Foundations have become a significant form of nongovernmental organisation in China since 2004. Large-sample research about Chinese foundations, however, did not appear until the middle 2010s. The database of the Research Infrastructure of Chinese Foundations was created to mitigate data scarcity, a key reason for the lack of research on Chinese foundations. In the last 3 years, this database has produced about 30 academic works that address at least three themes of Chinese foundations, namely government control, governance and spatial distribution. Collectively this group of studies has advanced non-profit theory development under authoritarian rule. This article reviews what we have learned from research using the Research Infrastructure of Chinese Foundations database and proposes directions for future research.