Digital Technologies Expo
Local gazetteers (difangzhi 地方志) are major primary sources for the study of China’s local history. An estimated 8,000 titles of local gazetteers dating from the tenth to the twentieth century are still extant, covering nearly all populated regions of historical China (including Taiwan). Written by officials and local gentry, these gazetteers documented topics far beyond geographical landscape, including flora and fauna, local products, temples and schools, officials and celebrities, local culture and customs, and much more. Given their consistent and database-like structure, Chinese local gazetteers as a genre are uniquely suited for research with a digital humanities approach.
Since 2013, we have been conducting research on Chinese local gazetteers by transforming printed materials into a scholarly, enhanced database for new forms of digital historical analysis. Local gazetteers are well studied, but scholars often struggle to encompass in their analyses the vast amount of information contained within local gazetteers. The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science thus embraces digital humanities’ potential to realize this genre’s full utility for addressing large-scale key questions in Chinese history. Central to this effort is the development of a suite of digital tools—the Local Gazetteers Research Tools (LoGaRT). LoGaRT is developed expressly to transform texts into structured data, to perform systematic analyses, and to visualize research results.
LoGaRT online: https://www.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/research/projects/logart-local-gazetteers-research-tools