Document of the Month

In Paper Knowledge: Toward a Media History of Documents, Lisa Geitelman asks “what is a document? Bibliographers and other information specialists have persisted in puzzling over this question for at least the last hundred years.” Today on the Internet, there are more than 23 million texts that might provide an answer, given that they contain (or so Google tells me) the phrase “A document is…”.  When I checked, I found to my surprise that one relevant internet text that does not is the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency’s Terms & Definitions of Interest. It does not define “document” – merely “document exploitation,” “document and media exploitation,” and “Harmony.”  As a historian, my editorial policy here at Document of the Month will be to adopt a similar robust Don’t Ask Don’t Tell-position with respect to “What is a document?” If you see it scanned and commented on here, it’s a document.


Document of the Month is curated by Michael Schoenhals.


December 2016

Detoxification of the body politic: post-Lin Biao language matters


November 2016

When physical labor was still on the curriculum


October 2016

“Pissed and lost for words!” – Doorway couplets from Shanghai (1966)


September 2016

Do you have many contacts, among the lumberjacks?


July/August 2016

He did time for what he did: A CIA translator’s prison release papers


June 2016

More on Mao badges: Documenting a non-event


May 2016

Shanghai forty years ago: If you remember “experiencing the Cultural Revolution,” you really weren’t there!

A report to the DAAD: “Über Studium und Leben an der Fudan Universität in Shanghai” (September 1976)

April 2016

Confucius say… Dictatorship is good thing!


March 2016

A Harbin postal inspector’s copy of a young midwife’s letter (September 1949)

哈尔滨市公安局治安处第一科邮电检查股 邮登第2062号(简抄)件

February 2016

An affair to remember? Consenting adults in the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park

《我和XXX的关系》- 江苏省南京第二建筑工程公司“五反”运动中的一份交待材料(1964年)

January 2016

Bo Diddley was right: you can’t judge a book by the cover!


December 2015

When the night has come and the land is dark: Will the police stand by Mao’s revolution?


November 2015

Back to the Future: Categorical Watchlisting in China (1959)


October 2015

Deceiving Deng: A Potemkin Village in Anhui (1960)


September 2015

Beijing August 1958 – Hot town, summer in the city!


August 2015

New in the neighborhood? A 1952 residency transfer form for a ”person of interest”


June 2015

China historian goes off-message on torture: ”Did anyone here recognize that?”


May 2015

He raped me! A Nanjing contract worker speaks out (1972).


April 2015

Aluminum and Mao badges wholesale: four receipts from the Cultural Revolution (1967–68)


March 2015

“It’s Chairman Mao on the phone!” – The rise and fall of an imposter


February 2015

Document Authentication 101 – Spot the Forgery!


January 2015

Earlier, everything was better. The earlier the better. (1963)


December 2014

Christmas in Nanjing 1970: If you see something, comrades, say something!


November 2014

“I got me a secret membership card…”: Talkin’ May 16th Paranoid Blues (1972)


October 2014

Losing Mao: A Shanghai Customs Notice from 1976


September 2014

Police, Press, and Public Relations: Hu Qiaomu Talks (1955)


August 2014

A French Diplomat’s Beijing Diary (1965–1967):

Annie Le Cage’s Turbulence in a Clear Sky

July 2014

Banned in Beijing: A 1950s Index of Politically Incorrect Picture-Story Books


June 2014

Stealing Other People’s Mail: the KGB in Beijing (1973)


May 2014

Who’s that Girl: Documenting an event of no particular significance (1968)


April 2014

Counter-Revolutionary Cacography: Samples from Shanghai (1972)


March 2014

What Is to Be Done? A Note from the Communist Underground (1961)

February 2014

When Form Is Content: A 1954 CCP Document about the Design of Documents