Primary Sources: History of Modern Shanghai

This page is a list of online open access resources and primary sources related to the history of modern Shanghai. This is part of a collection of primary source guides here at Frog in a Well that were created first and foremost with students in mind, especially those who are mostly dependent on English language materials and who may have limited access to commercial databases. It should be seen as a work in progress, and corrections or suggestions for additions are most welcome.

Virtual Shanghai

The best open online resource for the study of modern Shanghai, deserving special mention up front, is the wonderful Virtual Shanghai project. Below are highlighted only some of the excellent primary source materials there.

  • Maps – Hundreds of maps of Shanghai over time. See also their Base Maps and eAtlas collections, as well as GIS data in their Live Maps section.
  • Images – Thousands of images from Shanghai, often with very useful metadata.
  • Films – Some hundred films or film clips related to Shanghai.
  • Elibrary – This collection of hundreds of documents, contains many extremely important PDF downloads of historical publications and documents related to Shanghai, some of them linked again below.
  • Data – There is a wealth of data files hosted by the project that are rich references related to Shanghai history. See the hundreds of entries in the Numerical Data section, the Appendices, and the extensive database of Shanghai Buildings, which often includes addresses, photographs and GPS locations. There is also a list of Repositories and Publishers which connects, in turn, to lists of materials produced by individual publishers related to Shanghai.
  • Secondary Sources – See the hundreds of entries in the Bibliography section and the publications in the Papers section.


A few of the most important publications available online and open access in English useful for research on modern Shanghai can be found listed here and include some of those below:

There are over 80 historical Chinese newspapers from Shanghai available online, most of which, of course, are in Chinese:

Examples of Shanghai newspapers linked in the pages above:

Several other important collections:

See also for reference:

Shanghai Municipal Council, French Concession, and other Reports

There are a range of useful sources online related to the administration of the Shanghai International Settlement and the separate French Concession.

Shanghai Muncipal Police

The US National Archives index and guide to this massive collection of documents related to the International Settlement’s Shanghai Municipal Police can be browsed diretly on the Internet Archive:

Microfilm Pamphlet: Records Of The Shanghai Municipal Police 1894-1949 – Records of the Central Intelligence Agency Record Group 263. Another copy of this is here: BNA copy

There is a wiki set up that is digitizing this index to make it easily searchable, and providing links to individual files or pages within the rolls on the Internet Archive. View the SMPA Wiki here:

Shanghai Municipal Police Archive Wiki

There are copies of most, but not all, of the SMP microfilm rolls on the Bibliotèque Numérique Asiatique website which are mirrored to the Internet Archive and linked within the wiki above. Read more about this digitization program here. For the BNA files see these links:

There is a searchable database of many officers in the Shanghai Municipal Police at China Familes and a collection of photographs found in the SMP collections:

Also of interest:

Guides to Shanghai

Directories and Almanacs

See this helpful list of Directories on the China Families website for an extensive list of links to directories online.

Chronicle & Directory Series

The Asia Directories Database is an extensive resource for browsing and searching this directory series.

See a list of many of these online directories in this series on the National Library of Scotland here. Other copies on 1857 | 1864 | 1865 | 1879 | 1884 | 1885 | 1889 | 1892 | 1894 | 1899 | 1905 | 1906 | 1908 | 1915 | 1917 | 1920 | 1938

Other Directories and Almanacs

Visual Sources


  • Maps – See, again, the Virtual Shanghai list of maps.
  • Collection of Shanghai Maps – Collection of over 30 downloadable maps of Shanghai from 1850s to 1970s from various libraries and archives.


Here are a selection of Shanghai related films that are available on, though many of these repeat the China Film Classics films, which are generally of better quality and consistently have subtitles:

There are also a number of Shanghai related films and film clips here:

Other Resources

Memoirs, Accounts, and Other Sources

Open Access Books Online: The buttons below will offer a list of various other primary sources related to Shanghai that are available open access online.

