The "CPRS database" hosted by the Chinese Patent Office's "China Patent Information Center" (CPIC) went online on 31 December 2011. Chinese data on patents, utility models and designs is available from 1985 onwards and updated twice a month. Chinese documents can now be retrieved in PDF format. Full text data of the claims and description is also available. SIPO's English machine translation tool can be accessed via this database, but is currently still in a test phase.
For the time being, the search only works via a Chinese interface, but a corresponding English interface may be launched in the future. Most functions can be used free of charge, but registration is necessary for some advanced features.
A step-by-step guide on how to download full documents from this new source can be found in the "China - Searching in databases" section on the EPO's Asian patent information webpages.