Chinese History Sources Project: Update #2

March 4th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m writing to note that the Chinese history sources site is still under construction. It’s currently resting in dry dock as we contemplate possible shifts to its original design, including new possibilities for its systems of organization of data (for the site and via Zotero) and also its breadth of coverage. Further updates will follow as it moves forward.

Suggestions for content and/or organization from those who might find a site for undergraduates, particularly those students who haven’t yet developed to intermediate or advanced Chinese language ability, helpful in their study of Chinese history are welcome. Feel free to add them in comments below.

The original posts on the topic can be found here and here.

Update to Sources Project

November 4th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

We’re continuing work on the development of a Sources resource for undergraduate students of Chinese history. Much of our technical focus has been upon Zotero as a tool for the project – indeed, as the project is developing, Zotero is emerging as an equal partner to the website planned. In fact, with its dual features of accessibility and flexibility,  it may emerge as the centerpiece itself.

In the meantime, several developments along the way:

In terms of content, we’ve decided to expand the categories of temporal coverage. Originally, this site was going to focus on just the late imperial and 20th century periods. I’ve added a full set of dynastic categories to the mix, though, to allow for expansion by students working on individual research projects or courses devoted to early periods in coming semesters.

On the technical side of things, Zotero has been a very useful tool with regular updates and excellent support. We did run into one glitch an early stage in which somehow (cause still unclear) our sources collection seemed to be deleted. Technically, our project is a subcollection within the broader History and American Studies – University of Mary Washington group at Zotero. While this seemed rather a dilemma at its occurrence, all the citations that had been uploaded had in fact remained in the broader group, but their system of files and organization had been lost.

Our solution was to reconstruct the subcollection and its folders. Fortunately, the outline of our organization was saved at this same website and on an office computer that wasn’t set to automatically sync with our Zotero files. We then  moved the cites, still sitting in the general Zotero library for the UMW group, back into the folders.  (For more, see my posting and Dan Stillman’s very helpful reply here at Zotero Forums.)

Part of our speed in fixing this mishap was that it happened at an early stage in the project. It will be nice, however, to see a group backup function developed for the Zotero system.  In the meantime, to play things safe, I’m also maintaining a parallel library within my own personal collections (rather than just the groups collection) in my own Zotero setup.

More to come as the project develops…

Sources in Chinese History: A Course and Site for Undergrads

August 29th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

One of my main pedagogical projects this fall is the development of a sources curriculum for undergraduate students with an interest in modern Chinese history. At UMW, we require all history majors to undertake a senior thesis (independent research, 30-40 pages), which is often quite a challenge for students, particularly those pursuing research on global topics. One of my ongoing aims has been to establish a sources website that would be geared toward our undergraduates who enroll for the thesis project in my own field– i.e., students with a clear interest in Chinese history, who have completed background courses on the topic, but who do not necessarily have Chinese language ability. 1

I’ve been developing the first edition of this project in collaboration with UMW history major Joe Calpin, who is embarking upon an independent study on “Sources in Modern Chinese History” under my guidance this fall.  The curriculum here is intended to provide a critical familiarity with major genres of sources as well as useful reference works and tools, journals in the field, and online resources.

One of the central projects for this independent study will also be the design of a sources website. Though very much a working project, the idea is that this site would transcend this particular independent study and, ideally, our own campus, in serving as a reference site for undergrads elsewhere. Our intended audience is students who may be working on their own research projects but who may not quite have the linguistic training they need to dive directly into Chinese-language sources. In many ways, the website is being conceptualized as a stepping stone to more advanced online resources in Chinese history such as the UCSD Modern Chinese History Research Site and the Classical Historiography for Chinese History site compiled by Benjamin Elman.

To further this project — and create a resource of its own — I’ve established a library for the course at Zotero Groups (see the group library for “History 491” at our “History and American Studies: Univ. of Mary Washington” Zotero group site located here or at the link on the right side of this blog.) I’ve outlined a set of sources categories in sub-folders there (still tweaking and expanding… further suggestions welcome.) As Joe Calpin and I work on the independent study this fall, we’ll be adding to this sources group, building up a selective bibliography of relevant works, collections, and web-links. This will serve as the bibliographic reference, as currently imagined, for a partner website to be designed and composed by Joe, 2  that will offer a more detailed description and critical introduction to sources in Chinese history…

Above is an introduction to the project we’ve undertaken.  I’ll be using this site as a place for hashing out ideas for the project’s development and providing updates of its progress.  Suggestions are always welcome – and gratefully appreciated…

Questions for the crowd:

1. The categories listed below are the ones that currently appear in our Zotero file for the site, a list to which I’m still actively adding. I’d welcome suggestions for further categories to add, divisions to consider, and more…

2. Are there other topics or components for the site that folks (faculty, undergraduate students) out there in Chinese history would find helpful?

3. I’ll be sending out a call for nominations for primary source collections, among other types of titles and resources, to be listed in the group… suggestions ahead of that call are always welcome.

Categories currently listed for our Zotero bibliography:

That list is building out of a more haphazard brainstorm of genres I’m looking to cover within the frame that’s being constructed. To share my rough notes:

  • key journals (e.g. Journal of Asian Studies, Late Imperial China, Modern China, China Quarterly, Harvard Journal of Asian Studies)
  • english-language historiog and research collections (e.g. Cambridge History of China; Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilization Series)
  • translated compendia of sources (e.g. Taiping volumes…)
  • key reference websites (UCSD; Elman; et al)
  • key online search engines
  • key online archives (textual, visual, etc.)
  • online listservs (H-Net; Asian Studies WWW Monitor; others? )
  • key English-language reference works (biography; titles; etc.)
  • advice for other students re: basic reference shelf (English language and Chinese language)


  1. My work here is much in the spirit of that of my colleague in Soviet and Russian history at UMW, Steven Harris, who has created a very useful website on primary sources in that field to help his own students in their research.
  2. And with the ever-generous help of the folks at UMW’s Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) who have established UMWBlogs as a realm for digital projects.