China Historical GIS

Dear Colleague,

As part of the CHGIS (China Historical Geographic Information Systems) Project, sponsored by the Henry Luce Foundation, several useful free utilities are available online. 

Contemporary Counties -  Search a list of all 3,389 official Chinese county level administrative units for the year 1990.  Based on the National Standard (Guobiao Table #2260), this search engine provides the County names in Pinyin and Chinese Characters (BIG5 encoding) and their corresponding GB code number.

Local Histories  -  Local Histories (difangzhi) held in the Harvard Yenching Library collection can be searched by Province or by title (Wade-Giles romanization).  There are 3,700 searchable records of local histories online, which provide title, author, date and publisher information, as well as HYL call numbers.  This is only a partial list of HYL holdings, which we hope to expand in the future.

Harvard Map Collection  -  East Asian Map series have been cataloged by CHGIS and can be searched by Chinese region or by keyword.    The map index represents some 29,000 map sheets held in the Harvard Pusey Map Library.  In addition to title, date, and publication info, the index provides a description of the map series, Pusey Library call numbers, and rough guide maps showing the area of coverage.

Qing Dynasty Placenames  -  Some 9,000 placenames for the year 1820 can be searched with direct links to CHGIS webmaps.  Each record displays the placenames (in Pinyin and Chinese Characters, UTF-8 encoding), the prefecture and province where the place is located, and an automatic guidemap showing where the place is located within China and within its respective province.  Users may also launch an interactive guide map for zooming and browsing the GIS data.

Chinese Placenames Database -  140,000 placenames (including variations) for more than 80,000 named features in China are available in a streamlined search engine based on the U.S. National Imagery and Mapping Agency dataset.  This utility is useful to look up names in Pinyin, Wade-Giles, or Variant romanized forms.  Results include an automatic guidemap (showing the general location of the place), the latitude and longitude coordinates, and the feature type.

No special software or plug-ins are needed to use the search engines.  For those who wish to have direct access to the complete datasets, including GIS layers, all CHGIS data is available for free download to academic users.  We hope that you will find these utilities useful in your work.

If you have any suggestions for improving or adding to the types of search available, please feel free to contact us.

China Historical GIS
Host Institutions:  Harvard Yenching Inst & Fudan Univ, Center for Historical Geography

Ellen Mcgill
Reference and Electronic Resources
Harvard-Yenching Library