2008 First International Workshop on Biographical Databases for China's History


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Download the conference materials here


    Convened by the China Biographical Database project of the Harvard Yenching Institute, Institute of History and Philology of Academia Sinica, and the Center for Premodern Chinese History of Peking University. The workshop will bring together scholars from Taiwan, China, Japan, Europe, and the US who have been working on biographical databases for the study of China. Experts in markup methodology and the computational analysis of unstructured text will also participate. The workshop will address both practical issues relating to databases and historical ones relating to the use of biographical data to develop new insights into China’s history.
    Biography has been one of the major forms for the recording of the past in China since the Han dynasty. It is estimated that there are 250,000 biographies in various formats in the Chinese historical record. To this may be added biographical references in multiple sources: lists of examination degree recipients from the Song through the Qing, records of local officials and students in local gazetteers, official appointment lists in the Qing, etc. In contrast to study of policy, institutions, the economy, and fiscal history, biography draws our attention to the relationships between people and the possibilities for and constraints on individual agency. Biography is a way of thinking about and remembering the past that has had a very long history, represented most systematically in modern research by the biographical dictionaries for the Republican, Qing, Ming, and Song periods and the various indices for biographical materials.
    Over the last twenty years the use of relational databases to compile and analyze relationships in data and the ongoing transformation of historical texts into searchable digital files have led to the creation of a number of person-based databases. Examples include the Tang Historical Figures Database at Kyoto University, the Ming Qing Archive Name Authority Database at Academia Sinica, the Ming Qing Women’s Writings at McGill University, China Vitae for the leadership of China today, and the China Biographical Database at Harvard, as well as many other individual and collaborative projects.
    The workshop has three goals. First, to give creators of databases an opportunity to introduce their projects, which extend from the Han Dynasty into the present day. Second, to explore means by which online systems can be made interoperable, so that users of one system will have access to relevant information in other systems. Third, to introduce new computational techniques for extracting data and relationships from Chinese texts, thus greatly increasing the ability of databases to add to their content. For further information contact pkbol@fas.harvard.edu.


William Kirby, Modern Chinese History, Harvard University
Peter Bol, CBDB, Harvard University
Endymion Wilkinson, Chinese historiography, Harvard and Peking University
Miranda Brown, Han Officials Database, University of Michigan
Robin D. S. Yates, early China, McGill University
Anne Kinney, Exemplary Women, University of Virginia
Luo Xin, Medieval history and biography, Peking University
Tian Xiaofei, Medieval literature, Harvard University
Nicholas Tackett, Five Dynasties prosopography, Getty Research Institute
Lu Yang, Tang prosopography, University of Kansas
Christian Wittern, Tôdai jimbutsu chishiki beesu 唐代人物知識ベース,KyotoUniversity
Yao Ping, prosopography of Tang women, Cal State LA
Naomi Standen, Five dynasties history, Newcastle University
Stephen Owen, Tang literature, Harvard University
Chen Song, CBDB Project Manager, Harvard University
Deng Xiaonan, CBDB steering committee, Peking University
Fang Chengfeng, CBDB Project Manager, Peking University
Michael Fuller, CBDB database designer, UC Irvine
Hilde De Weerdt, middle period scholarly communication, Oxford University
Chen Wenyi, Song-Yuan prosopography, Academia Sinica
Zhang Cong, middle period history, University of Virginia
Chu Ping-tzu, middle period databases, Tsinghua University, Taiwan
Robert Hymes, sociocultural history, Columbia University
Gong Yanming, A Comprehensive Examination Degree Database中国历代登科总录 , Zhejiang University
Grace Fong, Ming Qing Women’s Writings, McGill University
Fung Ming-chu, Digital Images of Biographical Materials ofHistorical Figures from the Archives of the Ch’ing Historiography Institute 史館檔清人傳記全文影像資料庫 Palace Museum
Liu Cheng-yun, Ming Qing Archive Name Authority Database 明清檔案人名權威資料庫, Academia Sinica
Michael Szonyi, Social history, Harvard University
Ven. Huimin, Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association, Dharma Drum Buddhist College
Ven. Fayuan, Buddhist studies,  Dharma Drum Buddhist College
James Robson, Buddhist studies, Harvard University
Wu Jiang, BGIS: A Searchable Relational Database of Buddhist Monasteries in China, University of Arizona
Pamela Crossley, Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Dartmouth College
Mark Elliott, Qing and Inner Asian History, Harvard University
Wolgang Behr, Der Westen im China-China im Westen, University of Zurich
Anne-Marie Werner, Der Westen im China-China im Westen, University of Zurich
David Gries, China Vitae  中国名人录
Marilyn Levine, Chinese Biographical Database, Eastern Oregon Univ.
Brett Sheehan, Republican period bankers database, UCLA
Victor Shih, Central Committee database, Northwestern
William Kirby, Modern Chinese History, Harvard University
Marc Winter, Modern Chinese Biography, University of Heidelberg
Li Duo, Chinese Literature, Peking University
Rani Nelken, Computer Science, Harvard University
Renee Sieber, Geographic Information Science, McGill University
Zhang Chuanrong, Geographic Information Science, University of Connecticut
Elif Yamangil, Computer Science, Harvard University
Wang Xiaoxuan, Chinese History, Harvard University
Stuart Shieber, Computer Science, Harvard University
Wang Zhen’an, CBDB online database designer, Tudor Technical Services, Taiwan
Merrick Lex Berman, China Historical GIS, Harvard Yenching Institute
Sophia Huang, programming support, Harvard Asia Center