News and Updates

Workshop on Chinese Historical Databases: Sources, Methods, Prospects held at HKUST, January 11-12, 2024

Participants at the workshop Chiense Historical DatabasesL Sources, Methods, Prospects held at HKUST on January 11 and 12, 2024

Cameron Campbell organized a meeting on Chinese Historical Databases: Sources, Methods, Prospects on January 11 and 12, 2024 at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The meeting is one in a series of activities intended to promote the development of research infrastructure for studying China’s past organized under the auspices of and with support from the RGC Areas of Excellence Project Quantitative History of China (Chen Zhiwu PI). Staff from the HKUST School of Humanities and Social Sciences, including Lee-Campbell Group RA Shengbin Wei, provided logistical support.

The meeting brought together historians and social scientists constructing databases suited for the quantitative analysis of Chinese history. Participants from Hong Kong, mainland China, and Europe introduced their databases. These included projects that were already complete, others were in progress, and some were in the planning stages. Presentations and discussion focused not only on the content of the databases and prospects for analysis, but nuts and bolts issues related to the construction, preservation, documentation and dissemination of the databases. Several presentations covered techniques being used to automate the creation of databases, including OCR, tokenization, entity recognition, and record linkage.

Lee-Campbell Group members including Cameron Campbell, Dong Hao, Gao Shuaqi, Chen Jun, Wu Yibei, James Lee, Hou Yueran and Matt Noellert made presentations introducing their databases.

In addition to the presenters, other faculty and students attended as observers.

The meeting concluded with the development of plans for training workshops for historians to help them learn how to construct databases and make use of existing ones.

Christian Henriot has written a more detailed discussion of the Chinese historical databases meeting at the ENEP website.


Introductory Remarks by Chen Zhiwu, Cameron Campbell

Session 1 – New Approaches

Chair: Cameron Campbell

Lin Zhan
Content and Value of the Chinese Genealogy Database

Guenther Lomas
The Process of Building the Chinese Genealogy Database

Chen Yuqi
Geocoding the Past World: Unearthing Coordinates of Early China from Texts Using Large Language Models

Session 2 – Geographic, Economic, and Other Context

Chair: Chen Zhiwu

Hu Heng

Ma Debin
Quantifying Living Standards, an Overview

Ziang Liu
Early Modern Wages: Data and Limits

Gao Shuaiqi

Session 3  – Late Imperial China I

Chair: James Lee

Ma Min

Dong Hao
East Asian Population Databases

Christian Henriot
Modern China Historical Database: Current Status and Future Prospects

Session 4 – Late Imperial China II

Chair: Debin Ma

Cameron Campbell
CGED-Q: Current Status and Future Plans

Chen Jun
CGED-Q ZSBL: Military Officials

Fu Haiyan

Session 5 – ROC

Chair: Dong Hao

Yibei Wu
Late Qing and Beiyang Student Records, and Beiyang and ROC Officials

Hou Yueran
Construction of Occupational Database of Tsinghua Students Studying in America with Boxer Indemnity Fund (1909-1944)

Lik Hang Tsui
Ink Trails: Correspondence and Connections in a Dataset of Epistolary Manuscripts from Song China

Session 6 – ROC and PRC

Chair: Christian Henriot

Matthew Noellert
Lee-Campbell Group Post-1949 Rural Datasets

James Lee
Lee-Campbell Group PRC and ROC Educational, Academic, and Professional Datasets

Chen Ting
Post-1949 County Gazetteers

Pierre Landry
China’s provincial CCP élite since 1921

Future Directions

Panel with remarks by Cameron Campbell, Zhiwu Chen, Christian Henriot, and James Z. Lee

Closing panel with opening remarks by Cameron Campbell, Zhiwu Chen, Christian Henriot, and James Lee
James Lee, Christian Henriot, Zhiwu Chen and Cameron Campbell at the closing session. Photo by Xue Qin.

Participant Roster

TsuiLik Hang徐力恒

Lee-Campbell Group at the Social Science History Association Meetings in Washington DC, November 16-19, 2023

Ten members of the Lee-Campbell group presented four papers and participated as co-authors in one paper presented by others in four sessions at the Social Science History Association meetings in Washington DC this November. Group members also participated in two Author-Meets-Critics sessions. Below is a schedule based on the SSHA program.

Thursday, November 16 / 3:15 PM – 5:00 PM
Session 54
Author Meets Critics: Power for a Price by Lawrence Zhang

Yellowstone (2nd Floor)

Chair: Cameron Campbell, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Discussant: Shuang Chen, University of Iowa

1. Power for a Price: The Purchase of Official Appointments in Qing China • Lawrence Zhang, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Thursday, November 16 / 3:15 PM – 5:00 PM
Session 56
Approaches to Studying Migration in Historical US and Japan
Congressional B (Lobby Level)

1. Migration and Fertility in Early Modern Northeastern Japan. Satomi Kurosu, Reitaku University; Hao Dong, Peking University; Miyuki Takahashi, Rissho University

Saturday, November 18 / 3:15 PM – 5:00 PM
Session 199
Elite Networks in East and West in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Glacier (2nd Floor)

Chair: Cameron Campbell, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

1. Who Ruled China in the 19th Century? Political and Military Elites in the Late Qing • Cameron Campbell, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

4. From the Rest to the Best: China’s Second Silent Revolution • David Y. Zuo, Nanjing University; James Z. Lee, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology;Chen Liang, Nanjing University; Bamboo Yunzhu Ren, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Sunday, November 19 / 8:00 AM –9:45 AM
Session 214
Author Meets Critic: Public Interest and State Legitimation: Early Modern England, Japan, and China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,2023) by Wenkai He
Glacier (2nd Floor)

Chair: James Lee, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Sunday, November 19 / 8:00 AM – 9:45 AM
Session 218
Intergenerational and Intragenerational Social Mobility Using Historical Data
Congressional B (Lobby Level)

2. The Impact of Crises on the Careers of County Magistrates in China during the Qing, 1830 to 1912 •Cameron Campbell, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; Shuaiqi Gao, Central China Normal University.

3. Patterns of Occupational and Spatial Mobility in 1940s-1960s Rural China • Matthew Noellert, Hitotsubashi University; Xiangning Li, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Sunday, November 19 / 10:00 AM – 11:45 AM
Session 230
The Ideology and Governance of the Late Chinese Empire
Clark 5 (Floor 7)

1. Managing Land and Producing Citizens: State Building and Identity Formation in Manchuria, 1900-1920 • Shuang Chen, University of Iowa.

New publication using process mining to study the careers of Qing officials in the CGED-Q JSL

Adam Burke at the Queensland University of Technology lead-authored a paper “State Snapshot Process Discovery on Career Paths of Qing Dynasty Civil Servants” that introduces a new process mining technique he calls ‘state snapshot process discovery’ and illustrates it by application to our CGED-Q JSL data on the careers of jinshi officials. Cameron Campbell is a co-author. The paper has been accepted for presentation at the 5th International Conference on Process Mining (ICPM2023), in Rome, Italy, in October 2023.

A pre-print of the paper is available at Adam’s website:

Here is a figure from the paper that summarizes the empirical reconstruction of the careers of first and second tier (一甲 and 二甲) jinshi in the years after they earned their degree. One of the attractions of the CGED-Q JSL for demonstrating this technique was that there were canonical career pathways specified by regulations for such high-ranked degree holders, thus it was possible to assess whether the empirical results derived from the data were consistent with the canonical career pathways. We hope that extensions of this technique, and possibly other techniques, can be used to explore the trajectories of officials with more mundane qualifications.

For this paper, Cameron Campbell helped Adam and the other collaborators (Sander Leemans and Moe T. Wynn) understand the data that we provided, and advise on adjustments to accommodate undocumented or otherwise unanticipated features of the data in successive iterations, and then assist in the writing of sections related to the data and the historical context, background on the social science studies of careers, the interpretation of the results.

We are happy to collaborate with computer scientists and other researchers developing techniques for understanding careers and trajectories more generally in complex longitudinal data, who need data like the CGED-Q to showcase their approaches.

New 大数据与中国历史 with translation of Cameron Campbell’s and James Lee’s 40 year career retrospective is now available

The 4th edition of the annual 大数据与中国历史 (Big Data and Chinese History), edited by Fu Haiyan at Central China Normal University, is out now from 社会科学文献出版社 (Social Science Documents Publishing House). It includes a Chinese translation of my and James Lee’s career retrospective, summarizing our work over the last four decades constructing and analyzing historical population and other databases for China.

The full text is available here.

Here is a link to the volume’s page at Dangdang in case you want to order:

The English language original of our retrospective is available here:

Here is the complete reference for the Chinese language translation:

康文林 (Cameron Campbell),李中清 (James Lee). 2023. 中国历史量化微观大数据:李中清-康文林团队40 年学术回顾 in 付海晏 Ed. 大数据与中国历史研究. 第4辑. Beijing:社会科学文献出版社 Social Sciences Academic Press (China), 74-114.

English version of forthcoming paper on the organizational demography of the Qing civil service

社會科學研究 (Social Science Research) published by the Sichuan Academy of Social Science has accepted our paper “The Organizational Demography of the Qing Civil Service, 1830-1911” and tentatively scheduled it for publication in 2024. In the meantime, they have given permission for us to share the original English language version:

The Organizational Demography of the Qing Civil Service, 1830-1911

Please cite the Chinese language version if you refer to it:

康文林 (Cameron Campbell) and 高帅奇(Gao Shuaiqi). 2024. 清代文官的组织人口学研究, 1830-1911 (The Organizational Demography of the Qing Civil Service, 1830-1911). 社会科学研究 (Social Science Research). 1:161-173.

