Modern China Biographical Database (MCBD)

We are pleased to announce the public release of the Modern China Biographical Database (MCBD) by the ENP-China project (ERC).

MCBD is a freely accessible relational database that aims at recording all the historical actors active in China in the Late Qing and Republican periods (1830–1949), regardless of their origin, nationality and the duration of their presence in China. It has been developed by the ERC-funded “Elites, Networks, and Power in Modern Urban China” (ENP-China) project to serve a much broader purpose. Based on the Heurist web database system. MCBD constitutes a core initiative to establish a long-term free resource for historical research in the China field.

Although it revolves primarily around individuals, MCBD also includes the institutions (government, administration, association, company), locations, and events (any form of individual or collective action) related to these individuals. While the temporal coverage is linked to the timeline of the ENP-China Project, the database will extend incrementally to later periods through future research projects or contributions by scholars involved in the study of contemporary China.

The data in MCDB comes from a wide range of sources – biographical dictionaries, who’s who, directories, newspapers, archives, Wikipedia and Baidu. It also relies on the incorporation of large datasets produced by the members of the team in previous research. The Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica has made a particularly significant contribution by sharing the data collected on its 近現代人物資訊整合系統 platform.

MCBD currently holds data on more than 75,000 individuals, with information on 20,000 positions and 6,000 curricula/degrees, as well as 10,000 institutions and 14,000 companies. A major feature of MCBD is to present individuals under all the forms their name took, both in Chinese and in all sorts of transliterations in Western-language sources. This is also true of the name of companies and institutions.         

The data is being enriched and updated regularly to include newly collected and curated sources. It is open to external contributions by accredited users.

MCBD creates the conditions for the systematic exploration of biographical data from various perspectives and methodological approaches. It offers infinite possibility to explore and visualize the connections between individuals, institutions, locations and events. MCDB is meant to serve as a tool for both qualitative and quantitative analysis, including statistical, social network, spatial and NLP-driven textual analysis, as well as graphs and all types of visualizations.

The current public interface provides access to a regular search engine to explore the data. We plan to make further features available, such as mapping, SNA, as well as data export functions. In-between, we shall place bulk dumps of the whole database on the ENP-China Repository on Zenodo.

Cite this blog post
Christian Henriot (2021, March 26). Modern China Biographical Database (MCBD). Blog Virtual Shanghai. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from

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