Shen Bao newspaper (1872–1949)

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    The full run (1872–1949) of the Shanghai-based newspaper Shen Bao has been released in electronic format by Green Apple Data Center in China. It is distributed in North America by East View Information Services.

    May 17, 2024 7:37pm
    Resource Types
    Major Languages
    Collection Content

    Shanghai-based Shen Bao (formerly transliterated as Shun Pao) was the longest-lasting and probably most influential newspaper in modern China. Its history is enmeshed in the major Chinese political and cultural developments of the first half of the twentieth century. The full name of the newspaper was Shenjiang Xinbao (translated as Shenjiang New Post, also known in English as the Shanghai News); it was founded by British businessman Ernest Major and first appeared on April 30, 1872. Major returned to England in 1889, and the paper came under Chinese ownership in 1907.

    From its start, Shen Bao was produced by Chinese journalists for Chinese readership. Circulation expanded until reaching 150,000 in the 1930s. The political stance shifted from conservative support of the government to a moderately liberal pro-constitution position. The newspaper also assumed a strong anti-Japanese position; Norwood Francis Allman, the former U.S. Consulate officer, took on the role of editor in 1938 to guide the paper’s independent position during Japanese occupation of Shanghai prior to World War II. After leadership by Japanese collaborators during the war, Shen Bao continued until it was shut down by the People’s Liberation Army in May 1949.

    While the value of the content is high, presenting the full run of a title significant not only for the history of China but also for East-West relations in Asia during a critical time period from the late nineteenth century up through World War II, this database is best suited for area experts since there are very few subject tags in English.


    Technical platform & interface

    The digitized Shen bao newspaper is available on two different platforms, either Green Apple or Huawenku, which is produced by Naver on behalf of Green Apple. Each of the two platforms offer their own strengths and weaknesses. It would be ideal in the future to combine the better features of the two platforms. One major interface challenge noted during trial access was the inability to download or print page images, which would be a considerable hindrance.  But East View notes that downloading of both transcribed text files and page images will be available in the actual database.

    The following platform characteristics have been observed by librarians at CRL institutions during trial access:

    Green Apple Platform

    Green Apple strengths:

    • The interface design is clean, and searching by both dates and articles seems to be quick, straightforward and intuitive.
    • The search interface has more options than Huawenku (by date, main text, title/ headline, author, column, etc.), and the options are displayed all at once in full view (not hidden as is the case with Huawenku).
    • A search in the main text by a keyword or phrase provides precise (not fuzzy) results.

    Green Apple weaknesses:

    • There is only minimal English language labeling in the interface.
    • Navigation between the various functions of the site is awkward; there are few links back to the home page or the main search and browse pages.
    • Searches are allowed only in traditional (not simplified) Chinese.
    • The date browse function is not very flexible. The calendar option for browsing dates could be more prominently displayed, since otherwise one must browse through a long list of dates.
    • It would help if the page images had better text legibility; perhaps some clarity has been lost due to the high contrast of the images, but some may be due to the quality of the original printing or the microfilm source. The images themselves have fairly high pixel count (averaging nearly 7 megabytes.)
    • Pages are not divided (zoned) into different sections by article component; instead zoomable full page images are presented using the open source document viewer "Flexpaper, similar to Adobe Acrobat.
    • The displayed plain text reveals errors both in main texts (poor OCR?) and author names (mistyped transcriptions?).

    Huawenku Platform

    Huawenku strengths:

    • Page images are divided (zoned) according to different sections such as news or articles, and can be individually downloaded and printed.
    • Searches in both traditional and simplified Chinese are allowed, and users can switch between the two styles in the displayed results text.
    • Users can use and input hand-written and matched characters in the search box.
    • There are several easy to use options for date browsing, including a visual timeline, and a very flexible calendar view.

    Huawenku weaknesses:

    • The interface is in Chinese language only.
    • The legibility of the page images appears essentially the same as in the Green Apple interface, but they may have a more crisp appearance, due to the image viewer used.
    • Its search interface provides fewer options than the Green Apple interface, and the options are hidden and sometimes confusing to users.
    • Search (or fuzzy search) in “All” by a keyword or phrase yields a very large number of results; it does not seem to provide a precision search.
    • Search by date requires input of words.
    • The displayed plain text does not provide the author’s name for articles or news reports (even when it is available on the original page).
    • There seem to be a number of cases where items appearing in the page images of the original newspaper are not zoned and searchable in the database. For instance, on page 15, November 16, 1933, there are at least 6 articles, but the database show “full-text” as “soft text” (软文) and the whole page is not searchable; the same is true with pages 14, 16, and 17. For the same date, on page 2 of the “supplement”, one portion of text is searchable, the other text is not; on page 3 the text for a serial novel is not searchable; on page 5, the cinema column has five articles, but the database classifies it as advertisement and thereby the whole page is not searchable. On March 17, 1936, pages 12, 13, and 14 have several text portions that are not searchable; page 15 is a medical column (an important feature in the newspaper, like the cinema column), but no portion of the page text is searchable.
    • The advertisements do not appear to be indexed or searchable in title and/or text (this is very important for economic and cultural studies—commodity, film, entertainment, etc.).

    The licensor has recently made an arrangement for perpetual access and use of the database by supplying one complete electronic copy of the licensed materials to the Center for Research Libraries.  This copy can be mounted or otherwise made accessible to authorized users in the event of a persistent outage of ninety or more days in duration. While CRL prefers that publishers make secure provisions for continuing access by depositing content with a certified third party repository, we recognize that the practice of making a copy available to licensees has been one of the standard approaches to providing perpetual access.  For Shen Bao, this is the best arrangement currently available to CRL libraries.


    Center for Research Libraries

    • Virginia Kerr, Digital Program Manager

    Duke University

    • Luo Zhou, Chinese Studies Librarian

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