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China Biographical Database (CBDB)

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China Biographical Database (CBDB)

Official site:

Work in progress:

  • importing separate trees by paternal line (keeping a record of CBDB id <—> Geni id correspondence)
  • merging with pre-existing trees on Geni
  • connecting marriages

By joining this project, you will have the permission to edit any profile in here.

Quoting CBDB:

The CBDB project was initiated by the Harvard Yenching Institute on the basis of datasets and a software program created by Robert M. Hartwell (1932 – 1996) as part of “China Historical Software, Inc.”, which he bequeathed to the Institute. The original database was in a dBase for MS DOS format. In 2004-2005 Michael A. Fuller redesigned this application and transformed it into the FoxPro application known as CBDBWin, the contents of which were as received from Hartwell’s estate, and into the MS Access application known as CBDB.mdb, to which the Center for Research on Ancient Chinese History at Peking University has added content based on the electronic Index of Song Biographies (by Wang Deyi and Chang Bide) provided for this project by the Institute of History and Philology of Academia Sinica. Chen Song has done further work on this application beginning in 2006.

From the beginning of his career at the University of Chicago and continuing during his tenure at the University of Pennsylvania and into his retirement in Wyoming, the late Robert M. Hartwell was intensely concerned with the study of social and economic change in Chinese history. Working mainly with middle-period sources (mid-Tang into Yuan), he produced a number of unusually helpful research aids and a series of extremely influential research articles. Readers of Hartwell's work will immediately notice that his research involved the citation of an unusually large number of sources on any given point and the collection of a considerable body of supporting data. He was in fact devoted to the collection of large sets of data and, finding a lack of this kind of research in the scholarly literature, he set out to create extensive datasets himself. By the mid-1970s he had defined a program to amass the most extensive prosopographical data set ever created for the study of Chinese history for any period, and he continued his work until his death in 1995. In the early 1990s he began to turn his attention to the preparation of his data for scholarly use. For a period he created an advisory committee, which Peter K. Bol of Harvard University chaired, to whose members he made available copies of his datasets and applications, which he had incorporated as "Chinese Historical Studies, Inc."

At the time of Hartwell's death the project included multi-variant biographical and genealogical data for over 25,000 individuals, a bibliographic database of over 4500 titles, and multiple geo-referenced objects and features. Hartwell's aim was to take advantage of precisely those kinds of data that the Chinese historical record provides in such abundance: the chronologically organized biographies of individuals who served in government created for public (e.g. state historiographical records) and private (e.g. funerary inscriptions) purposes. Individuals can be situated in a variety of contexts: as natives or residents of central places or administrative units, in bureaucratic ranks and offices, and in kinship networks. The greater the number of individual accounts we can include, the more extensive the family tree we can reconstruct, the better we can trace kinship networks and marriage alliances. We can shift our perspective from person to place and ask how a particular place fared in terms of its ability to produce degree holders and higher office holders over time. We can correlate the writings that were produced by men of a certain time and place. There is much more that might be done with this kind of data.