Digital China

Developing and deploying new digital methods for the study of China’s past and present.

As digital research becomes increasingly prominent in academia, digital techniques provide a range of new approaches to Chinese Studies.

In 2016, the Fairbank Center launched its first for-credit graduate seminar “Digital Methods in Chinese Studies” (CHNSHIS 202) through the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, instructed by Fairbank Center post-doctoral fellow Donald Sturgeon. The course covers effective use of digital resources, programming techniques with an emphasis on data preparation and extraction, textual analysis and topic modeling, and the visualization of complex datasets.

In 2016-17, the Center furthered its commitment to the digital humanities and social sciences by dedicating an An Wang Postdoctoral Fellowship to Chinese digital humanities and social sciences, which was awarded to Donald Sturgeon. This focus on digital China through a postdoctoral fellowship continues, with 2017-2018 An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow Ameila Ying Qin focusing on digital methods and quantitative analysis in Chinese literary works.

At the Fairbank Center, Amelia Ying Qin runs a regular workshop series that teaches and examines digital methods in Chinese Studies. Check for information about upcoming workshops on our events calendar.

In addition, the Fairbank Center supports a number of digital database projects at Harvard that promote open source digital materials relating to China. These databases include the China Biographical Database Project led by Professor Peter Bol, and the China Historical Geographic Information System. These projects collaborate with partners across the United States and Greater China.

Expertise

arunabh ghosh
arunabh ghosh

Arunabh Ghosh 郭旭光

Assistant Professor of History

Arunabh Ghosh is a historian of modern China, with research and teaching interests that span the social, economic, and intellectual histories of twentieth century China, transnational histories of science and statecraft, and Sino-Indian history.

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CGIS South | 1730 Cambridge Street | Cambridge MA 02138
Peter Boi
Peter Boi

Peter K. Bol 包弼德

Vice Provost for Advances in Learning; Charles H Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations

As Vice Provost, Peter K. Bol is responsible for HarvardX, the Harvard Initiative in Learning and Teaching, and research on the science of learning. Together with William Kirby, Bol teaches ChinaX (SW12x), a Harvard course that has a global enrollmentRead More

2 Divinity Avenue | Cambridge MA, 02138
Donald Sturgeon
Donald Sturgeon

Donald Sturgeon

College Fellow

Years of Affiliation: Digital Humanities and Social Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow from 2015-2016; An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow from 2016-2017

Donald Sturgeon's research project, "Big Data and Early China: Corpus-Assisted Interpretation of Classical Chinese," develops and evaluates fully automated methods for analyzing theRead More

Research Projects

Postdoctoral Fellowships in Digital China

Since 2014, the Fairbank Center has supported digital humanities and social sciences through postdoctoral fellowships, including our An Wang Postdoctoral Fellowship. Past postdoctoral fellows focusing on digital methods in Chinese Studies include:

2014-2015: Paul Vierthaler, An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow 

Paul Vierthaler’s research focuses on late Ming and early Qing literary representations of recent events, late Imperial print culture and history, genre analysis, and authorship studies. His research incorporates a combination of close reading and traditional critical analysis with natural language processing, corpus linguistics, machine learning and unstructured/structured data analysis.

2015-2017: Donald Sturgeon, 2015-2016 Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities and Social Sciences, and 2016-2017 An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow

Donald Sturgeon’s research project, “Big Data and Early China: Corpus-Assisted Interpretation of Classical Chinese,” develops and evaluates fully automated methods for analyzing the contents of pre-modern Chinese documents and their relation to a large existing corpus of pre-modern Chinese writing.

2017-2018: Ameila Ying Qin, An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow

Amelia Ying Qin’s research includes anecdotal narratives, biji (brush jottings), and traditional print culture. Her project at the Fairbank Center includes performing distant reading of around three thousand anecdotes through quantitative analysis, with the goal of visualizing and incorporating her results into a book manuscript.

