The objective of this guide is to introduce some of the most useful resources for finding Chinese legal information, along with some hints about the best ways to use them, and to introduce the East Asian Law Department (EALD) and the kinds of services we provide.
The University of Washington's Chinese law collection consists of books and journals in various languages covering all periods of Chinese legal history. According to the Library's Collection Development Policy, the collection is intended to "support the curricular and research needs of the University of Washington School of Law" and the Law School's Asian and Comparative Law curriculum. As a result, materials on Chinese law are actively collected. This includes both primary and secondary materials in Chinese and English. The emphasis is on academic studies rather than practice materials.
First, make sure you know which catalog or index you are in. If you are searching the University Libraries catalog, for example, you will not find any of the Law Library's titles included.
Searching the online catalogs is possible by author, title, subject, or by a combination of words in these fields. You may also restrict your search to books published in a specified year or range of years, in a given language, or by a particular publisher. For help in searching, use the online help screens or ask a librarian.
Subject headings for Chinese law topics include the general, e.g. Law-China; Justice, Administration of-China; and the specific, e.g. Products liability-China; Criminal procedure-China-Cases; Women-Legal status, laws, etc.-China. Note that there are often closely related headings, e.g. Intellectual property, Copyright, Trademarks-Law and legislation, etc. Do not stop with your first search! Searches with and without the subheadings Law and legislation (under topics) or Legal status, laws, etc. (under classes of persons) will yield very different results.
Geographic subdivisions of subject headings indicate the jurisdiction or geographic area covered. Examples: China, Taiwan, European Economic Community countries, United States, Washington State.
After retrieving a search result in the web-based catalog, you may limit your search only to works in English, only to works in Chinese, or to some other language. To do this, click on the "Limit This Search" box at the top of your screen, choose the desired language in the pull-down menu, and click on the "Limit/Sort …" button at the bottom of the screen.
How you organize your research strategy depends on what you are looking for. Are you looking for information in English, in Chinese, or in both languages? Are you looking for general information on the Chinese legal system or for information about a particular topic? For a specific law, case, or regulation?
If you know very little about Chinese law and the legal system, you may want to begin with a very general source such as a research guide or an overview to the legal system. From there you could move to a somewhat more specific source. For example, you might want to investigate what kind of environmental legislation exists in China. In the end, you might look at various laws on very specific topics, for example, laws dealing with water pollution.
On the other hand, you may have a very specific research topic in mind from the very beginning (for example, something about laws and regulations in China dealing with copyright of computer software). Generally, if you have a very specific question such as this one, it is best to begin with a narrow, focused search. Then, if you don't find what you are looking for in specialized books, journals, or databases, sometimes a search under a more generalized subject heading may still yield valuable information. For example, if combining "computer software" and "China" did not yield the information you were looking for, combining "intellectual property" and "China" (or "intellectual property" and "East Asia" or just "Asia") might bear fruit. Similarly, if you cannot locate an English translation of a particular Chinese statute in a set containing only the laws of China, sometimes a broader, topical set of foreign laws may contain what you are looking for. Examples of such multi-jurisdictional sources include Commercial Laws of the World, Tax Laws of the World, or the International Constitutional Law website mentioned above.