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.

James Lee, Bamboo Ren, and Chen Liang Publish an Updated Version of their 2020 China Quarterly Article “Meritocracy and the Making of the Chinese Academe, 1912-1952”

Cover of Khanna and Szonyi’s edited volume Making Meritocracy

In “Meritocracy and the Making of the Chinese Academe Redux, 1912-1952”, a chapter in the new Oxford University Press volume edited by Michael Szonyi and Tarun Khanna Making Meritocracy: Lessons from China and India, from antiquity to the present, James Lee, Bamboo Y. Ren, and Chen Liang update the figures, maps, tables and related text from their earlier China Quarterly article to include domestic student data from five additional Chinese universities as well as data on many more overseas Chinese students from foreign universities.

Web page for Making Meritocracy at Oxford University Press

Full reference:

Lee, James, Bamboo Y. Ren, and Chen Liang. 2022. Meritocracy and the Making of the Chinese Academe Redux, 1912-1952. In Michael Szonyi and Tarun Khanna, eds. Making Meritocracy: Lessons from China and India. Oxford University Press, 137-169.

HKUST colleague Lawrence Zhang contributed a chapter to the same volume:

Sheth, Sudev and and Lawrence L. C. Zhang. 2022. “Meritocracy in Early Modern Asia: Qing China and Mughal India.”  In Michael Szonyi and Tarun Khanna. Eds. 2022. Making Meritocracy: Lessons from China and India, from Antiquity to the Present, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 85-117.

Chinese Translation of Campbell’s and Lee’s Historical Chinese Microdata: 40 Years of Dataset Construction by the Lee-Campbell Research Group

A Chinese translation of Cameron Campbell’s and James Lee’s Historical Life Course Studies paper “Historical Chinese Microdata. 40 Years of Dataset Construction by the Lee-Campbell Research Group” is forthcoming in a volume of Big Data and the Study of Chinese History 大数据与中国历史研究. The title of the translation is 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. This paper reviews all of our projects since 1979, including construction of datasets and the study of topics in population, family, and social mobility. Pending the appearance of the volume, we are making a PDF of the translation available.

Here is the PDF of the Chinese translation of Historical Chinese Microdata. 40 Years of Dataset Construction by the Lee-Campbell Research Group.

Here is the English language original, in case you missed it.


Bamboo Ren, Chen Liang, and James Lee publish new article in China Quarterly on “Meritocracy and the Making of the Chinese Academe, 1912-1952” using the CUSD-ROC, CUSD-OS, and CPOD-UE

This article takes advantage of three new big historical datasets to identify four salient features of the Chinese academe during the Republic of China. First, it was highly international in terms of training. Second, the proportion of female students was unexpectedly large. Third, there was a heavy emphasis on STEM subjects. Finally, the social and spatial origins of China’s university students and university faculty members changed from a national population of civil servant families to business and professional families largely from Jiangnan and the Pearl River Delta. The datasets are the China University Student Dataset – Republic of China, which includes almost half of all students to graduate from a Chinese university during the first half of the 20th century; the China University Student Dataset – Overseas, which includes the vast majority of all Chinese students to graduate from an North American, European or Japanese university during this same period; and the China Professional Occupation – University Employee Dataset, which includes almost all university faculty members in China, 1941–1950. The China University Student Datasets are described in detail here.

Here is a link to the paper at the China Quarterly page:


<民国上海大学生社会来源量化研究,1913-1949> wins a prize

As part of their 2020 biennial competition, the Jiangsu academe awarded Chen Liang, Bamboo Yunzhu Ren, Yuqian Wang, James Z. Lee,  2017, <民国上海大学生社会来源量化研究,1913-1949>,  《历史研究》(Historical Research) 第三期 (May): 76-92,  a second prize (二等奖) for Outstanding Achievement in Philosophy and Social Science. This is the third publication by the Lee-Campbell Group to receive such recognition from the Jiangsu academe.  For full text please follow this link.

Here is the official announcement.


PRC Ministry of Education awards Lee-Campbell Group article an Excellent Research Achievement Award

The Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China awarded Chen Liang, Hao Dong, James Z. Lee, 2015,  <量化数据库与历史研究> (Big Historical Data and New Directions in Historical Research) 《历史研究》(Historical Research). Vol 2 (April 2015): 113-128 a 优秀青年成果奖 (Excellent Young Scholar Research Achievement Prize). This is the eighth triennial Excellent Research Achievement Award competition and the first to distinguish young scholars, below age 40, from more senior scholars.  Altogether 11 history publications, including nine books and only two articles, received this recognition.

Here is the official announcement at the PRC Ministry of Education website.

Interview of James Lee by Alan Macfarlane in 2002

In 2002, when James Lee and Cameron Campbell and other group members were conducting fieldwork in Liaoning, they were accompanied by Alan Macfarlane and Sarah Harrison. Macfarlane interviewed James Lee. We just learned that the interview had been posted in its entirety on Youtube, apparently in 2012. This is a remarkably complete recap of our work up through 2002.


