A Wealth of Chinese Non-Patent Literature at CNKI

[tweetmeme source=”Intellogist” only_single=false] Non-patent literature (NPL) is difficult to sift through for relevant prior art, since there are so many different types of NPL documents.  NPL can literally encompass any type of document or media in any language on any topic under the sun; just look at the wide range of resources recommended in the USPTO Search Templates or the Intellogist Resource Finder, and you’ll get an idea of the wide range of NPL data that a prior art searcher needs to sift through.  So let’s take a deep breath, step back, and focus on one type of NPL for now: Chinese NPL.

It’s difficult enough searching for prior art in your native language, and if you don’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese, it can be particularly difficult to locate relevant Chinese-language prior art.  That is why the China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) is a treasure trove of high-quality Chinese NPL, searchable in both Chinese and English.  After the jump, learn about the wide range of NPL resources available at CNKI and where to get professional translations of any relevant documents!


According to the introduction on the website, CNKI is an e-publishing project approved by the Press and Publications Administration of PRC and backed by Tsinghua University that began in 1996 and publishes databases containing e-journals, newspapers, dissertations, proceedings, yearbooks, reference works, etc.  Free searching is available on the CNKI homepage, which is in Chinese but can be translated using Google Translate. Users can also access an English-language version of the CNKI portal, which lists all searchable databases:

  • China Academic Journals Full-Text Database – 1994 onward (most are retrospectively covered)
  • Century Journals Project – 1915-1993
  • China Doctoral Dissertations Full-Text Database – 1999 onward
  • China Master’s Theses Full-Text Database – 2000 onward
  • China Proceedings of Conferences Full-Text Database – 1999 onward
  • China Core Newspapers Full-Text Database – 2000 onward
  • China Yearbooks Full-Text Database – 1912 onward
  • China Reference Works Online
  • China Statistical Yearbooks Database

Although searching many of these databases is free, users must subscribe to view the full-text content.  Users can select any of the above databases on the CNKI EastView (English-language) homepage to search individually, or users can choose to conduct a cross-database search (of any databases except China Reference Works Online and China Statistical Yearbooks Database).  Forms available for the cross-database search portal include:

  • A basic search form (one available search form, with a drop-down menu of fields and option to search in a date range)
  • Advanced search form (multiple forms combined by Boolean operators and date range)
  • Expert search (command line interface, which appears to accept only Chinese-language field operators)

However, non-registered English-language users should remember to only search through the basic search form on the English-language homepage (pictured below).

Non-registered English-language users should only use this search form.

If non-registered users search through the tabbed Basic, Advanced, or Expert search forms on the main CNKI cross-database portal, they will receive this error message:

This error message appears if non-registered users search directly in the Cross-database Search portal.

If the user searches through the English-language homepage, the search result list will appear in English with keywords highlighted in red.

The search results are in English, and keywords are highlighted.

If a user selects the title of a result, they are taken to the full bibliographic record for the document.  The bibliographic data for many fields, including title, author, and abstract, is listed in both English and Chinese.

Many fields are listed in both English and Chinese.

Non-registered users can view the hit-list and bibliographic data on the records, but they must log in to download the full-text documents.

Users can view a list of prior search queries under the Search History tab in the upper right corner of the portal.  However, I wouldn’t recommend searching directly in the cross-database search portal unless you are a registered user, since the portal search forms don’t seem to function correctly for non-registered users.

A detailed help guide and some basic search instruction below the forms are available in English.


Although the use of the search portals may be glitchy for non-registered users, I’d still definitely recommend using this database to locate relevant Chinese-language prior art.  Users can search by keyword and date range for free through the basic English-language search form, and these searches will retrieve detailed bibliographic records with both English and Chinese data available in the main fields.  If a user does find a particularly relevant Chinese-language document through this database, then it may be necessary to have a professional translation prepared by a specialist in IP translation services. Our parent company, Landon IP provides patent, legal, and technical translations, in all major IP language pairs, including Chinese, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Spanish, Russian, and Vietnamese.

What do you think of CNKI’s search features and coverage?  Is there another database for Chinese NPL that you can recommend?  Let us know in the comments!

Technical Translations from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.


One Response

  1. […] tweetmeme_alias = 'http://wp.me/pM0LO-1aq'; tweetmeme_source = '”Intellogist”'; If Chinese non-patent literature searches are difficult for English-language prior art searchers, you can imagine how challenging chemical […]

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