The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) Collection of Intellectual, Social, and Technological History of the People’s Republic of China
University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany

The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) Collection of Intellectual, Social, and Technological History of the People’s Republic of China (, donated by SASS to the Institute of Sinology at the University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) in 2006, offers fascinating and multifaceted possibilities for research on contemporary China. Integrated into the main library system of FAU, the collection contains approximately 100,000 separate volumes as well as a variety of periodicals (approx. 10,000 bounded volumes), all published from the late 1940s to the 1980s.

The collection features an assortment of publications ranging from translated Marxist classics to medical textbooks, from philosophical and literary works to agriculture handbooks and propaganda pamphlets, and from popular youth magazines to academic journals. The major fields this collection covers are technology and science (19,000 volumes), economics, industry, agriculture, and commerce (15,000 volumes), history and historical science (11,000 volumes), as well as literature and arts (14,000 volumes).  (For a more detailed overview see Given the increasing academic interest in the early PRC, it is particularly worth mentioning that the collection offers a trove of primary materials from the early 1950s to the late 1970s.

The collection also has a large number of books (monographs and textbooks) on natural sciences, engineering (with blueprints of machines), geology, medicine, astronomy, etc. Researchers of history may trace the anti-Japanese sentiment in contemporary China back to the publications on the “Anti-Japanese War” (1937-45) in the 1950s and the 1960s. They can also get a sense of the political climate of the early PRC by looking at the discourse of liberating Taiwan in the mid-1950s. “Internal publications,” such as the collections of “anti-Chinese expressions” by the Soviet Communist Party and those of the Eastern European countries (e.g. Czechoslovakia), enable the researcher to deepen his/her understanding of the Sino-Soviet conflict in the early 1960s.

The collection offers voluminous and diverse resources to researchers working in the field of cultural studies. For example, the materials on the perennial campaign, “Learn from Lei Feng,” display an impressive variety of oral performances (music/lyrics, traditional opera scripts, bamboo clapper talks, dramas for children), textual narratives (Lei Feng’s diary, poems on Lei Feng, children’s stories, a movie script) as well as picture albums, which would allow the researcher to trace the changing connotations and forms of propaganda in the campaign from 1963 to the mid-1970s. The abundance of drama and opera scripts from the 1950s and 1960s could be used to investigate the use of these performance genres in the modernizing/propagandizing processes.  The scripts would also be very useful for investigating drama and opera’s role in promoting the ideas of patriotism, class struggle, revolutionary spirit, and socialist construction in the first decades of the PRC.  Such research would offer new insights into cultural life, especially for the 1960s and 1970s. For instance, a closer look at the periodical Chinese Workers (Zhongguo gongren, 1950-70) provides insight into the promotion of workers’ culture as a new sort of urban life in the early PRC. The Communist Party’s desire to modernize China is also reflected in their remapping of cities and erection of new socialist buildings, as illustrated by the book A Decade of Architectural Design (Jianzhu sheji shinian, 1949-1959).

In the field of literature, the collection offers an immense variety of Chinese and foreign (i.e. translated, and not limited to the Soviet Union) literary works.  Topics range from propaganda literature and publications of populist stories encouraging anti-Western sentiments during the early 1960s to crime stories and science fiction. Together with literary journals and popular magazines published around the same time, they invite many new discoveries.

This collection – one that is unique in Europe – offers many possibilities for tracing the history of major upheavals and gradual changes in the PRC, from the postwar period to the early 1980s. For further information about the collection catalogue, possible research stays in Erlangen as well as any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact:

Dr. Marc Andre Matten,
Assistant Professor for Contemporary Chinese History at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg,

Rui Kunze and Marc A. Matten