WWW VL Logo The World-Wide Web Virtual Library
Jeroen is bij me op bezoek... [Hierarchical || Alphabetical || WWW VL Search]            
Dublin Core Logo           Asian Studies WWW VL Logo
Go to:      IGCS Contents

About the IGCS

edited by Hanno Lecher
Last updated on 2 December 2000

The Internet Guide for Chinese Studies (IGCS) was first developed at the Department of Chinese Studies at Vienna University. The department provided generous infrastructural and financial support without which this project would not have been possible. Since November 1997 the IGCS is maintained at the Institute of Chinese Studies, Heidelberg University, where I now work as librarian.

The IGCS is part of the World Wide Web Virtual Library Project which was founded at CERN by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. It keeps track of leading information facilities for the China section of the Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library hosted at the Australian National University.

On the pages of this WWW Virtual Library you will find carefully selected and annotated links to internet sites that may be useful to anyone with some interest in "Greater China" (i.e. the PR China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore), such as students and scholars of Sinology, scholars of other fields doing research on China, or anyone who is just looking for a gateway to the Chinese speaking region.

This site will continuously be updated, new links being included only after careful evaluation by the editors. Since the internet is a fast living medium, the listed sites are checked in regular intervals. If you know of or maintain a site relevant to the above mentioned public, or if you have any suggestions or can provide some additions and/or corrections, you are invited to send me an email. You also can register new sites with the Asian Studies WWW Monitor. I hope this tool will be useful to everybody and I look forward to your comments.

The following article appeared in Chinesisch & Computer 10.1997, pp. 13-16, and gives some further background information on this site.

The Internet Guide for Chinese Studies

An Introduction
by Hanno Lecher

Preface | Internet Guide for Chinese Studies
The WWW VL Project | Asian Studies WWW VL
Some Details on the IGCS | Future Perspectives


Within a very short time the Internet has experienced an enormous increase in popularity. Already it has developed into an information resource that is widely used, and academic research today can hardly ignore its existence.

The potential of the Net is impressive indeed: libraries all over the world provide on-line searching of their catalogues; databases offer a wealth of material that is easy to search, and whose data can conveniently be downloaded for other purposes; news services of all kinds deliver immediate reports and analysis of important events world wide; on countless pages you will find up-to-date information on politics, economy and society; and in specialized bookstores you can search and often order your books directly via the Net. Not to forget the new possibilities of communication with other people (via e-mail or mailing lists), which mean a completely new dimension of cooperation across continents.

A lot of tools have been developed to locate the information one is looking for. The most widely used are powerful search robots such as Alta Vista and the like, capable of finding almost any page on the web if fed with the right keywords. However, these robots often return search results containing several thousands of sites with virtually no description or rating of their contents. This makes life hard, since most of the web pages presented are superfluous and not worth a mouse click.

Thus, search robots are a valuable tool only when knowing exactly what one is looking for and is able to define an accurate set of keywords.

An alternative to this kind of searching tool are the so called Virtual Libraries, specialized guides usually maintained by academics, who manually screen the Web for relevant material in their field of expertise and present their findings after adding comments on content and value of the resources in question. Such Virtual Libraries can provide a good overview of what is available on the Net and which sites are especially noteworthy. In most cases they list related pages together and thus allow quick access to a wide range of sites within one topic. And they are able to provide additional background information to facilitate orientation within the provided resources.

Preface | Internet Guide for Chinese Studies
The WWW VL Project | Asian Studies WWW VL
Some Details on the IGCS | Future Perspectives

1. Internet Guide for Chinese Studies

During the last few years several Virtual Libraries have appeared that focus on China and Chinese studies. Among these the pages of the Council on East Asian Libraries (CEAL) [1], the European Association for Sinological Librarians (EASL) and the Internet Guide for Chinese Studies (IGCS) are especially noteworthy. Below I will introduce the Internet Guide for Chinese Studies in more detail, not only because I am its editor, but because its contents come closest to the standards of a Virtual Library, and because it has developed into the most widely used among the above mentioned. [2]

The IGCS was established in November 1995 at the Department of Chinese Studies at Vienna University. It went on-line in June 1996 and is, since November 1997, maintained at the Institute for Chinese Studies, University of Heidelberg. The guide currently offers access to some 1000 [as of August, 1998] selected, evaluated and annotated resources on the World Wide Web related to the PR China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Singapore, and is divided into the following 15 sections: News Media, Politics, Business and Economy, Society, Philosophy, History, Literature, Culture, Language, Bibliographies, Academic Institutions, Libraries, Electronic Journals, Booksellers and Publishers, Other Guides to East Asia, Mailing Lists, and Searching Tools.

