China Government Employee Database – Qing (CGED-Q)

We have launched a new study of how geographic origin, mode of appointment, family background, and other characteristics of government employees during the Qing (1644-1911) dynasty influenced their career trajectories, and how such processes shaped the composition of the Qing state. For mode of appointment, we distinguish officials according to whether they entered service by examination qualification, office purchase, or by virtue of hereditary affiliation with the Eight Banner system. This work will offer a new perspective on Qing political elites by allowing us to examine the state in its entirety using micro-level data. Previous studies of officials and other government employees have mainly been case studies of specific individuals or government offices. Larger scale studies have focused on examination qualification holders, and assumed that they represented the political elite. To our knowledge, this is one of the first longitudinal studies of any national bureaucracy, contemporary or modern, in its entirety, using micro-data on the careers and family and geographic origins of all officials.



To carry out this study, we are constructing a database of government employees during the Qing, the China Government Employee Database – Qing (CGED-Q). Our core information come from the jinshenlu (缙绅录), a publication that appeared every three months and listed almost every government employee including their name(s), place of origin, ethnicity, location of post, job title, current post, and other details. These officials ranged from high officials in the 六部 and other central government units down to low-level officials serving in counties. Nominative linkage of the records of the same official in different editions has proven straightforward, allowing us to construct and study career histories. Each edition lists 13,000-15,000 employees. As of September 2018, we have entered 2,890,571 records for approximately 308,974 unique civil servants.

We have also created a searchable database of most of the jinshenlu personnel records that we have already entered.  Right now it allows search by surname and given name in traditional characters. We hope that this is useful for anyone who may want to look up an ancestor’s personnel records, or for researchers who are interested in looking up the records of a specific officials. Here are more details about the search facility. Siwei Fu, a PhD student in Computer Science at HKUST, created the search site and has been updating it when we have provided new data. The site is kindly hosted on a server at Professor Huamin Qu’s VisGroup.

We have published early results in an article in Qingshi yanjiu (清史研究). Please look at the abstract or download the full text, in Chinese. According to these initial results, a large share of the highest officials were actually from the Eight Banners, not holders of examination qualifications. The hereditary status of Eight Banner officials allowed them to enter service through channels other than the well-known examination system. Meanwhile, of the holders of the highest examination qualification, jinshi (進士), only a small fraction actually held high office. The vast majority of employed jinshi held much more mundane positions in the government.  Many surprisingly do not appear to have been been employed at all.

For information about family origins, we plan to construct and link databases from such other sources as timinglu (题名录), zhujuan (朱卷), tongnian chilu (同年齒錄) and other sources with the jinshenlu data. These sources provide names of ancestors, kin, teachers, and classmates. For ancestors, they provide examination qualifications. By linkage, we can trace whether ancestors were government employees. Many of these materials are available through the China Biographical Database Project, with whom we are cooperating.

Project History

The project was initially conceived in summer 2013, when Yuxue Ren at Shanghai Jiaotong University showed Cameron Campbell and James Lee work she was doing with 缙绅录 records of government employees in northeast China. Campbell, with assistance from Lee and Ren, then obtained funding from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council for the 2014-2017 period to enter the 2.8 million 缙绅录 records reprinted by Tsinghua as the 清代縉紳錄集成 in order to study the Qing bureaucracy in its entirety. Bijia Chen, HKUST PhD student in Social Science, joined the project in 2015 with funding from the Hong Kong PhD Funding Scheme. Lawrence Zhang, joined HKUST fall 2016 as an assistant professor in history and is working with us to compare data from lists of office purchasers he has collected from libraries in China including Taiwan to their data in the 缙绅录 and elsewhere. We are also working with the Institute for Qing History at Renmin University to release the CGED-Q publicly in phases, beginning in January 2018 with the data from the New Administration 新政时期 period (1901-1911) and have initiated a number of collaborative papers with various scholars coordinated partly with these data releases as well as with other funded projects.

We estimate that in addition to the 2.8 million 缙绅录 records reprinted by Tsinghua as the 清代縉紳錄集 成 there are an almost equal number of other records scattered in a variety of libraries and have collected some 1.5 million records from holdings in the Columbia University Library, the Harvard Yenching Library, and the Palace Museum Library in Beijing and are very thankful to these institutions for their cooperation and support.

Research Output

As with our other projects we will incorporate the results of our CGED-Q related research in our on-line course Understanding China, 1700-2000: A Data Analytic Approach, in this case as Part Four – Who Gets Authority.


任玉雪 (Yuxue REN), 陈必佳 (Bijia CHEN), 郝小雯 (Xiaowen Hao), 康文林 (Cameron Campbell), 李中清 (James Z. Lee). 2016. “清代缙绅录量化数据库与官僚群体研究  清史研究 (The Qing Jinshenlu Database: A New Source for the Study of Qing Officials)”  清史研究 Qing History Research. 2016年11月第四期:61-77.

Academic Presentations

Examination Qualifications and Civil Service Employment during the Qing (1644-1911): New Evidence From Big Data. 2017 清代《缙绅录》研究工作坊 (2017 Qing dynasty Jinshenlu Research Workshop). Humanities and Social Science Research Center, Geographic Information Science Research Center, Population History Programme, Academia Sinica, Taipei, August 17-18, 2017.

Examination Qualifications and Civil Service Employment during the Qing (1644-1911): New Evidence From Big Data, Longitudinal Studies Centre – Scotland (LSCS) Research Group Seminar, Edinburgh, Scotland, 10 July 2017.

Examination Qualifications and Civil Service Employment during the Qing (1644-1911): New Evidence From Big Data, Paris School of Economics, Paris, France, June 21, 2017.

清代官员仕途:基于缙绅录数据库分析的新认识  (Careers of Qing Dynasty Officials: New Findings from the Analysis of the Jinshenlu Database), 华中师范大学人文社会科学高等研究”开放与交叉”主题学术讲座(第三十六期) 大数据与中国历史研究第10讲 (China China Normal University Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Science “Openness and Intersection” Theme Academic Lecture, 36th Term, Big Data and Historical Research Lecture #10), Wuhan, Hubei, February 27, 2017.

“试析清代进士的入仕与官职——清代缙绅录量化数据库与进士题名录的匹配尝试(Analyzing Official Careers of Jinshi during the Qing–Evidence from Linkage between the Qing JSL Dataset and Timinglu Dataset),”第十四届科举制与科举学国际学术研讨会(14th International Academic Meeting on Keju system and Keju studies), Imperial Examination Museum, Nanjing, Jiangsu, China, December 19-20, 2016.

“Official Careers During the Qing(1644-1911): Evidence from the Jinshenlu.” At the panel “Chinese State Culture and Bureaucracy”, Social Science History Association (SSHA) meetings, Chicago, November 17-20,2016.

“Official Careers During the Qing (1644-1911): Evidence from the Jinshenlu.” At the session “Elites,” International Sociological Association Research Council on Social Stratification (RC-28) meetings, Bern, Switzerland, August 29-31, 2016.

“清代縉紳錄資料庫及相關研究,” 兩岸三地學術研討會, Nanjing, Jiangsu, June 28-29, 2016.

“清代缙绅录数据库及相关研究(Qing Jinshenlu database and related research),”数字人文与清史研究工作坊(Workshop on Digital Humanities and Qing History Study),Renmin University of China, Beijing, China, May 28-29, 2016.

“Civil Service Careers during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911): Preliminary results from the 缙绅录 database.” 数字人文新动向——中国历代传记资料库, Digging into Data 工作坊 (New Directions in Digital Humanities: Chinese Historical Database – Digging into Data Workshop). Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, January 8-10, 2016.

“清代缙绅录数据库及相关研究 (Qing dynasty Jinshenlu database and related research),” 传承与开启—大数据时代下的历史研究 (Tradition and Change: Historical Research in the Era of Big Data). Shanghai University, December 4-6, 2015.

“清代官員的仕途:基於縉紳錄的初步分析 (Bureaucratic Careers During the Qing (1644-1911) Dynasty: Preliminary Results from the Jinshenlu)”, 2015東亞歷史人口研究資料庫工作坊 (2015 Workshop on East Asian Historical Demography Databases, Program on Historical Demography), Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, November 20, 2015.

“科举与官员仕途:基于清缙绅录的初步分析 (Examinations and Official Careers: Preliminary Results from Analysis of the Jinshenlu),” 第十二届科举制与科举学国际学术研讨会 (12th International Academic Meeting on Keju system and Keju studies), Xiamen University, Xiamen, Fujian, China, November 23-25, 2015.

“Civil Service Careers during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911): Preliminary results from the 缙绅录 database,” UCLA California Center for Population Research, May 27, 2015

“The Scholarship of Discovery and Big Historical Data on China,” at the Session 50 Years of Qing Studies: A Conversation with Past and Current Editors of “Late Imperial China,” Annual Meeting of the Association of Asian Studies, Chicago, 27 March, 2015.


HK RGC GRF 16400114. Spatial, Temporal, and Social Network Influences on Officials’ Careers during the Qing: Creation and Analysis of a National Database from the Jin Shen Lu. 2014-2017 (Cameron Campbell PI).