Modern Chinese Fiction and Film (EALC 318/518): Primary Sources and Themes

Library resources and information access to Chinese fiction and film of the first half of the 20th century

What is Primary Sources

I. Primary Sources

Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later. Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of whether they are available in original format. ( 

When writing a paper about a work of fiction, the novel, play, or its adoptation film is your primary source for information.

II. Secondary Sources

Secondary sources provide interpretation and analysis of primary sources. They can be literature and book reviews or works of criticism and interpretation of the original. Secondary sources (critical studies, etc.) may help explain or interpret the text, but the text itself should be used as the main basis for any proofs and persuasions.


- women and Chinese modernity in the Republic era
- literary societies, realism, gender relations
- daily lives in rural and urban settings
- families or marriage in literature
- Chinese family in the larger political, economic and cultural context of modern China
- traditional values and western thought in changing China
- social, cultural or political phenomenon reflected in broader conceptual or interpretive definitions of Chinese fiction
- the role of cultural capitals, such as Beijing or Shanghai in fiction and film adaptations
- the global presence of Chinese fiction outside mainland China
- representations of gender
- the theoretical and cultural basis for determining the merit of particular fictions

"LU, Xun" Primary Sources (Examples)

Examples of Primary Sources

A primary source reflects the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer. 

  • Diaries, journals, speeches, interviews, letters, memos, manuscripts and other papers in which individuals describe events in which they were participants or observers.
  • Memoirs and autobiographies. These may be less reliable than diaries or letters since they are usually written long after events occurred and may be distorted by bias, dimming memory or the revised perspective that may come with hindsight. 
  • Original records or document collected by government agencies: births, deaths, marriages; permits and licenses issued; census data, etc.
  • Records of organizations.   The minutes, reports, correspondence, etc. of an organization or agency serve as an ongoing record of the activity and thinking of that organization or agency.
  • Published materials (books, magazine and journal articles, newspaper  articles) written at the time about a particular event.  The important thing is to distinguish between material written at the time of an event as a kind of report, and material written much later, as historical analysis.
  • Photographs, audio recordings and moving pictures or video recordings,  documenting an event.
  • Research data,  field notes, data of scientific experiments, and
  • Artifacts of all kinds:physical objects