The paper is largely descriptive. It uses the CGED-Q JSL to measure the turnover of officials, career lengths, and years since appointment for currently serving officials. It was inspired by the older literature on organizational demography that sought to relate the performance of organizations to aggregate ‘demographic’ features such as their turnover, length of service and so forth. We hope that it will be a useful reference for anyone studying Qing officialdom. Previous studies of the dynamics of Qing official have focused on the lengths of appointments to specific posts, and turnover in those posts, rather than entire careers.

Here is the abstract:

We study the organizational demography of the Qing civil service from 1830 to 1911. Before the 20th century, the Qing bureaucracy was one of the largest non-military organizations in the world in terms of numbers of regular employees. At any given time, approximately 13,000 officials held formal appointments. We present the basic features of its organizational demography using data on nearly all civil officials with formal appointments from 1830 to 1912. We make use of longitudinally linked records of officials in the China Government Employee Database – Jinshenlu (CGED-Q JSL) to reconstruct rates of exit from service, the career lengths of officials, and the number of years since first appointment for currently serving officials. While previous studies of the Qing have examined turnover in specific types of posts, they have not considered the dynamics of complete careers. We find that exit rates in the first year of service were high and then low and stable afterward. While most officials only served for a short time, currently serving officials were relatively experienced. We also show that rates of exit from service declined for much of the last half of the 19th century, and then increased in the first decade of the 20th century. Declining turnover in the last half of the 19th century would have reduced opportunities for degree holders seeking posts and for officials seeking promotion at a time when the number of holders of purchased degrees competing for posts was increasing. We also compare different categories of officials. The results not only illuminate basic features of the organizational demography of Qing officialdom, but also provide a baseline for interpreting results from case studies of specific groups of officials or specific time periods.

Here’s a figure from the paper, presenting time trends in rates of exit from service in the next three months for officials with different amounts of experience:

Hao Dong publishes a new Chinese article in 社会学研究 on the effect of China’s cooling-off period policy on trends in divorce registration

Hao Dong has just published a single-authored paper in the top Chinese-language sociology journal 社会学研究 (Sociological Studies) titled 此情或可待:“离婚冷静期”规定对离婚登记数量趋势的影响 (A Wait Perhaps Worthwhile:The Influence of a “Cooling-off” Period on Trends in Divorce Registration)

Here is the Chinese abstract and English translation:


This study examines the influence of a 30-day “cooling-off” period policy on trends in divorce registration,shedding light on the intervention on certain unmeasurable subjective factors-including impulsiveness-in divorce decisionmaking in China. The analysis employs province-quarter-level data of divorce registration from the Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2018-2021 and further incorporates data from the National Bureau of Statistics,China Judgements Online,and the Baidu Index. Based on the policy evaluation methods,such as the event-study and difference-in-differences,evidence consistently suggests a substantial influence of the policy,which reduces 10.3-13.2 thousand divorces per province per quarter on average,amounting to a decline of 33-42% compared to the previous three years. Moreover,the influence appears to be greater in provinces with more previously divorced couples restoring their marriages,more divorces between young couples,or more internet searches about the policy and divorce-related information,highlighting some potential mechanisms underlying the intervention.

Congratulations Hao Dong!

Post navigation

Hao Dong publishes a new article in Demography on post-1900 trends in educational assortative marriage in China

Hao Dong and his collaborator Yu Xie have published a paper in Demography titled “Trends in Educational Assortative Marriage in China Over the Past Century.”

Here is the abstract:

In the past century, China has undergone rapid and dramatic social and economic changes. This article describes trends in educational assortative marriages of cohorts born in 1906–1995 in China. We measure educational attainment relatively as an individual’s percentile position in the education distribution of a 10-year birth cohort and study trends using comparable, easy-to-interpret couple rank-rank correlations. We analyze microdata samples from the 1982, 1990, 2000, and 2010 China censuses and the 2015 1% intercensus survey and nationally representative surveys between 1996 and 2018. We find a large and steady increase in educational assortative marriage over the past century, except among those born in 1946–1965, whose schooling and marriage were impacted by the Cultural Revolution. Our study highlights the critical roles of social, political, and economic contexts in shaping trends in educational assortative marriage.

Congratulations Hao Dong and Yu Xie!

Tutorial for using R to analyze the CGED-Q JSL Public Releases

Chen Jun, my MA student at Central China Normal University, has shared slides and sample code he produced to help anyone planning to use R to analyze the CGED-Q JSL public releases. The materials are all in Chinese. They introduce how to import the public data into R, create and transform variables, process strings to create variables, and tabulate and graph results. We hope that this will be useful to users of the data.