New paper recapping 40 years of ‘big data’ research on population, family and social history by James Lee, Cameron Campbell and collaborators

James Lee and Cameron Campbell in Daoyi in 1987

Cameron Campbell and James Lee just published an article on the contributions of the Lee-Campbell Research Group to a new scholarship of discovery in Chinese population history, family history, and socio-economic history based on our construction and analysis from 1979 to 2020 of large historical datasets from largely archival records.  Our paper first introduces these datasets, then describes our joint research, and concludes with a summary of our major analytic results. This publication is an invited contribution to a special issue of Historical Life Course Studies which introduces the major historical population databases. Papers on the Quebec BALSAC project and the Historical Sample of the Netherlands are already posted.

Here is the web page:

This both a career retrospective and a comprehensive summary of everything that James, Cameron and the Lee-Campbell Group have done together over more than four decades that ties everything together and shows how each project led to the next. It starts from our early efforts in population history using household registers, and proceeds sequentially up to the present day, including our new projects on university students, civil officials, and educated professionals.

In front of the No. 1 Historical Archives in Beijing in 1987

The section on the history of our collaboration will hopefully be the most readable: it starts with James Lee’s visit to China in 1979 to look for records in historical archives that could be turned into databases, then Cameron  shows up in 1987 at the end his sophomore year at Caltech. Later others joined to form what is now the Lee-Campbell Group. We also talk about our involvement in the Eurasia Project in Population and Family History including what we hope will be interesting anecdotes, reminisces, and reflections.

The introduction to our databases and summary of results, meanwhile, is the first time we have put almost everything we have done together in one place. We hope that it will be useful for those who may be familiar with specific pieces of our work to gain a better sense of the larger research agenda In into which these pieces fit.

This was a fun paper to write, especially the history section which includes some discussion of our faculty years at Caltech 1982-2002, UCLA 1996-2015, Michigan 1980-1982, 1995-1996, 2002-2009 and most recently HKUST 2009/2013-onwards and the contributions of these institutions and our colleagues to advancing our research projects.

English language paper introducing the CGED-Q published in the Journal of Chinese History

Our paper providing an introduction in English to the China Government Employee Dataset-Qing (CGED-Q) is now available at the Journal of Chinese History. The paper is lead-authored by Bijia Chen and is based on the second chapter of her PhD dissertation, which she defended in 2019. The paper will appear in the July 2020 issue.

Here is the abstract:

We introduce the China Government Employee Database—Qing (CGED-Q), a new resource for the quantitative study of Qing officialdom. The CGED-Q details the backgrounds, characteristics and careers of Qing officials who served between 1760 and 1912, with nearly complete coverage of officials serving after 1830. We draw information on careers from the Roster of Government Personnel (jinshenlu), which in each quarterly edition listed approximately 12,500 regular civil offices and their holders in the central government and the provinces. Information about backgrounds and characteristics comes from such linked sources as lists of exam degree holders. In some years, information on military officials is also available. As of February 2020, the CGED-Q comprises 3,817,219 records, of which 3,354,897 are civil offices and the remainder are military. In this article we review the progress and prospects of the project, introduce the sources, transcription procedures, and constructed variables, and provide examples of results to showcase its potential.

Bijia Chen is now a postdoc at  the Renmin University Institute of Qing History.

For more information about the CGED-Q, please see the CGED-Q project page.


Page 2 – Footnote 1 – line 10 – Zhenan should be Zhinan

Page 3- second line in paragraph after heading ‘Origin, current status, and future plans…’, ‘ongoing of study’ should be ‘ongoing study’

Page 3 – Footnote 6 – line 2 – Lishi Yanjiu should be Qingshi Yanjiu

Page 8 – Footnote 22 – line 1 – Jizhi should be Jiazhi

Page 8 – Footnote 26 – line 1 – Jijie should be Ji


Paper on assortative marriage in rural Shanxi during the mid-20th century published in Research in Social Stratification and Mobility

Our paper “Education, class and assortative marriage in rural Shanxi, China in the mid-twentieth century” has been accepted at Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. The paper is lead-authored by XING Long at Shanxi University and co-authored by group members Cameron Campbell, Xiangning Li, Matthew Noellert and James Lee. A pre-print is now available open access at the site: This is something we have been working on for a while and it is great to see it coming out. More information about the larger project and the data is available here. Here is the abstract:
This paper examines the consequences of political, economic and social change in mid-twentieth century China for patterns of assortative mating by both education and class. Traditionally in China, marriages were arranged by parents, and ideally matched families of similar socioeconomic status. However, the Marriage Law passed by the People’s Republic of China in 1950 promoted free choice and forbade arranged marriage and other interference by families in the marriage decisions of their children. Later, Land Reform, Collectivization and other movements had profound impacts on rural household organization and social relations. We investigate their effects on assortative mating by using novel linked administrative data compiled in rural Shanxi Province in North China in the mid-1960s. These data record the education and family class labels (jiating chushen) of spouses for 1459 couples in 30 villages. The class labels were assigned in the 1950s based on family landholding before the Land Reform and became hereditary. We find that class label had effects above and beyond those of education, suggesting that assortative mating studies that only consider education overlook an important dimension of social status in marriage patterns, and thereby overstate the overall permeability of boundaries between social groups. Furthermore, by comparing couples according to whether they married before or after 1949, we find that patterns of homogamy and hypergamy remained highly stable in the face of substantial social transformation after 1949.