Digital Humanities @ CityU Library

There have been a lot of discussion over the meaning of "Digital Humanities". To make it simple and more straight forward, our working definition is "application of digital resources and methods to humanistic inquiry" [1], [2]. Digital technologies offer scholarly evidence in digital format, either born digital or being converted, to enable textual analysis, spatial analysis and media studies. These digital resources, specially suited to their objects of inquiry in various humanities research areas, facilitate the application of critical intelligence to answer existing or new questions more fully and systematically for new discoveries.

Along the methodological line of digital humanities is the expertise of libraries in digitizing, preserving, indexing, classifying, structuring and describing different collections of evidentiary scholarly materials in the humanities to make them discoverable and retrievable on multi-faceted platforms for in-depth search and extraction. Faculty and library collaboration is the key to unleash the wealth of data and information locked up in these materials in the ways suitable for the nature of their associated research inquiries.

At CityU Library, the following are some pioneering initiatives on digital humanities that have been accomplished or are under planning:

Korean Classics Indexing Project Database

Korean Classics Indexing Project Database is a database of essay-level titles (about 1,060,000 entries) indexed for a collection of more than 3,000 volumes of Korean classic anthologies 《韓國歷代文集叢書》written in Chinese characters by more than 3,000 Korean writers from 7th century to early 20th century.

Research Value: Korean classic anthologies written in Chinese contain a diversity of information on historical events, literature, diplomacy, economics and so on. They provide very useful materials for study and research on East Asian History and cultural development. The database serves as a discovery tool to enable efficient retrieval of pertinent materials from the collection.

The Project is a digital humanities initiative of three departments at CityU (Library, Chinese Civilization Centre and the Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics). It is also a cross-regional collaboration among CityU, Jeju National University (Korea), the East Asian Library of University of California, Berkeley and Kyungin (Korea), the publisher of the collection of anthologies.

What did the researchers say about the Project?

What are the details of the project?


Land Deeds and Family Papers

Land deeds are primary sources for inheritance and trading systems of real estates, legal system existing at a particular point of time, history of public administration, and many more topics of interest. As another digital humanities initiative, the CityU Library is exploring the opportunities to collaborate with academic departments concerned to unlock the wealth of economic and legal data in its land deed collections which the Library received through generous donations.

In 2013, the Library received a remarkable donation of some 360 Chinese land deeds and 1,500 family documents from the late Mr Tin-Pong Chow (鄒殿邦先生), the then Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of Guangzhou in the 19th to early 20th Century.(more)

What have we received?
Business correspondences (公司業務信件) 124
Chinese seals (印章) 125
Land deeds (土地法律文件) 359
Receipts (收據) 352
Company documents (公司業務文件) 138
Letters and correspondences (書信) 10
Drawings (繪圖) 71
Others (其他) 705


Research Value: These land deeds and documents, dated mainly from 1900 to late 1940 from an influential family, are very unique primary research materials. They provide important data on the economic and legal activities of China, particularly in Guangdong and Hong Kong, reflecting:

  • Inheritance and trading systems of real estates
  • Evolving economic and financial systems, e.g. banking system, corporate ownership
  • Monetary and fiscal policies in Early Republican China
  • Changes of land laws over a period of time
  • History of public administration
  • Socio-economic conditions of the past, e.g. inflation

By means of digital technologies and in collaboration with researchers, the Library envisions to unleashing the scholarly evidence of these documents for the discovery of the social-economic and legal environments in China during the 19th to early 20th Century.

What did the researchers say about the Collection?


Contemporary Chinese Poetry - Misty Poetry (中國現代詩-朦朧詩)

Misty poetry (Menglongshi), also known as “poetry of opacity” or “obscurist poetry”, arose in the post-Mao era during the late-1970s and early-1980s. Misty poets, Bei Dao, Gu Cheng, Jiang He and Mang Ke self-published Jintian (Today) as their first magazine of misty poems in 1978. CityU Library’s Today Literary Magazine Archive is a collection of materials relating to the Today literacy magazine in the past thirty years.




Waters, Don. 2013. "An Overview of the Digital Humanities." Research Library Issues: A Report from ARL, CNI, and SPARC. no 284: 3 - 11.


Schaffner, Jennifer and Erway, Ricky.2014. "Does Every Research Library Need a Digital Humanities Center?" OCLC Research.


© 2013 Run Run Shaw Library, City University of Hong Kong. All Rights Reserved.