Digital China 更新技术

Developing 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  opens in a new windowDonald 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 continued in 2017-2018 with An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow Ameila Ying Qin focusing on digital methods and quantitative analysis in Chinese literary works.

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 opens in a new windowChina Biographical Database Project led by Professor Peter Bol, and the  opens in a new windowChina Historical Geographic Information System. These projects collaborate with partners across the United States and Greater China.


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

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: opens in a new windowPaul 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.educreate new email).

Read more about this course on the Fairbank Center Blog:  opens in a new windowHow 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. Last year, Amelia Ying Qin, a 2017-2018 An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow, hosted a workshop to address different digital techniques and their application to scholarly research in the humanities and social sciences.

Check back soon for information about upcoming digital methods workshops at the Fairbank Center.

Database Projects
opens in a new windowHarvard 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:

opens in a new windowChina Biographical Database Project (CBDB)

The opens in a new windowChina 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.

opens in a new windowChina Historical Geographic Information System Project (CHGIS)

The opens in a new windowChina 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 opens in a new windowGIS platform for researchers to use in spatial analysis, temporal statistical modeling, and representation of selected historical units as digital maps.

opens in a new windowChinese Text Project

The Fairbank Center’s 2016-2017 An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow, Donald Sturgeon, created and maintains the opens in a new windowChinese 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.

Latest News

2018-2019: A Year in Review of China Studies at Harvard

Read and download our 2018-2019 Annual Report here.  The 2018–19 academic year was a challenging time for all of us at the Fairbank Center who devote ourselves to the study of China. The U.S.-China bilateral relationship continues to deteriorate and there are few...

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Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies