C.V. Starr East Asian Library

Chinese Diaries collection, 1930s-1980s

Summary Information

At a Glance

Bib ID 15003454 View CLIO record
Title Chinese Diaries collection, 1930s-1980s
Physical Description 850 Volumes (10 cartons)
Language(s) Chinese , Chinese .

This collection is located off-site. Collection is closed until processed.


Scope and Contents

The Chinese Diary Collection contains 850 volumes of hardbound and softbound diaries, dating from 1930s to 1980s. Some volumes are filled with writing from cover to cover; some, partially filled; and some, with brief inscriptions. It includes 81 volumes by different individuals of Republican Period (1912-1949) and 95 small volumes penned by an engineer, with scientific data and personal contents. The contents recorded in the dairies are significant, for instance, a set of 20 work diaries by a mid-rank public security cadre member during and after the Cultural Revolution offers detailed history of public security operations for two decades. A set of 10 work diaries by an officer working in a ministry of the State Council in the 1980s documented the political and daily lives before and after the Tiananmen Massacre in association with the students' pro-democracy movement.

Besides handwritten contents, many diary volumes contain printed texts, almanac-like information, pictures of the current leadership, a variety of scenic and art-historical illustrations, and other information to make them useful to their owners. There is a wide variety of cover designs, writing paper, and bindings, ranging from simple notebooks to high quality productions. In addition, there are 37 books of Republican Period and post-1949 instructing children and adults (workers, traders) the principles of composition, especially on how to write diaries.

The collection provides a vivid account and an invaluable source on Chinese politics, society, family and personal life from the perspectives of ordinary intellectuals and lower reach of the bureaucracy, from the eve of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 to the Tiananmen Square Incident of 1989.

Using the Collection

C. V. Starr East Asian Library

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is located off-site. Collection is closed until processed.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The C.V. Starr East Asian Library maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Chinese Diaries collection; Box and Folder; C. V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University Library.


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact starr@library.columbia.edu for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase from Don Jonathan Cohn, Don Cohn Limited, 2019.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, C. V. Starr East Asian Library

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Diaries Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Inscriptions Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Laboratory notes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
China -- History -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
China -- History -- Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
China -- History -- Tiananmen Square Incident, 1989 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
China -- Politics and government -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
China -- Social life and customs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cohn, Don Jonathan Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Labor -- China Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID