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Harvard Workshop on the Use of the
China Biographical Database (CBDB)
in the Study of Tang China

Harvard University

August  22–23, 2013

The T’ang Studies Society is conducting a workshop in the use of the China Biographical Database to take place at Harvard on August 22-23, 2013.. 

Workshop Program:

A workshop on the CBDB for Tang scholars is being planned for Thursday and Friday, August 22-23, at Harvard University, free of charge, run by Michael Fuller with help from others working on the CBDB. The workshop is for scholars with any research topic in Tang political, intellectual, religious, literary, or social history that involve networks of people and can use the China Biographical Database (CBDB) dataset. The workshop will begin with the general principles of relational databases as a way of modeling biographical information and then explain the details of how the tables in CBDB represent kinship, social relations, office-holding, etc. for pre-modern China. After an introduction to the querying interface provided by MS Access, the rest of the workshop will focus on how to use CBDB to explore the specific projects of the workshop participants. The final portion will show how to use the query results in social network analysis (SNA) and GIS software. (The workshop will be able to use the by-then -- we hope -- newly added data from Nick Tackett’s and Yao Ping’s research materials.).

Daily Schedule:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Session One:  9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon
From Flatland to Modeling Historical Experience:  Thinking through Relational Databases
Harvard Tang CBCB Workshop Session 1.pdf

Session Two:  1:00 - 4:00 p.m.
The Structure and Functions of the China Biographical Database, with Query Examples
Harvard Tang CBCB Workshop Session 2.pdf

Friday, August 23, 2013

Session Three:  9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon
The Design of Research Projects using Relational Database Entities and CBDB
Harvard Tang CBCB Workshop Session 3.pdf

Session Four: 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Querying, Analysis and Visualization with Social Network Analysis (SNA) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software


Hotel Reservations:

Participants must arrange their own accommodations during the workshop. Please note that the workshop will begin promptly at 9 a.m. both days, so please take into account commute time to Harvard when making your hotel selection. The Harvard Admissions Office provides a list of hotels at various prices and distances at the following URL:

Better prices are often available through online hotel reservation sites.


Participants who are TSS members are eligible for a subvention of up to $200 to help defray their costs of attendance. A subvention application form is available TSS Subvention Application Form.docx. Applications will also be available at the workshop.


For questions regarding the logistics of the workshop (e.g. subventions, schedules, membership inquiries), please contact:

Professor Anthony DeBlasi
Department of East Asian Studies
Humanities 210
University at Albany
Albany, NY 12222

Technical Matters:

A.  The main website for the Chinese Biographical Database Project is available at the following URL:

You can follow the “Download” link at the upper right to download the database and associated documentation.

B.  Windows users (and those Mac users with a WIndows partition) will need

  1. 1. MS Access (2007 or later). 
    Visual Basic and some Windows features that we use do not work well in the 64-bit version of Access, so I hope that people have the 32-bit version.  You can check by opening Access, click on the File menu and then Help:  the version will be displayed on the right.

  1. 2. Pajek
    Pajek is a free Social Network Analysis program that we will use on Friday afternoon
    For PC users:
    For Mac users, the Pajek authors suggest a PC VM program, see the Installation Documentation:
    Pajek documentation is at:

  1. 3. TSSWorkshopExample.rar

  1. 4. The current version of CBDB ( This uses a RAR compression format, which is much better for Access data than ZIP. If you don’t have a program that can expand RAR files, there are quite a few on the web.  WinRAR works fine.

C.  For the Mac, we will be using a combination of free software that you will need to install:

  1. 1. OpenOffice Base, at  (It is simplest to install the entire suite, but it also is possible (I believe) to install just Base.)

  1. 2. Mac ODBC Administrator:  check to see if you have an ODBC Manager or Administrator among your Utilities.  If not, please download and install ODBC Administrator from the Apple website:

  1. 3. SQLite ODBC driver:

    We will use the ODBC Administrator and the SQLite ODBC driver to allow OpenOffice Base to open Christian Wittern’s SQLite version of CBDB.  I’ll explain how to do this at the workshop.

    Getting Started with OpenOffice Base:

D.  In order to get the most out of the workshop, it be useful for you to explore CBDB a bit beforehand: 

  1. 1. I already have mentioned the CBDB user’s guide.

  2. 2. For PC users, Once you have expanded the current version of CBDB, please open it and launch the browser by clicking on the first button (“Look up data on an Individual”).  Granted, this is a workshop on the Tang, but someone like 蘇軾 will give you a good picture of the data we collect on people.  If you have the time, you also can try out some of the built-in querying forms.

  3. 3. For those of you with Macs but no Windows partition and no Access, please visit the CBDB querying system on the web:

  4. 4. Look up a well-known Tang figure, and we hopefully will have him, and you can see the type of data we collect.  And of course you always can try 蘇軾.

Questions about technical topics, including recommended computer hardware and software, please contact:

Professor Michael A. Fuller
University of California, Irvine

Most recently updated: 07/13/2015