Here you will find annotated profiles of digital archives of China photographs around the world. Readers are encouraged to send information on new or updated sites, or suggestions of archives to profile.

• Key Databases
• Specific Authors
• Thematic Databases
• Institutions Collections
• Specialised Websites


Key Databases

Historical Photographs of China
A scholar and collaborative database that aims to locate, archive, and disseminate photographs from the substantial holdings of images of modern China held mostly in private hands overseas

The Virtual Cities Project
A collaborative enterprise between several interntational universities. This online platform provides various types of sources (photographs, maps, documents) about cities such as Beijing, Hankou, Shanghai, Suzhou, Tianjin

International Dunhuang Project (IDP)
An international collaboration to make information and images of all manuscripts, paintings, textiles and artefacts from Dunhuang and archaeological sites of the Eastern Silk Road freely available on the Internet

Old Asia Photography
Old Asia Photography is London based and was established in 1982. It was previously known as Old Japan, originally set up to focus on early Japanese photography. This new site has been expanded to cover East and Southeast Asian 19th and early 20th century photography

Getty Search Gateway
The Getty program provides access to thousands of art images - including over 400 photographs of China - from both J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute

Digital portal gathering a wide range of documents, manuscripts, and images, including photographs of China originally kept in several French museums and institutions

Digital portal gathering a wide range of documents, manuscripts, and images, including photographs, kept chiefly at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF)

World Digital Library
Plateform that makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world



Specific Authors

T.C. Chamberlin Collection - Beloit College
The T.C. Chamberlin Collection consists of 726 beautiful black-and-white photos from the College Archives’ Chamberlin Collection. These photos were taken by Rollin Chamberlin during an exploratory trip through China in 1909-1910 as part of the Oriental Educational Investigation Commission

Jen-I-Kouan – aka Albert Gervais – was a French Doctor who lived in Western China in the 1920s. This blog unveils this person’s memory through his photographic archives, texts and other documents

Travels in Southwest China, 1899-1917: The archive of Fritz and Hedwig Weiss
Online platform that offers photographs of the German Consul Fritz Weiss and his wife, Hedwig Weiss, who lived and travelled in China from 1899 to 1917. These pictures were taken during their travels by ship and on land, in cities and in secluded minority territories, as well as in their daily lives

Yang, Etudiant Ouvrier en 1920
Website ran by Stéphane Yang, the grandson of a Chinese called Yang Tche Chen (1902-1968), who travelled to France in the 1920s thanks to the Diligent Work-Frugal Study Movement. It provides a variety of printed documents, including old photographs

Joseph Needham Photographs (Needham Research Institute, United Kingdom)
A collection of around 1000 photographs taken by Dr. Needham during Wartime China (1942-1946)

Sha Fei Research Center for Chinese Image (China)
Research centre dedicated to the Chinese professional photographer Sha Fei (1912-1950), who was one of the most cherished photographers in China during the wartime years of 1937-1949, when China and Japan entered into conflict

Nicholas Grindley Photography of China
Nicholas Grindley is an art dealer researching Chinese art with particular interest in photography of China prior to 1900 by both Western and Chinese  

China 1974-76
Over 400 slides taken by Michael Rank when he was a student in China in the 1970s

Reginald Murphy in China
This website provides digitized images taken by the journalist Reginald Murphy, who visited China in 1972 with a group of western journalist. This website also provides essays writen by graduate students from the Digital History and Pedagogy class at NC State University (USA)

Edwards Bangs Drew Chinese Maritime Customs Service Photographs (Harvard College Library, USA)
Online collection that showsEdwards Bangs Drew’s collection of photographs taken in China in the 1860s. It documents clothing, customs, and daily life in nineteenth century China, as well as Drew’s life and career, including family and social gatherings, public appearances, and events and ceremonies

The Rev. Claude L. Pickens, Jr. Collection on Muslims in China (Harvard College Library, USA)
Over 1000 photos of Muslims and Christian missionaries working among them in Western China in the 1920s and 1930s

Francis E. Stafford photographs, 1909-1933 (Stanford University Libraries, USA)
Hundreds of photographs taken in China by Francis E. Stafford, an American working as a photographer for Asia's largest publishing company, Commercial Press in Shanghai in the 1930s

Sidney D. Gamble Photographs (Duke University, USA)
Database that supply thousands of photographs taken primarily of China between 1917 and 1932

Werner von Boltenstern Shanghai Photograph and Negative Collection (The William H. Hannon Library, USA)
Consisting of black and white photographs and negatives, this collection offers photographic record of life in Shanghai, China, in the war-torn years from 1937 through 1949

John Van Antwerp MacMurray Photo and Film Collection (Princeton University Library, USA)
Collections of the Princeton University Library’s Dept. of Rare Books and Special, which include John van Antwerp MacMurray's 55 boxes of photographs, dating from 1849 to 1955 and taken or acquired by him. Also in the collection are films MacMurray made in China, Korea, and the Philippines

Robert Henry Chandless Photographs (University Libraries, University of Washington, USA)
A collection of Robert Henry Chandless' travelogue of images of China in the early 1900s

Haldore Hanson's China Collection (1937-1938) (Carleton College, Northfield, USA)
Online catalogue that gathers Haldore Hanson’s photographs of China in the 1930s

Shackford Collection of Photographs of China (University of Hawaii, USA)
These photographs were taken during the late 1920s and early 1930s by John B. Shackford during his travels and tenure as an English teacher in southern China

Sir Robert Hart Collection (Queen’s University, Belfast, United Kingdom)
Photographs, diaries and other information regarding Sir Robert Hart, whi was the Inspector General of the Imperial Customs in Beijing between 1863 and 1908

Frederick Williamson Collection (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University, USA)
Collection of photographs and reels of movies taken by the British Political Officer Williamson, while he stayed in Sikkim, Bhutan, and Tibet in the 1930s



Thematic Databases


Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive 
Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive (APPA) is a not-for-profit open-access physical archive of self-published and independent photobooks. The APPA is a response to the boom in photographic self-publishing globally and is established to provide a ‘real’ way to see photobooks that would otherwise only be viewable online


Historical Chinese Postcard Project: 1896 – 1920 (France)
Created under the patronage of the Institut d'Asie Orientale (IAO) in the city of Lyon, this database primarily aims at studying the first wave of postcards with a Chinese subject

China Postcard
Flickr gallery of photographs and postcard from China


China Through the Eyes of CIM Missionaries (Hong Kong Baptist University, China)
The Library of Hong Kong Baptist University was given 166 hand-tinted lantern slides by the Billy Graham Centre Archives at Wheaton College. Covering the 1900s to the 1930s, the slides depict portraits, landscapes, architecture, social conditions, and economic activities

International Mission Photography Archive (USC University of Southern California, USA)
Historical images of missionary activities in China and other countries from mid-19th to mid-20th century


The Nanking Massacre Project (Yale University Library, USA)
This web site provides access to first hand accounts and photographs from Westerners who remained in Nanking after the Japanese invasion. These resources do not provide a comprehensive understanding of what occurred in Nanjing during 1937-1938, but the observations made by these men and women provide an important historical lens to complement additional research

Durham Light Infantry 1920-1946: The China Album
Website dedicated to the memory of J W S Gibson who was killed in action on June 14th 1944. It is ran by Gibson's nephew

Hong Kong War Diary
Project that documents the 1941 defence of Hong Kong, the defenders, their families, and the fates of all until liberation through all types of images, including photographs

Shanghai 1937
Photographs by the Swis Karl Kengelbacher, who documented the Sino-Japanese War in the late 1930s

War of Resistance Photographs Collection 上海圖書館館藏抗戰圖片庫 (Shanghai Library, China)
Collection of photographs taken during the Sino-Japanese war during the 1930s-40s


Early Chinese Photography (Northwestern University, Chicago, USA)
Online database set up by the Multimedia Learning Center of the Northwestern University

Chinese Digital Archive 1966-1976 (Australian National University, Australia)
Provides rare and fragile collections in both print and microfilm relating to the Chinese Cultural Revolution period (1966 to 1976)

Chinese Photography History
Non-profit academic exchange platform which aims to explore image materials about China from 1840s till now. The site, published in English and Chinese, features case studies of photographers, excerpts from books, and images culled from the Internet

Memory Shanghai 上海年華  (Shanghai Library, China)
Historical photographs and films currently from the late nineteenth century onwards

Early Chinese Periodicals Online
This database assembles several important digital collections of the early Chinese press and makes them available to scholarly communities around the world. It is distinguished from all other existing databases of Chinese periodicals, because it provides image scans and preserves materials often excluded in reprint, microfilm or digital editions, such as advertising inserts and illustrations. In addition, it offers metadata in both English and Chinese, including keywords and biographical information on editors, authors and individuals

China Christian Colleges and Universities Image Database (Yale University, USA)
This database includes images from the Archives of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia and the Archives of the Trustees of Lingnan University

Asia and the Eastern Pacific Rim in Early Prints and Photographs (New York Public Library, USA)
Photographic albums, photographically illustrated books, and archival photographs related to China

East Asia Image Collections (Lafayette College Library, USA)
Open-access archive of digitized photographs, negatives, postcards, and slides of imperial Japan (1868-1945), its Asian empire and occupied Japan. Images China are included

The Asia Collection (Hamilton Library, University of Hawai'i, USA)
This collection offers materials that date from 1920, including two digital collections – “Asia at Work” and “Opium in Asia” – containing photographs in early twentieth-century China

Asian & Pacific Studies – Historical Photographs
This page keeps track of leading on-line collections of still images of value/significance to researchers in Asian and Pacific Studies

AGSL Digital Photo Archive Asia and Middle East (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA)
This archive presents over 20,000 images from the holdings of the American Geographical Society (AGS) Library. The selection focuses on the countries of Asia and the Middle East

The East Asian Collection (University of Wisconsin, USA)
This collection presents a visual archive of twentieth century East Asian cultural heritage. The collection includes images that document early twentieth century China, more precisely the Sino-Japanese Conflict (1937-1945), a visual history of Buddhist practices and temples in China, and other images of daily life in both rural and urban China

Asia Art Archive 亚洲艺术文献库
Asia Art Archive (AAA) collects, documents and secures the multiple recent histories of contemporary art in the region. AAA's collection encompasses a wide variety of material intended to reflect contemporary artistic practice and developments of Asia within an international context

National Archives – Asia
Photographs of diverse countries, including China, from The National Archives (United Kingdom) that have been added to Flickr

Tiananmen Square, 1989 (Indiana University-Purdue Library, USA)
This collection includes over 400 black and white photos of 1989 Tiananmen Square taken by Dr. Edgar Huang, who was then a university instructor and a documentary photographer in Beijing

Beijing Spring - Memories of the Chinese Democracy Movement 1978-1981
Website whose overall aim of this project is to collect and present memories and reminiscences of participants of the Chinese Democracy Movement in the 1970s-80s, including avant-garde artists and writers associated with the activities

Tea Industry Photograph Collection (Baker Library, Harvard Business School, USA)
A collection of rare photos capturing China's 19th Century Tea Trade



Archivo China España 1800-1950 [China-Spain Archive, 中西檔案]
China-Spain Archive is an open-access, digital archive that brings together textual and visual documents on the interactions between Spain and China between the mid-19th and mid-20th century of interest for the academic community and the general public

Database of Taiwanese old photos 臺灣舊照片資料庫 (National Taiwan University Library, Taiwan)
A rich collection of old photographs covering Taiwan related topics during the Japanese Colonial Rule (1895-1945)

Her History in Taiwan (Academia Sinica, Taiwan)
The Archives of the Institute of Taiwan History (ITH) at Academia Sinica holds a wide variety of historical sources pertaining to women of Taiwan dating back to the Qing dynasty

Taiwan Memory 臺灣記憶 (National Central Library, Taiwan)
This database contains a rich source of books and literature, historic documents, images, historical photographs, video, and video records of news, as well as information on historic figures

Villages (Academia Sinica, Taiwan)
A digital-image database of artefacts, documents, and photographs related to China’s south-western indigenous people collected by Academia Sinica’s Institute of History and Philology between the years 1928-1943

South Central China and Tibet Collection (The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, USA)
Photographs of expeditions taken from the 1920s up to contemporary times, which depict China and Tibet's natural and ecological resources, as well as the social and cultural history

Digital Silk Road
Digital Silk Road Project is a digital humanities research project about creating digital archives of cultural heritage based on collaboration between informatics and humanities. This database holds over 6000 thousands photographs of several sites along the Silk Road, from the past and the present 

Faces of Tientsin, 1946: Photographs by Harold Giedt (California State University, Northridge, USA)
Online catalogue that holds the American enthusiastic amateur Harold Giedt's photographs of China in the 1940s

Old Hong Kong
An online catalogue of images that depict historical and present day Hong Kong

Gwulo: Old Hong Kong
Online repository ran by David Bellis that provides a mix of historical and current information about Hong Kong through photographs, and articles among other documents

The Hong Kong Heritage Project
Telling the story of Old Hong Kong through 130 years of photographs, papers and oral histories held in The Hong Kong Heritage Project Archive

Beijing of Dreams
Website providing photographs, paintings, engravings and other images that depict the old Beijing. This website is a project of The History of Chinese Science and Culture Foundation

Shenzhen Noted
Shenzhen Noted makes legible the city’s shifting cultural landscapes and emergent cosmographies by providing photographic documentation of urbanization in South China, historic contextualization of this transformation, translations of Chinese perspectives on this change, and speculation about what this unprecedented restructuring of the landscape might mean for China and beyond



Institutions Collections

Wellcome Collection Library (United Kingdom)
The photographs shown on this website are a small sample from the collection of nearly 700 photographs in the Wellcome Library which the photographer John Thomson (1837-1921) took on his foreign travels, brought home to London and offered at the end of his life to the collector Henry Wellcome

Royal Asiatic Society (United Kingdom)
Their online Library catalogue provides much of their photographic collection, including mid-and-late nineteenth century albums and photographs of China taken by Lai Afong, John Thomson, William Pryor Floyd, Milton M. Miller and other unknown operators

Centre d'archives de Terre Blanche (France)
The Center's purpose is to preserve and showcase the French car company PSA Peugeot Citroën's historic heritage. It holds photographs taken during the "Croisière Jaune" (1931-32), a mission that aimed at driving across the Asian continent including China

Musée des Arts Décoratifs (France)
The Museum holds rare photographic albums of China dating back to the late nineteenth century

Musée d’Orsay (France)
Online catalogue of the museum, which contains photographs of China dating back to the nineteenth century

Musée départemental Albert-Kahn (France)
Digitized collection of autochromes taken around the world, including in China in the early-twentieth century. These photographs are part of the Archives de la Planète [Archives of the Planet]: a three-decade long project ended in 1931 that compiled a visual inventory of the world utilizing ground-breaking types of media from that time, namely autochrome and film

Musée du Quai Branly - The Iconographic Library (France)
The iconographic library of the museum holds nearly 700,000 pieces, gathering images from the photographic library of the musée de l’Homme, the former musée national des arts d’Afrique and d’Océanie, and from the History Collection of the musée national des arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie. It includes photographs of China dating from the late nineteenth century up to contemporary times

Musée français de la photographie, Bièvres (France)
A collection of more than three hundreds photographs taken in China during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It includes Jules Itier’s dahguerreotype taken in China in the 1840s

Archives diplomatiques du ministère des Affaires étrangères (France)
The Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs possess rich textual and iconographic resources, including photographs taken in China since the late nineteenth century

La médiathèque de l'architecture et du patrimoine (MAP, France)
The MAP is a French institution that aims to collect, classify, preserve, study, communicate, and promote diverse type of archival material. Its Fonds Chine [China Collection] includes Denise Colomb's journeys in China in the 1930s and mainly anonymous photographs taken before 1914

Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense (ECPAD, France)
The ECPAD is a French public institution under the tutelage of the Ministry of Defence, which functions as an archive and audiovisual centre. It includes historical photographs of China taken in the late nineteenth century