Digital Methods for Chinese Studies Course

The Fairbank Center supports the for-credit course offering, CHNSHIS 202: Digital Methods for Chinese Studies. This course is offered through Harvard’s East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department and History Department, and is instructed by Dr. Donald Sturgeon, a former An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow (2015 to 2017) at the Fairbank Center.

Building on our earlier “Digital China Lab” workshop run by Dr. Paul Vierthaler and Dr. Anthony Ruozzi, this course introduces graduate students in Chinese studies to programming skills and digital humanities techniques of practical relevance to research in their discipline. It consists of weekly lectures, each introducing a specific type of technique, followed by an interactive lab session during which students practice applying the technique to data appropriate to their own research. No background in digital methods or programming is assumed, but students are expected to have basic computing skills and are required to bring a suitable laptop to use during the lab sessions.

The techniques covered in this course all have broad applicability to topics in Chinese studies, and students are expected to apply them to their own research topics and relevant texts as arranged during the first few sessions. The course ends with student presentations in which students apply an appropriate selection of the techniques studied to their own research questions. While examples and coursework will draw upon Chinese language source materials, students primarily working with other East Asian languages are also encouraged to take this course.

For questions regarding the course, please visit the course site on Canvas, or contact Dr. Donald Sturgeon (sturgeon@fas.harvard.edu).

Read more about this course on the Fairbank Center Blog: How to Teach Digital Methods for Chinese Studies, where Donald Sturgeon explains how to build a digital humanities course for Chinese Studies. 

Digital China Initiative Workshop

The Fairbank Center supports a regular workshop series that examines digital methods in Chinese Studies. Hosted by Amelia Ying Qin, a 2017-2018 An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow, the workshop addresses different digital techniques and their application to scholarly research in the humanities and social sciences.

The workshop is open to the public, but prior registration is required. Please email Amelia Ying Qin at ying_qin@fas.harvard.edu for more information.

Database Projects
Harvard Center for Geographic Analysis 

The Harvard Center for Geographic Analysis (HCGA) employs GIS and other digital techniques to visualize datasets. HCGA’s China-related projects include:

China Biographical Database Project (CBDB)

The China Biographical Database is a freely accessible relational database with biographical information about approximately 417,000 individuals as of August 2017, primarily from the 7th through 19th centuries. With both online and offline versions, the data is meant to be useful for statistical, social network, and spatial analysis as well as serving as a kind of biographical reference. The development of CBDB is now a joint project of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, the Institute of History and Philology of Academia Sinica, and the Center for Research on Ancient Chinese History at Peking University.

China Historical Geographic Information System Project (CHGIS)

The China Historical Geographic Information System, 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. CHGIS provides a base GIS platform for researchers to use in spatial analysis, temporal statistical modeling, and representation of selected historical units as digital maps.

Chinese Text Project

The Fairbank Center’s 2016-2017 An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow, Donald Sturgeon, created and maintains the Chinese Text Project, a highly respected academic resource for scholars. Dr. Sturgeon began his project in 2005, developing the site as a resource for the study of early Chinese literature. He has since created fully automated procedures for accurately identifying and visualizing parallel passages in early Chinese text as well as designing a fully automated OCR system for Chinese transmitted texts. Thus far, the system has been applied to over 10 million pages of pre-modern Chinese texts.

Upcoming Events

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Publications

Latest News

Fall 2018 Courses on China

FRESHMEN SEMINAR FRSEMR 70L: Ancient East Asia: Contested Archaeologies of China, Korea and Japan Rowan Flad How is our understanding of the past determined or framed by the concerns of the present? This course considers this problem with a focus on East Asia. In the...

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Fairbank Center Talks at AAS 2018

The 2018 Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference is in Washington D.C. this year, and as usual the Fairbank Center will be well-represented on a wide-range of panels. Below are panels featuring our faculty and current Harvard Ph.D. Candidates working on China,...

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Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies