China Siqing Social Class Dataset (CSSCD) Project

The CSSCD project analyzes one of the most systematic and detailed sources available on social and economic change in rural China from the beginnings of land reform in the 1940s up to the eve of the Cultural Revolution in 1966.


  • Noellert, Matthew
  • Li, Xiangning
  • Xing, Long. Professor and Director, Shanxi University Research Center for Chinese Social History (RCCSH)
  • Hu, Yingze. Professor and Vice-director, Shanxi University Research Center for Chinese Social History
  • Wang, Yuesheng. Researcher, Chinese Academy of Social Science Institute of Population and Labor Economics


In 1963-66 the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee decided as part of the 四清 Four Cleanups (politics, economy, organization, and ideology) campaign to re-evaluate all class relations and establish a new social class file for every household. This was to be the most systematic re-classification of households carried out since the land reform two decades earlier. The process started in Hebei and Shanxi provinces, where it was carried out most thoroughly, and only began to be implemented in other parts of China before it was overshadowed by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution after 1966.

The product of this re-classification was a social class registration form, 阶级成份登记表, recording 2-3 pages of systematic information for every individual household, including their property holdings and occupations from before communist land reform ca.1946 to the time of recording ca.1966, the household head’s social relations, a three-generation family history, and social, demographic, and political details on every household member over 15 sui. The CSSCD data contains the full Chinese text transcriptions of these household forms, together with coded numerical data, in machine-readable format.

CSSCD Data Series

The Four Cleanups household registration forms that comprise the source data of the CSSCD series appear to have been recorded for most households in Hebei and Shanxi provinces (a combined potential total of roughly 12 million households in 1964), and for particular localities in other provinces, between 1965 and 1971.

As of July 2017, The CSSCD series consists of two completed sub-datasets and a third sub-dataset under construction. The first completed subset comprises 7,800 households based on registration forms from Shanxi Province held in the archival collection of the Research Center for Chinese Social History (RCCSH) at Shanxi University. The second completed subset comprises 4,118 households based on registration forms from Shanxi, Hebei, and Inner Mongolia collected by the Lee-Campbell Research Group and held in the Tsung-Dao Lee Library at Shanghai Jiaotong University. The Lee-Campbell Research Group is currently overseeing the coding of another subset comprising 3,000 households based on registration forms from Hebei Province originally collected by Prof. Wang Yuesheng, which he has generously donated to the Lee-Campbell Research Group. The Lee-Campbell Research Group is also in the process of adding other data from Hebei Province. The completed part of the CSSCD series can thus be summarized as follows:

CSSCD Subset Counties Brigades Production Teams Households
RCCSH 7 37 183 7,800
LC Group 7 23 104 4,118
Combined Total 13 60 287 11,918
 Note: Both subsets share one county in common.

On-Line User Guide

Xing, Long, Matthew Noellert, Li Xiangning, Hao Xiaowen, and James Z. Lee. “The CSSCD User Guide: An Introduction to the China Siqing 四清 (Four Cleanups) Social Class Dataset.” (unpublished)

Project History

The China Siqing Social Class Dataset Project was initiated by Xing Long, who as Director of the Shanxi University Research Center for Chinese Social History had collected household social class registration forms from dozens of villages throughout Shanxi Province, and in 2013 recruited James Z. Lee and in turn the Lee-Campbell Research Team to assist with the transcription and analysis of these data.  Matthew Noellert, a 2014 HKUST PhD in History and Anthropology, joined the Center in September 2014 as a Postdoctoral Fellow under the joint supervision of Xing Long, Hu Yingze, the Vice Director of the Center, and James Z. Lee, funded by grants from the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation and from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council.

During the 2014-2015 academic year, Matthew Noellert, currently an assistant professor of history and digital humanities at the University of Iowa, organized 15 graduate students who entered and completed the preliminary analyses of over 3,000 households over the course of three semester-long RCCSH graduate seminars taught by James Z. Lee, Cameron Campbell, and Matthew Noellert. These courses provided a unique training experience by integrating data entry with learning about quantitative history methods and data analysis. By the end of the first semester, each student had completed entering a part of the data and carried out basic analysis and write-up of the data they entered, culminating in a final project, as listed in the CSSCD User Guide. In the second semester they continued coding and training in data analysis using the statistical software package, Stata.

RCSSH students in fall 2015 coded another 3,744 households as part of an advanced undergraduate / beginning graduate research project under the direction of RCCSH Vice-Director, Yingze Hu, and Matthew Noellert. Similar to the graduate student seminars mentioned above, 18 senior undergraduates and 8 new first-year graduates attended a weekly workshop integrating data entry with basic data analysis training. Two of the more experienced graduate students, Guo Xingang and Zhang Aiming, also helped train students and organize data coding. A select number of these graduate students completed coding the remainder of the RCCSH data. In summer 2016 The Lee-Campbell Research Group acquired and began coding another 4,118 household forms from northern Shanxi, Hebei, and Inner Mongolia.

In Spring 2016, James Z. Lee recruited Wang Yuesheng, Chinese Academy of Social Science Research Fellow Emeritus in Population Studies, who deposited 3,000 household forms largely from southern Hebei with the Lee-Campbell Research Group. Li Xiangning, a HKUST MPhil/PhD student in Social Science and Lee-Campbell Research Group member, collected other Hebei household forms which together with other data from the CSSCD will comprise her MPhil and PhD theses.

Project Funding

James Z. Lee PI (Co-I Matthew Noellert, Yingze Hu, Cameron Campbell) Fanshen Revisited: New Perspectives on Land Reform and Rural Collectivization in North China, 1945-1965. Hong Kong Research Grants Council Project Number 16602315; 2015-2018.

Research Output

For a summary of our research output from the CSSCD, please see Part Three of our on-line course Understanding China, 1700-2000: A Data Analytic Approach – Who Gets Wealth as well as the books, articles, and presentations below.

Books and Articles Under Preparation

Noellert, Matthew, Xing Long, Hu Yingze, and James Z. Lee. “Equality and Growth: Changes in the Composition and Distribution of Wealth in Rural China, 1946-1966.”

Xing, Long, Cameron Campbell, Xiangning Li, Matthew Noellert, and James Z. Lee. “Education, Class and Marriage in Rural Shanxi, China in the Mid-20th Century.” Under Review.

Academic Presentations

“Equality and Growth: Changes in the Composition and Distribution of Wealth in Rural China, 1946-1966.” At the 2nd Research Forum on Global and Transnational History (in Chinese, “第二届全球史与跨国史研究论坛”), Shandong University, Jinan, China, January 7-9, 2017.

“Equality and Growth: Changes in the Composition and Distribution of Wealth in Rural China, 1946-1966.” At the session, “Material Antecedents of War and Revolution,” Social Science History Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, November 17-20, 2016.

“Equality and Growth: Changes in the Composition and Distribution of Wealth in Rural China, 1946-1966.” At the international meeting, “Rural Collectivization in China and Eastern Europe: Equality and Growth,” Shanxi University, Taiyuan, China, 5-6 August 2016.

“Education, Class and Marriage in Rural Shanxi, China in the Mid-20th Century.” At the session “Marriage and Family Building in Historical East Asia,” Population Association of Japan Annual Meeting, Reitaku University, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, June 11-13, 2016.

“Assortative Mating by Social Class and Education in Rural China in the Mid-20th Century.” At the session “Assortative Mating,” International Sociological Association Research Council on Social Stratification (RC-28) meetings, Singapore, May 26-28, 2016.

“Inequality within Equality: A Preliminary Analysis of the Distribution of Wealth in Collectivization-era Rural Shanxi, 1946-1966” (in Chinese, “平等中的不平等:集体化时代山西省农村财富分配初探 1946-1966”). At the meeting, “Data, Perspectives, Methods: Multi-disciplinary Dialogue and Reflections in Contemporary Chinese History Research” (in Chinese, “资料·视野·方法:中国当代史研究中的多学科对话与思考”), Shanxi University, Taiyuan, China, November 13-16, 2015.

“Marriage between equals: Assortative mating in revolutionary rural China, 1945-1965,” at the session “Demographic differentials by wealth and status,” International Economic History Congress, Kyoto, Japan, August 3-7, 2015.

Data Access

The RCCSH subset of the CSSCD is not available for public data release.  While the remaining data are partially available on a case by case basis, preference will be given for collaborative research proposals.  Interested parties should write directly to Matthew Noellert, copying James Z. Lee and Cameron Campbell.


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