Resources for China Studies: Primary Sources

What is a Primary Source?

"A primary source is a document, image, or artifact that provides evidence about the past. It is an original document created contemporaneously with the event under discussion. A direct quote from such a document is classified as a primary source. A secondary source is a book, article, film, or museum that displays primary sources selectively in order to interpret the past." (Robert C. Williams, The Historian's Toolbox: A Student's Guide to the Theory and Craft of History, p.58 ). Examples include:

  • Magazine and newspaper articles published at the time
  • Hand-written documents like diaries and journals
  • Maps
  • Laws & court cases
  • Speeches, interviews, letters
  • Memoirs and autobiographies
  • literary manuscripts
  • Records of government agencies
  • Records of organizations
  • Public opinion polls
  • Fiction from a particular time and place
  • Research data
  • Religious or philosophical texts
  • Artifacts of all kinds: physical objects, furniture, tools, clothing, etc.
  • Photographs, audio recordings, movies and videos
  • Art, including paintings, prints and other media

Finding Primary Sources

UNC Libraries has access to the following types of resources