao 日本现藏稀见元明文集考证与提要. Changsha: Yuelu shushe, 2004.


  • Wolfgang Franke. An Introduction to the Sources of Ming History. Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press, 1968.
    (Provides abstracts to select individual collections that contain significant numbers of memorials.)

  • Yamane Yukio 山根幸夫. Zōtei Nihon genson Minjin bunshū mokuroku 増訂日本現存明人文集目錄. Tokyo: Tōkyo joshi daigaku Tōyōshi Kenkyūshitsu and Kyūko shoin, 1978.

  • Cui Jianying 崔建英. Ming bieji banben zhi 明別集版本志. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2006.

  • Hanxue yanjiu zhongxin 漢學研究中心. Ming ren wenji lianhe mulu ji pianmu suoyin 明人文集聯合目錄及篇目索引. http://ccs.ncl.edu.tw/topic_02.html
    (List of extant editions in Taiwan and full-text search of table of contents.)


  • Zhang Shunhui 張舜徽. Qing ren wenji bielu 清人文集別錄. 2 vols. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1969.

  • Nishimura Genshō 西村元照. Nihon genson Shinjin bunshū mokuroku 日本現存清人文集目錄. Kyoto: Tōyōshi kenkyūkai, 1972.

  • Ke Yuchun 柯愈春. Qing ren shiwenji zongmu tiyao 清人詩文集總目提要. Beijing: Beijing guji chubanshe, 2002.

  • Wang Zhongmin 王重民 and Yang Dianxun 楊殿珣. Qing dai wenji pianmu fenlei suoyin 清代文集篇目分類索引. Beijing: Beijing tushuguan, 2003.


  • Wang Minxin 王民信. Zhongguo lidai shiwen bieji lianhe shumu 中國歷代詩文别集聯合書目. 14 vols. Taipei: Lianhe bao wenhua jijinhui guoxue wenxianguan, 1981.
    (Bibliography of extent editions in major Taiwan libraries.)

  • Luan Guiming 欒貴明. Siku jiben bieji shiyi 四庫輯本别集拾遺. 2 vols. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983.
(Corrects omissions in titles that were originally reconstructed from Yongle dadian 永樂大典.)

  • Zhonghua wenhua fuxing yundong tuixing weiyuanhui 中華文化復興運動推行委員會. Siku quanshu wenji pianmu fenlei suoyin 四庫全書文集篇目分類索引. Taipei: Shangwu shuju, 1989.

  • Chŏn In-ch’o 全寅初. Hanguo suo cang Zhongguo hanji zongmu 韓國所藏中國漢籍總目. 6 vols. Seoul: Xuegu fang, 2005.
    (Look for Vol. 5, Literatures section – jibu 集部.)

Downloading Siku quanshu Text Files

I’m sure most of us who have worked with the Siku quanshu 四庫全書 database have dreamed of extracting texts of whole books without having to copy them page-by-page. It turns out that some books are indeed available as text files in here. The list is not complete, but it includes quit a few books from the History (史), Philosophy (子), and Literature (集) sections. Some books from the Classics (經) section are also available, but not that many.

If you are lucky enough to find the title of your interest, you might need to convert the encoding of the downloaded file before you can see the text properly. A tool that I have found handy is Encoding Master. Use it to open the file, and convert from DOS Chinese Simplified (GBK) to UTF-8. Now you have a clean text file of your favorite book!

Some points of caution:

  • The text is in simplified Chinese.
  • This comes from an online forum, so it can disappear anytime (although apparently it has been there for over a year now).
  • Not all files are from Siku quanshu. (Read the disclaimer in Paragraph #6 at the top of the page.) In any case, the files come from totally unknown sources, so they are as reliable as Wikipedia.
  • Depending on your understanding of the copyright of digitalized old texts, you might feel guilty using these files.

This is the most comprehensive list of clean Siku quanshu texts that I have seen so far. If anyone knows of a better source, I’d appreciate the information very much.

Reading Note: An Introduction to Research in Chinese History (Tonami et al.)

Tonami Mamoru 砺波護, Kishimoto Mio 岸本美緒, and Sugiyama Masaaki 杉山正明 (eds.) Chūgoku rekishi kenkyū nyūmon 中国歴史研究入門. Nagoya: Nagoya daigaku shuppankai, 2006. (View on Webcat Plus)

If you ever need to get a quick overview of Japanese scholarship on a particular period of Chinese history, this is the book to go to. It divides the entirety of Chinese history into eleven chronological chapters of thirty pages or less (plus one thematic chapter on China in the world and two appendixes on reference works). Each chapter gives a concise overview of past scholarship, major sources, and relevant reference works. Each chapter is written by several specialists of the period, with a total of twenty-nine contributors for the whole book. The structure and emphasis differ quite a bit depending on the chapter, but overall it is very easy to find a particular subsection of interest, making the book a great reference work.

Based on my quick survey of the Ming and Qing chapters, the sections on sources and reference works may not be the most useful for non-Japanese scholars, since there are other Chinese and English guides that are more detailed and comprehensive. The reviews of past scholarship, on the other hand, are great – unless someone has written a review article on a particular period, these are probably the most concise summaries of Japanese scholarship that we will ever be able to find. The book also incorporates major Chinese and English language scholarship, which is a plus.

In all, this book should provide a convenient supplement to the more detailed but somewhat dated guide by Yamane Yukio 山根幸夫, Chugokushi kenkyu nyumon 中国史研究入門 (1983; Chinese translation available through 社会科学文献出版社, 2000).