École Française d'Extrême Orient (EFEO, France)
The EFEO Library photographic collection offers unstudied early twentieth-century photographs and stereoscopics related to topics such as archaeology, ethnology, and art among others. It includes the following collections: Noël Péri's photographic records; Joseph Skarbek's mission to Henan in the first decade of the twentieth-century; anonymous stereoscopics taken in Yunnanfou (present day Kunming); and other photographs probably taken in Yunnan province and Tibet

Musée de l’Elysée (Switzerland)
The museums holds several photographic archives, including the Ella Maillart Collection: a female traveller of the twentieth century that visited Central Asia and China among other places

Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA)
The Met presents over 5,000 years of art from around the world for everyone to experience and enjoy. Its extensive collection includes historical and contemporary photographs taken in China

Visual Information Access Harvard Library (USA)
The Visual Information Access (VIA) system is a union catalog of visual resources at Harvard, focusing on artistic and cultural materials. VIA includes catalog records for objects or images owned, held or licensed by Harvard. Access to the catalog is open to the general public: all catalog records and thumbnail images are available to everyone

Library of Congress (USA)
The Library of Congress collection of Washington DC includes more than 38.6 million catalogued books and other print materials in 470 languages. Its Photos, prints, drawings department provides thousands of negatives, hand-colored lantern slides, glass plates, stereo cards, and postcards among other photographic prints taken in China

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (USA)
The Museum photographic collection holds several items ranging from early nineteenth century pictures to contemporary ones

Smithsonian Institution (USA)
Group of museums and research centres administered by the United States government, which provides an online catalogue of around 2.000 photographs of China

George Eastman House Museum (USA)
This international museum of photography and film holds hundreds of early twentieth century photographs of China

Asian Art Museum (USA)
This Museum positioned to lead a diverse, global audience in discovering the distinctive materials, aesthetics and intellectual achievements of Asian art and cultures, and to serve as a bridge of understanding between Asia and the United States and between the diverse cultures of Asia. Its rich collection includes tinted photographs and gelatin silver prints taken in early 20th century China 

Swedish National Museums of World Culture (Världskulturmuseerna, Sweden)
This museum holds a significant collection of photographs of China taken by the Finnish-born Swedish art historian Osvald Sirén (1879-1966) during the first decades of the twentieth century

Chinese-Australian Historical Images in Australia (Chinese Museum Australia)
This database is a catalogue of historical images of Chinese, Chinese immigrants and their descendants held in Australia. It completes with bibliography, which provides contextual information about the images in the database

Rijksmuseum Collection (Netherlands)
The Museum collection holds some late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries photographs and albums of China



Specialised Websites

Europeana Photography
An online collection bringing together and sharing a vast archive of historical images, which features early photography from some of Europe’s finest historical collections

MADSpace (Mapping ADvertising Space) is the digital companion to a PhD project devoted to the spatial history of advertising in modern Shanghai (1905-1949)

Everyday Life in Mao's China
This website - run by the academic Covell Meyskens - is dedicated mainly to photos and paintings of everyday life in China from roughly 1949 to 1989

« Serve the People ! » Images of Daily Life in China during the Cultural Revolution
The photographs presented on this website were taken by William A. Joseph, Professor in the department of Political Science, Wellesley College. These images were shot in March-April 1972 when he was a participant in the second delegation of the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars (CCAS) to the People's Republic of China (PRC)

Thomas H. Hahn Docu-Image
Website – ran by Thomas H. Hahn - that provides a bibliography of photo-albums and materials related to the history of photography in China and Tibet before 1949

Denis George Crow
Website of an art dealer specialized in historic China and Asian photography

Chinese photographer 中国摄影师
Useful website that provides portfolios and information regarding Mainland Chinese, overseas Chinese and even some international photographers
An online catalogue of Chinese contemporary photographs from a private collection

Gallery of China Top Photographer
Website that provides Chinese photographers' biographies and artworks from early to contemporary times

FOTEO Images
FOTOE (Guangzhou Integrated Image Co., Ltd.) is an encyclopedic picture stock specialized in China. It collects photographs organized chronologically from the 1840s up to contemporary times

Xinhua Multimedia Database
Online database of the Xinhua News Agency

Shuge 書格
Free and open online library of ancient books and ancient photographs


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