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Books to Borrow on the Internet Archive: The above list of books are all open access and can be read directly and/or downloaded. In addition there are some books currently available at Internet Archive which may be digitally borrowed for free, as of this posting (some of these books are being taken down as part of an ongoing legal case with publishers). These include:


Other Works: There are also a number of other memoirs as well as works of older works fiction of interest that are available in English and not listed in above. They are not open access, but they are listed here for reference as affordable copies can often be found in the form of reprints and used copies:

  • Bacon, Ursula. Shanghai Diary, 2004.
  • Barnett, Robert W. Economic Shanghai: Hostage to Politics, 1937-1941, 1941.
  • Cao, Guanlong. 曹冠龙/曹冠龍 The Attic – Memoir of a Chinese Landlords Son, 1996.
  • Chang, Eileen. 張愛玲. Written on Water Edited by Nicole Huang. Translated by Andrew F. Jones, 2023.
  • Chao, Isabel Sun, and Claire Chao. Remembering Shanghai: A Memoir of Socialites, Scholars and Scoundrels, 2021.
  • Clayton, Buck, and Nancy M. Elliott. Buck Clayton’s Jazz World, 1995.
  • Collar, Hugh. Captive in Shanghai: A Story of Internment in World War II, 1990.
  • Cormie, Daniel G. Memoirs of a Shanghai Policeman, n.d.
  • Day, Ruth. Shanghai 1935: An American Lady’s Account of the City and Its High Society, 2020.
  • Denby, Jay. Letters of a Shanghai Griffin, 1923.
  • Farmer, Rhodes. Shanghai Harvest: A Diary of Three Years in the China War, 1945.
  • Glaser, Ernest. A Life Well Lived: Berlin, Shanghai, and America, 2017.
  • Heppner, Ernest G. Shanghai Refuge: A Memoir of the World War II Jewish Ghetto, 1995.
  • Hoffmann, Paul. Witness to History: From Vienna to Shanghai: A Memoir of Escape, Survival and Resilience, 2021.
  • Hui, Wei. 周衛慧/周卫慧 Shanghai Baby, 2002.
  • Jedeikin, Joseph. Shanghai Sanctuary: Growing Up Jewish During the War, 2020.
  • Kulstad, George A. A Foreign Kid in World War II Shanghai, 2015.
  • Kwok, Daisy. 郭婉瑩 Shanghai Daisy: The Autobiography of Daisy Kwok, 2019.
  • Lanning, George. The History of Shanghai, 1921.
  • Maher, Tani, and Anatole Mahir. Memoirs: From Old Shanghai to the New World, 2008.
  • Marcus, Audrey Friedman, and Rena Krasno. Survival in Shanghai: The Journals of Fred Marcus, 1939-49, 2008.
  • Moshinsky, Sam. Goodbye Shanghai: A Memoir, 2016.
  • Pal, John. Shanghai Saga: The Story of a City, 2022.
  • Peters, E. W., and Robert Bickers. Shanghai Policeman, 2014.
  • Whitey, Smith. I Didn’t Make a Million, 2022.
  • Willens, Liliane. Stateless in Shanghai, 2010.
  • Williams, Daniel S., and Gerald A. Meehl. A Shanghai American: From an American Childhood in Shanghai to Marine Combat Interpreter on the Pacific Island Battlefields of WWII, 2018.


  • Ballard, J. G. Empire Of The Sun, 1984
  • Chang, Eileen. 張愛玲 Love in a Fallen City Translated by Karen Kingsbury, 2007.
  • Chang, Eileen. 張愛玲 Lust, Caution Translated by Julia Lovell, 2007.
  • Chang, Eileen 張愛玲 Half a Lifelong Romance. Translated by Karen Kingsbury, 2014.
  • Chang, Eileen 張愛玲 Little Reunions. Translated by Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz, 2018.
  • Chang, Eileen 張愛玲 Red Rose, White Rose. Translated by Karen Kingsbury, 2011.
  • Han, Bangqing 韓邦慶 The Sing-Song Girls of Shanghai Translated by Eileen Chang, 2005.
  • Hergé. The Adventures of Tintin: The Blue Lotus, 1936.
  • Malraux, André. Man’s Fate, 1961.
  • Mao, Dun. 矛盾 Rainbow, 1992.
  • Mao, Dun. 矛盾 Midnight, 2001.
  • Mu, Shiying. 穆時英 Mu Shiying: China’s Lost Modernist: New Translations and an Appreciation, 2014.
  • Smolnikoff, Victor. The Diary of a Shanghai Physician, 2020.
  • Yokomitsu, Riichi. 横光利一 Shanghai, 2001.
  • Zhang, Henshui. 張恨水 Shanghai Express William A. Lyell trans., 1997.

Historical Scholarship: Though not open access works, there is a bibliography of historiography on Shanghai, focused on English language scholarship related to Shanghai from 1850-1949 available here: Shanghai Bibliography

See also this Frog in a Well resource page: Primary Sources: Missionary Perspectives on China

We very much welcome further contributions to this list of resources. If you have suggestions or corrections, please get in touch with Konrad at or on Mastodon.

Last Update: 19 Feb, 2024