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.

This year, the Fairbank Center launched its first for-credit graduate seminar “Digital Methods in Chinese Studies” 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. The Fairbank Center is currently accepting applications for a 2017-18 An Wang Postdoctoral Fellowship in Chinese Digital Humanities and Social Sciences.


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

An Wang Postdoctoral 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

Digital Methods for Chinese Studies

During the spring 2016 semester, the Fairbank Center is supporting the introduction of 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 will be instructed by Dr. Donald Sturgeon, 2015-16 Postdoctoral Fellow in Chinese Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at the Fairbank Center.

Building on last academic year’s “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 direct practical relevance to research in their discipline. It will consist 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 will be expected to apply them to their own research topics and relevant texts as arranged during the first few sessions. The course will end 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 (

Database Projects
China Map

Sponsored by the Lee and Juliet Folger Fund with support from the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. In partnership with Social Explorer. Click here to explore the digital map and for more information about the project.

China Biographical Database Project (CBDB)

The China Biographical Database is a freely accessible relational database with biographical information about approximately 360,000 individuals as of April 2015, 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 current 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


Latest News

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