The guide quickly found international recognition, mainly due to an early notice in the Asian Studies WWW Monitor. [3] Already during its first month of on-line presence the main page of the guide was accessed more than 80 times each week. Visitors came from virtually all continents, many being located at well-known universities in the US, Europe, Australia and elsewhere. [4] Today the guide has established a reputation as a valuable and reliable source, being rated a "CEAL Super Site" and "essential to any web bibliography of China studies".[5] Some 1300 visitors enter the main page in Vienna each week, and during 1997 all the pages of the IGCS on the Austrian server were accessed about half a million times by more than 40,000 visitors from over 80 countries world wide. [6]

Preface | Internet Guide for Chinese Studies
The WWW VL Project | Asian Studies WWW VL
Some Details on the IGCS | Future Perspectives

2. The WWW Virtual Library Project

Since October 1996 the Internet Guide for Chinese Studies serves as the official China WWW Virtual Library on behalf of the well-known Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library. This makes the IGCS a member of the WWW Virtual Library Project, a project that was established in 1991 at CERN (Geneva) by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. Until very recently, the project was continued at the W3 Consortium, the official organization responsible for the standards of the WWW. Now it is coordinated by Gerard Manning at Stanford University, where the overall table of contents is accessible via http://vlib.org/. Mirrors of that page exist on several universities around the world.

Currently the WWW VL consists of some 300 Virtual Libraries on about just as many different topics, and is regarded as an essential searching aid for the Web. Each of these Virtual Libraries is maintained on a voluntary basis by a specialist on the respective topic. Although the maintainers often call themselves Virtual Librarians, most of them are research scholars at renowned universities all over the world.

Preface | Internet Guide for Chinese Studies
The WWW VL Project | Asian Studies WWW VL
Some Details on the IGCS | Future Perspectives

3. Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library

Within the WWW Virtual Library Project the Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library is one of the most extensive and ambitious ones. This Virtual Library alone consists of 59 subdivisions organized by country and region, and is edited by 37 "Virtual Librarians" at such well known institutions as the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), USA; the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Netherlands; Stanford University, USA; and many others. The Asian Studies WWW VL enjoys an excellent reputation especially among scholars as being an essential gateway to Asia on the Net.

The Asian Studies WWW VL is coordinated at the Australian National University by T.M. Ciolek, who is an anthropologist and computer expert and since 1991 has been responsible for making the electronic research materials of the Research School of Asian and Pacific Studies (RSPAS, home of the Contemporary China Center) available to the Internet community.

Preface | Internet Guide for Chinese Studies
The WWW VL Project | Asian Studies WWW VL
Some Details on the IGCS | Future Perspectives

4. Some Details on the IGCS

The Internet Guide for Chinese Studies is maintained according to several principles:
  • First of all the aim of the IGCS is not to provide the highest number of links possible but to offer access to selected material concerning the politics, economy, society, history, and culture of a region, as well as to any tool being helpful in finding such information. New resources on the Web are being carefully rated and may receive up to five stars according to their trustworthiness and the usefulness of their content. Although every kind of evaluation is to some extent arbitrary, the rating of on-line resources is still able to give helpful clues. To make the rating as "objective" as possible the evaluation process follows the rules formulated by T.M. Ciolek in his article "Content Rating of Sites Listed by the Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library".
  • Second, each resource is described and annotated and contains the following information: (1) title of the site, including name and location of the responsible person or organization; (2) the site's web address (URL); (3) an evaluation of the site according to the principles stated above; (4) a clue to the language(s) and encoding system used throughout the site; (5) a description of its contents; (6) a separate note if any restrictions apply for accessing the site; and - since recently - (7) date of entry or last revision.
  • Third, much effort has been put into making the IGCS as comfortable and navigable as possible. The frames technology allows to have the list of contents visible continuously, while at the same time care was taken that non-frames capable browsers can access the IGCS without any restrictions. In addition, clicking on the title of an entry will open a new window showing the selected site. This allows to quickly switch between the resources and the IGCS by just changing to the former window.
  • To help finding information more easily a GlimpseHTTP searching robot has been installed. Currently the robot supports the Boolean operations "AND" and "OR" and the use of wild cards. However, the GlimpseHTTP index will soon be replaced by WebGlimpse, which is more powerful and will allow the use of all Boolean operators. Unfortunately searching for Chinese characters is not possible, since Glimpse indexes only words.
  • The pages of the IGCS also contain Dublin Core Metadata, a set of descriptive metadata elements designed to provide information on content and other important details of on-line documents, and to facilitate locating them on the Web. To view these data just click on the "View Source" function of your browser: the metadata are to be found in the "head" right at the beginning of the document.
  • Considering the congested transmission routes of the Web and the often low performance equipment of many users, short loading times are another important factor. To make the IGCS a fast resource the size of its pages is in most cases kept below 50 K, and the number of graphics is reduced to the necessary. Moreover, next to the main sites in Germany (Heidelberg University) and Austria (Vienna University), mirror sites in Hong Kong (Chinese University of Hong Kong), Taiwan (Tung-Nan Jr. College), and the US (China News Digest) have been installed.

Preface | Internet Guide for Chinese Studies
The WWW VL Project | Asian Studies WWW VL
Some Details on the IGCS | Future Perspectives

5. Future Perspectives

Since its establishment the Internet Guide for Chinese Studies has reached a size that makes it necessary to find collaborators maintaining some of its subchapters. Fabrizio Pregadio, Venice University, has already begun to take responsibility for the section on electronic bibliographies. In the near future the collection of libraries will be taken over by Matthias Kaun, University of Kiel, and the mass media part will be edited as a cooperation of Hanno Lecher (Heidelberg University) and Eva Baloch (Vienna University). More editors are being sought for, so that in the end every editor should be able to concentrate on not more than two or three topics.

As a next step the IGCS will develop into a veritable research guide giving short introductions and more factual information on its contents. The library section for instance will include detailed descriptions of the holdings, collecting priorities, cataloguing systems and availability of an OPAC, etc. The chapter on mass media will give short introductions to the media landscapes of the different regions and provide more details on the papers or magazines included, covering their political orientation, emphasis of content, and some statistical and historical data.

Another project in preparation is an extensive electronic catalogue of Chinese philosophical, literary, historical and other important texts available on the Net. The catalogue will adhere to the basic requirements of library standards, i.e. will include standardized tagged entries with full bibliographic descriptions that can be further processed or restructured in the future.

Given the rapid development of the East Asian region and the increasing importance of the Internet as research tool, the Internet Guide for Chinese Studies will certainly still gain in relevance. To face the coming challenges of our information society, multinational cooperative projects will be more important than ever. The IGCS is heading into this direction.

Preface | Internet Guide for Chinese Studies
The WWW VL Project | Asian Studies WWW VL
Some Details on the IGCS | Future Perspectives


[1] CEAL is an affiliate of the Association for Asian Studies (USA). (Back to the text)

[2] According to the counter on the CEAL homepage that page has been accessed about 27,000 times between Oct. 1996 and Jan. 1998. And according to what Matthias Kaun, editor of the EASL homepage, told me, his page is accessed between 100 and 200 times per day (Dec. 1997). Both numbers are exceeded by the IGCS (see below). (Back to the text)

[3] Originally named What's New in Asian Studies WWW Online Newsletter, ISSN 1323-9368. (Back to the text)

[4] The complete serverlogs are archived by the author, beginning with 1997 however only in aggregated form. (Back to the text)

[5] Council on East Asian Libraries, July 1997. Cf. their page at http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~felsing/ceal/supersites.html. (Back to the text)

[6] These data do not consider the IGCS mirror pages in Germany, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the US. (Back to the text)

This page is maintained at the

Institute of Chinese Studies, University of Heidelberg

© Hanno E. Lecher 1995-2005
(send me an email)

URL of this page: http://www.sino.uni-heidelberg.de/igcs/igabout.htm
URL of main page: http://www.sino.uni-heidelberg.de/igcs/index.html