New York Conference on Asian Studies (NYCAS)

Workshop Opportunity

The China Historical Geographic Information Systems (CHGIS) and the China Biographical Database (CBDB) are two large-scale projects run out of Harvard University for students of Chinese history and literature. The CHGIS project was launched in January 2001 to establish a database of populated places and historical administrative units for the period of Chinese history between 221 BCE and 1911 CE; it provides an infrastructure that allows researchers to investigate all kinds of geographically specific data related to China. The CBDB project, a highly-structured relational database of biographical data for individuals mentioned in Chinese historical records now numbers over 128,000 entries and will soon add 100,000 more. Its ultimate goal is to include all significant biographical material from China's historical record. The CBDB project uses computational techniques to extract large amounts of data from digital text; the resulting database can be used for spatial and social network analysis.

On Friday morning, September 27th, from 9:00 a.m. to noon, a workshop introducing the China Historical Geographic Information Systems and the China Biographical Database will be held for NYCAS participants at Binghamton University's Downtown Campus. Led by Professor Peter Bol and Dr. Chen Shih-pei of Harvard University, the workshop will begin with a 45-minute overview of both projects followed by a breakout allowing participants to gain hands-on training in the use of one of the systems. Peter Bol, the Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages Civilization and Director of the Center for Geographic Analysis, will also be the keynote speaker at NYCAS.

Those registered for the NYCAS meetings, which will begin the afternoon of the same day, may participate in this workshop at no extra charge. However, spaces for it are limited so we are asking people to sign up by contacting Professor John Chaffee, who will reserve places for people on a first-come first-served basis. Participants should bring their own laptops; wifi will be available.

More information about the CHGIS project is available at the CHGIS website ( The website includes an online gazetteer and allows downloading of the Version 5.0 datasets. These can be opened in ArcGIS (for PCs) and Quantum GIS (freeware for PCs and Macs). Participants who do not use GIS will be introduced to the Center for Geographic Analysis's WorldMap platform ( and various kinds of spatial data on China (including work on contemporary and historical China from the late G. William Skinner).

The China Biographical Database project, on online relational database that is being continuously expanded, had 130,000 men and women of the political elite from the 7th to the 20th century as of July 2013. It can be used as standalone database for Microsoft Access (downloaded from the website) but also as online inputting and query systems (in English and Chinese). See the website at

Last Updated: 4/21/14