Library

9 October 2017

China Reconstructs: A resource for researchers of 20th century China

The Matheson Library has an amazing collection of Chinese periodicals dating to the 1950s. Xiaoju Liu, subject librarian for Chinese studies, writes about how researchers can use this collection as an English language primary source to gain further insight into 20th century China. 

What is China Reconstructs?


China Reconstructs is an English language periodical, first published in China in January 1952. Although the first issues were in English the publication gradually expanded to Spanish, French, Arabic, German, and Portuguese between 1960 and 1980. The Chinese version was added in October 1980.

This is the only multi-language publication that was issued by the Chinese government during that time. It was published by the China Welfare Institute (funded in 1938 by Soong Ching Ling, the wife of Sun Yat-sen). The idea was initiated by a conversation between Premier Zhou Enlai and Soong Qing Ling, as they were both looking for a way to introduce the achievements of modern China to the world. Soong Qing Ling named the journal China Reconstructs (中国建设) in memory of Sun Yat-sen, who started a short-lived periodical called Constructs (建设) in 1919.

What sort of information does this publication contain? 

This richly illustrated periodical covers various aspects of modern China, from economy and technology to social life, arts, sport, minorities, tourism, archaeology, infrastructure, and stories. Its special columns include Postbag, School life, International Notes, In the New Society, Language Corner and others. 

Language Corner was designed for foreigners who wanted to learn Chinese. It consisted of a short article with Chinese characters, pinyin (romanisation) and English. The column included explanatory notes on the use of key Chinese words and phrases as well as exercises.

International Notes reported on China's standpoint concerning international affairs. For example, in an article titled The Afro-Americans are fighting, the author noted that "Chairman Mao was voicing the mighty support of the 700 million Chinese people to the Afro-Americans. The world's people struggling against U.S. imperialism also saw in his statement the direction forward and were tremendously inspired."

School Life reported on what was taking place in China's schools particularly about how Mao Tsetung's principles were being implemented in education.

Why is this collection significant?


The variety of information present in this collection makes it a rich trove of material that can enhance research and teaching on various aspects of Modern China. In January 1990, the periodical was renamed as China Today (今日中国) and continues to function as a gateway into contemporary China. Researchers working on social and cultural life in the second half of 20th century China will benefit significantly from this great collection. For example, a special issue in February 1970 focuses on the Peking Opera Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, contains English scripts and various discussions about how proletarian heroes were created and how negative characters were depicted. 

How do I access this collection?

The Matheson Library holds copies of China Reconstructs issued in 1953, 1955-1956, 1961-1989 in the closed Asian Special Collection area. If you're interested in using China Reconstructs (中国建设) contact Xiaoju Liu (Chinese Studies Subject Librarian) or Hueimin Chen (Information Officer) for access to this collection.  


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