News and Updates

China Multi-Generational Panel Dataset Wins a Prize

The Chinese Digital Humanities Association at their 2020 annual meeting 中国数字人文年会 awarded the China Multi Generation Panel Dataset 中国多世代人口数据库 CMGPD, their inaugural “最佳题材奖” Prize.  This is the 14th ‘best something’ prize or similar recognition awarded to Lee-Campbell group research projects and our first for a non book or article.  See Publications and Prizes for a complete list.

New paper on prefects during the Qing using the CGED-Q

Hu Heng at the Institute of Qing History at Renmin University just published a paper on the appointment of prefects during the Qing, with Bijia Chen and me as second and third authors. The paper makes use of spatial data as well as the government ratings of prefectures that determined who controlled the appointment of their prefects, and makes use of the CGED-Q to examine the qualifications, and previous and subsequent appointments of prefects. The paper is available here:

Here is the abstract:

Prefects played an essential role in the system of local government during the Qing dynasty. Examining the process by which they were appointed, including exceptions and variations, sheds light on the governing strategies of the Qing state. We conduct spatial and quantitative analysis of the appointment of prefects based on the most recent data on the government’s ratings of the significance and difficulty (chongfanpinan and quefen) for each prefecture. The results reveal the importance of the process of appointment of variations across prefectures in transportation, government affairs, revenue collection, and public security. They collectively determined who had the authority to appoint the prefect for a prefecture: the Emperor (gingzhi que), the Board of Personnel (buxuan que), or the Governor-General (tidiao que). Appointments by the Emperor accounted for 48.3 percent of prefectures. These were in the most important regions of the country. Appointments by the Governor-General accounted for 26.1 percent of prefectures. At the beginning they were mainly in the regions where the Miao resided, including Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi and Hunan. Later, some prefectures on the provincial boundaries were also included. In the late Qing, prefects in all the newly created provinces were appointed by Govermors-General. Appointments by the Board of Personnel accounted for 25.6% of prefectures and they were concentrated in areas close to the boundaries of inland provinces. The spatial distribution of the classifications generally followed the government’s assessment of the difficulties of governing various regions in China, but there were exceptions and problems like the differentiation of treatment in the Southwestern boundary regions, neglect of the change of prefectures and classifications in coastal border areas and qualification immutability. The classification of prefectures was closely related to the appointment of prefects. We analyzed the career histories of 3403 prefects recorded in 37752 entries about Qing civil servants extracted from the 3,000,000 in nearly CGED-Q database. Using STATA to categorize, summarize, correlate and track these data ,, we examine the time trends in the characteristics of prefects, including the proportions of Manchu or Han prefects and their province of origin. For the latter, we focused specifically on the increase in the number of prefects from Hunan in the late Qing period. The results of our analysis make use of new data to advance our understanding of the political geography of China in the late Qing and the Republican periods. Regarding the career transitions in the civil service, 61.9 percent of prefects were transferred from posts in the central govermment and only 35.8 percent were promoted from posts in local govermments. This undoubtedly had a negative effect on the motivation of county magistrates. Prospects for promotion for prefects was generally high: 21 percent would reach higher office. For prefects who served in prefectures categorized as most significant (zuiyao gue) and significant (vao gue), the chance of promotion was between 23.5 and 26.3 percent. Those who were prefects in provincial capitals had even higher chances of being promoted: 40.5 percent. The distribution of control over the appointment of prefects and the institutional changes over time reveal the tension and competition over power between the central and local government. In the Qing, governance at the prefectural level was characterized as "blocking between the upper and the lower [level of government]". This was partly driven by the structure of the system, according to which officials were more likely to manage other officials than govern people, and prefects were more likely to be transferred from the central government than promoted from lower levels of local government. The increased power of Governor-Generals and the prevalence of temporary appointments for prefects may have been responses to these drawbacks, but the imbalance of the distribution of power was also a challenge for the state.

胡恆(Hu Heng), 陳必佳(Bijia Chen) and 康文林(Cameron D. Campbell. 2020. 清代知府選任的空間與量化分析——以政區分等、《縉紳錄》數據庫為中心 (The Appointment of Prefects during the Qing —- A Spatial and Quantitative Analysis Focusing on the System of Administrative Division and Using the CGED-Q). 新亞學報(New Asia Journal).37(August):339-398.

Matt Noellert begins new position as Associate Professor of Asian Economic History at Hitotsubashi University

Lee-Campbell Group member, Matthew Noellert, has taken up a new Associate Professor position at Hitotsubashi University in Kunitachi, Tokyo, Japan, beginning September 1, 2020. Hitotsubashi specializes in social sciences and is one of the best universities in Japan for economic research. Hitotsubashi is also famous for being one of the top four most selective universities in Japan (based on entrance exam score).

Matt is honored to join Hitotsubashi’s prestigious Faculty of Economics. He looks forward to expanding his research on rural reconstruction to include comparisons between northeast China and other regions within China, as well as international comparisons with Japan and Korea.

Matt earned his PhD at HKUST in 2014, studying with James Lee and Cameron Campbell. He was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Shanxi University 2014-2016 working with Long XING and Yingze HU and an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Iowa from 2016-2020.


New paper recapping 40 years of ‘big data’ research on population, family and social history by James Lee, Cameron Campbell and collaborators

James Lee and Cameron Campbell in Daoyi in 1987

Cameron Campbell and James Lee just published an article on the contributions of the Lee-Campbell Research Group to a new scholarship of discovery in Chinese population history, family history, and socio-economic history based on our construction and analysis from 1979 to 2020 of large historical datasets from largely archival records.  Our paper first introduces these datasets, then describes our joint research, and concludes with a summary of our major analytic results. This publication is an invited contribution to a special issue of Historical Life Course Studies which introduces the major historical population databases. Papers on the Quebec BALSAC project and the Historical Sample of the Netherlands are already posted.

Here is the PDF:

Here is the web page at the journal site, with abstract and links to the PDF (in case the link above stops working):

This article differs from our normal research publications because it is both a career retrospective and a comprehensive summary of everything that James, Cameron and the Lee-Campbell Group have done together over more than four decades that ties everything together and shows how each project led to the next. It starts from our early efforts in population history using household registers, and proceeds sequentially up to the present day, including our new projects on university students, civil officials, and educated professionals.

In front of the No. 1 Historical Archives in Beijing in 1987

The section on the history of our collaboration will hopefully be the most readable: it starts with James Lee’s visit to China in 1979 to look for records in historical archives that could be turned into databases, then Cameron  shows up in 1987 at the end his sophomore year at Caltech. Later others joined to form what is now the Lee-Campbell Group. We also talk about our involvement in the Eurasia Project in Population and Family History including what we hope will be interesting anecdotes, reminisces, and reflections.

The introduction to our databases and summary of results, meanwhile, is the first time we have put almost everything we have done together in one place. We hope that it will be useful for those who may be familiar with specific pieces of our work to gain a better sense of the larger research agenda In into which these pieces fit.

This was a fun paper to write, especially the history section which includes some discussion of our faculty years at Caltech 1982-2002, UCLA 1996-2015, Michigan 1980-1982, 1995-1996, 2002-2009 and most recently HKUST 2009/2013-onwards and the contributions of these institutions and our colleagues to advancing our research projects.

New paper by Cameron Campbell on exam degree holders at the end of the Qing

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-1-739x1024.pngCameron Campbell recently published a paper titled 清末科举停废对士人文官群体的影响——基于微观大数据的宏观新视角 in 社会科学辑刊 on the appointment and subsequent careers of exam degree holders and the overall composition of officialdom between 1900 and 1912, that is at the end of the Qing, and before and after the abolition of the examination system in 1905.

By analysis of quarterly CGED-Q data on civil officials between 1900 and 1912 linked to rosters This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-2-733x1024.pngof jinshi 进士 and juren 举人 degree recipients for specific exam years, the paper shows that annual chances of appointment of men who already held degrees actually increased after 1905, presumably because they were no longer competing with newly-minted exam degree holders. The number of serving officials who held exam degrees remained stable after the abolition of the exams and their turnover rates remained unchained. The share of central government officials who were exam degree holders declined mainly because there was an expansion in the total number of officials, driven by officials who held other kinds of degrees. Increases in the numbers and share of officials who held purchased degrees were especially notable.

The main takeaway is that the abolition of the examination system had little apparent effect on those who already had degrees. They continued to be appointed at roughly the same rate, and those who had appointments had roughly the same level of turnover as before.

Campbell wrote the first draft of the paper in Chinese in summer 2018. Yuying Shen, Ting Wang and especially Bijia Chen then edited the text substantially.

Here’s the Chinese abstract:


Rough English translation:

With the abolition of the examination system and the reform of appointment and promotion of officials during the New Government period as a backdrop, this paper offers a new perspective on the changes in Qing government officialdom before and after the New Government period. Analysis of data on officials in the 12 years after 1900 reveals trends and patterns in the number, composition, and other characteristics of officials. First, according to an analysis of the qualifications of officials, it analyzes time trends in the shares of officials who were jinshi, juren, gongsheng or other degree holders. During the New Government period, jinshi officials were not affected by the adjustment of policies: the numbers of officials with jinshi degrees was remained stable, as did the distribution of positions they held, and the chances of appointment for jinshi from different sittings of the exam were stable. Second, even though the share of local officials who were juren and gongsheng did not change, and there was little change in the chances of appointment for holders of juren degrees, there was a large change in the capital. After the numbers of officials serving in the capital began to increase in 1907, there was an increase in the numbers of juren and gongsheng serving there, and there was a change in the types of positions they held, so that for example there was an increase in the share of of ‘minor capital officials’. Finally, jiansheng and purchased gongsheng had very different trends from jinshi and juren. The numbers of jiansheng and gongsheng increased after 1907, but changes in their distribution were different.


康文林 (Cameron Campbell). 2020. 清末科举停废对士人文官群体的影响——基于微观大数据的宏观新视角 (The Influence of the Abolition of the Examinations at the End of the Qing on the Holders of Exam Degrees).社会科学辑刊 (Social Science Journal) 2020:4(249):156–166. LINK

Extended discussion of Silent Revolution (无声的革命) in a video by Professor Yu Liang (余亮)

On July 12, 2020. Professor Yu Liang posted a video with his extended discussion of our book Silent Revolution (无声的革命) in the context of commentary on the college entrance exam (gaokao 高考).

As of 1:30pm on July 15, 2020, his discussion had been viewed 240,000 times, and ‘liked’ 22,000 times. At that time, it had 4488 messages (弹幕) posted on the video.

Silent Revolution aka Liang Chen, Zhang Hao, Li Lan, Ruan Danqing, Cameron Campbell, Lee, James. 《无声的革命: 北京大学、苏州大学的学生社会来源 1949-2002》(Silent revolution: the social origins of Peking University and Soochow University undergraduates, 1949-2002).  Beijing Joint Publishing, 2013 is an output from our CUSD-PRC project .  We are proud that this book and the larger project of which it is part, eight/nine years after our original publication, continue to have considerable academic and social impact.

English language paper introducing the CGED-Q published in the Journal of Chinese History

Our paper providing an introduction in English to the China Government Employee Dataset-Qing (CGED-Q) is now available at the Journal of Chinese History. The paper is lead-authored by Bijia Chen and is based on the second chapter of her PhD dissertation, which she defended in 2019. The paper will appear in the July 2020 issue.

Here is the abstract:

We introduce the China Government Employee Database—Qing (CGED-Q), a new resource for the quantitative study of Qing officialdom. The CGED-Q details the backgrounds, characteristics and careers of Qing officials who served between 1760 and 1912, with nearly complete coverage of officials serving after 1830. We draw information on careers from the Roster of Government Personnel (jinshenlu), which in each quarterly edition listed approximately 12,500 regular civil offices and their holders in the central government and the provinces. Information about backgrounds and characteristics comes from such linked sources as lists of exam degree holders. In some years, information on military officials is also available. As of February 2020, the CGED-Q comprises 3,817,219 records, of which 3,354,897 are civil offices and the remainder are military. In this article we review the progress and prospects of the project, introduce the sources, transcription procedures, and constructed variables, and provide examples of results to showcase its potential.

Bijia Chen is now a postdoc at  the Renmin University Institute of Qing History.

For more information about the CGED-Q, please see the CGED-Q project page.


Page 2 – Footnote 1 – line 10 – Zhenan should be Zhinan

Page 3- second line in paragraph after heading ‘Origin, current status, and future plans…’, ‘ongoing of study’ should be ‘ongoing study’

Page 3 – Footnote 6 – line 2 – Lishi Yanjiu should be Qingshi Yanjiu

Page 8 – Footnote 22 – line 1 – Jizhi should be Jiazhi

Page 8 – Footnote 26 – line 1 – Jijie should be Ji


New Milestones for Chen Liang

New milestones for Chen Liang, a 2019 青年拔尖人才 Outstanding Young Talent.  Nanjing University promoted Chen to Full Professor of History in Fall 2019, and to  Associate Dean of the College of History in charge of research and graduate training in Spring 2020.

Congratulations Chen!

Paper on assortative marriage in rural Shanxi during the mid-20th century published in Research in Social Stratification and Mobility

Our paper “Education, class and assortative marriage in rural Shanxi, China in the mid-twentieth century” has been accepted at Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. The paper is lead-authored by XING Long at Shanxi University and co-authored by group members Cameron Campbell, Xiangning Li, Matthew Noellert and James Lee. A pre-print is now available open access at the site: This is something we have been working on for a while and it is great to see it coming out. More information about the larger project and the data is available here.

Here is the abstract:

This paper examines the consequences of political, economic and social change in mid-twentieth century China for patterns of assortative mating by both education and class. Traditionally in China, marriages were arranged by parents, and ideally matched families of similar socioeconomic status. However, the Marriage Law passed by the People’s Republic of China in 1950 promoted free choice and forbade arranged marriage and other interference by families in the marriage decisions of their children. Later, Land Reform, Collectivization and other movements had profound impacts on rural household organization and social relations. We investigate their effects on assortative mating by using novel linked administrative data compiled in rural Shanxi Province in North China in the mid-1960s. These data record the education and family class labels (jiating chushen) of spouses for 1459 couples in 30 villages. The class labels were assigned in the 1950s based on family landholding before the Land Reform and became hereditary. We find that class label had effects above and beyond those of education, suggesting that assortative mating studies that only consider education overlook an important dimension of social status in marriage patterns, and thereby overstate the overall permeability of boundaries between social groups. Furthermore, by comparing couples according to whether they married before or after 1949, we find that patterns of homogamy and hypergamy remained highly stable in the face of substantial social transformation after 1949.

Bijia Chen publishes comment on jinshenlu 縉紳錄 as a source

At the end of 2019, Bijia Chen published an extensive note in the Qing History Journal (清史研究) on the importance of the jinshenlu 縉紳錄 as a source of information on the Qing Civil Service, providing clarification and explanation in response to some possibly misleading points made in a 2018 清史研究 article. The full reference for and link to Bijia’s article are below.

陈必佳 (Bijia Chen). 2019. 再论《缙绅录》记载的准确性及其史料价值 (Re-visiting the Accuracy and the Robustness of the Jinshenlu as an Historical Source), 清史研究  (The Qing History Journal), 2019 (4) 129-133.