Article (in Korean) Digital Humanities and Yuan Studies: An Introduction to the CBDB and its Potentials

(In Korean) “Digital Humanities and Yuan Studies: An Introduction to the CBDB and its Potential [디지털 인문학과 元代史(원대사) 硏究(연구) -中國傳記資料庫(중국전기자료고)(CBDB)의 소개와 전망을 중심으로-],” Chung’ang Asia Yon’gu [Central Asian Studies], 21-1, 2016, pp. 117-133.

Link to Article from KISS (email me if you don’t have access to the KISS DB)

TL;DR Summary

Way to go for CBDB and Yuan Studies, but I LOVE the structure of CBDB.

Original Summary

The purpose of this study is to introduce the China Biographical Database Project (CBDB) and discuss the possibilities, limitations and perspectives of using the CBDB on Yuan studies. To examine these questions in detail, it also provides a preliminary case study examining the officials of the 14th century Yuan government. The CBDB is a relational database (RDB) that covers the biographical data of the people from the Tang to Qing dynasty, and includes more than 360,000 personnel. However, in contrast to the relatively more complete and detailed coverage of the Song period, the CBDB coverage on the Yuan solely relies on the Index to Biographical materials of Yuan figures (Yuanren zhuanji ziliao suoyin 元人 傳記資料索引) which leaves a significant amount of room for improvement. Also, the CBDB is not designed to comprehensively record the data of the Yuan personnel, which is evident in the overall shortage of index year data, and lack of alternative romanization for the non-Han personnel of the Yuan. In spite of these limitations, the CBDB is available for free to use, and the data can be easily exported en-mass to other platforms which enables more avenues for research and visualization. In addition to the easily noticeable anecdotal errors, the CBDB revealed significant limitations when attempting to conduct research on the Yuan, as seen in the preliminary case study of the 14th century Yuan officials. In spite of the CBDB’s broader coverage, the factoids included in the DB are both incomplete and misleading. When we compared to the data from the biographies of these officials, we can see that almost half of the officials were from non-Han Chinese background, and that the entry to the government different significantly between the Han and non-Han officials. These facts are not properly reflected in the CBDB In spite of the limitations of the CBDB, we have to remember that digital humanities is still a young and emerging field compared to the traditional humanity studies. Scholars should remain positive on the possibilities and potentials of CBDB, and overall, digital humanities, as a new avenue of research that will supplement, not replace, our traditional humanity studies.


The most recent CBDB has corrected some of the errors that I mentioned in this article, some which I had reported to the CBDB. And of course, the open source nature of CBDB is also its strength.

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