Information, Territory, and Networks

 

In Information, Territory, and Networks: The Crisis and Maintenance of Empire in Song China (c 2015) I argue that a structural transformation took place in the production and dissemination of information about the Chinese polity. Genres such as maps showing the Chinese territories, archival compilations, court gazetttes, and military geographies, which had been authored mainly by court officials for consumption by the same group, were by the twelfth century authored, read, and commented upon by cultural elites living across the Song Empire. I trace these changes in political communication between court and literati at the level of institutional change, legal history, and cultural production. On the basis of systematic analyses of notebooks and other genres recording literati reading practices, I further argue that the surge in literati textual production exhibited two important features which led to a tendency towards the formation and maintenance of large imperial states in Chinese history from this point onwards. First, literati tended to articulate an imperial mission, a commitment to an idealized Chinese commonwealth, in secondary discourse about the polity. Second, the scope of the networks through which texts were exchanged tended to be broad, diverse, and geographically crossregional. 

The questions of how to research the reception history of state documents and how to analyze the communication networks of literati led me to explore a range of digital methodologies. The core data on which my arguments were based are accessible from the links below. I add a brief explanation of the format of the data and the history of the transformation of the initial methodologies into a text analysis platform below.

Beginnings: Encoding Communication Networks

In the hundreds of notebooks that have come down to us from the Song period literati recorded memories of conversations and reflections on texts. Following a review of dozens of titles, I selected Wang Mingqing's series of notebooks titled Huizhu lu (Waving the Duster) for systematic analysis due to the relatively minor position of the author in the bureaucracy, the broad range of interests he articulated in the notebook, and the rich citation information. In order to examine the geographic and temporal distribution and the social makeup of Wang Mingqing's informants and in order to map out the citation frequency and thus the potential centrality of particular informants, source texts, and genres, I coded all notebook entries for the following information: 1) authors; 2) titles of books and other texts; 3) other informants including interlocutors and secondary interlocutors (those whose conversations were relayed through an interlocutor), collectors, and patrons (who provided access to or ordered written materials); 4) oral and written quotations (where this could not be determined, the quote attribute ambivalent is used); 5) the main topical categories of each entry; 6) the time period discussed in each entry. Citation information concerns the sources Wang Mingqing referred to directly and typically does not include secondary citations within the quoted texts or passages of reported speech. I gave most of these elements attributes. For titles I provided an indication of the genre to which the title belongs and noted whether it was cited, quoted, or just mentioned; when relevant I indicated whether the title is analytical (a piece in a larger body of work) or above monograph level (series). I gave titles known under different names (usually abbreviated titles) a standardized title as an attribute. Temporal markup covers all references to reign periods and emperor’s names (including both ancestral and tomb names). 

I linked all personal names to the extent possible to China Biographical Database (CBDB), a project coordinated by Peter Bol, Michael Fuller, et al. By linking into this vast and growing prosopographical database, I gained access to extensive biographical, family, and career information on many informants. I mapped all place names in informants’ biographical and career information using the historical GIS data in CHGIS, a project coordinated by Peter Bol and Lex Berman. 

I coded all data in XML-TEI, thus creating datasets in the original texts that could be exported with relative ease and that are interoperable. I created all maps and tables in chapter 7 on the basis of this methodology. I thank James Cummings and the late Sebastian Rahtz for introducing me to TEI and XQuery.

With funding obtained through the British Academy and the Oxford University John Fell Fund a team of graduate student used the same methdology to encode additional notebooks by Wang Mingqing, Sima Guang, and Zhang Shinan. I thank Lik Hang Tsui, Chen Yunju, Li Yun-Chung, and You Zixi for their contributions. Their work is also accessible below. 

An Interactive Reading Platform

Hou Ieong Brent Ho transformed the texts and data into an online platform that allows for the interactive visualization of the information networks embedded in the encoded notebook texts. Readers can test arguments made in Information, Territory and Networks and perform other analyses of the texts and data. Follow the links to the interactive readings platform for all texts or individual texts below. You can:

  • create heat and cluster maps of the places where informants hailed from or served in by moving from the Basic or Posting tables in Table View to the Map View
  • compare the temporal distribution of authors in different notebooks by filtering for authors in the Role table, then dragging the Book Title and IndexYearPeriod columns up, and finally moving to Bar Chart or Pie Chart View to see the results
  • analyze the social backgrounds of informants by dragging columns in the Entry and/or Postings tables in Table View that you would like to explore in the Bar Chart of Pie Chart View
  • check on the frequency of citation of different kinds of informants or individuals across notebooks by using the No. of Entries or No. of Books columns in the Basic table in Table View
  • link back to the passages in which informants occur by clicking on ChName in the Basic tabel in Table View (clicking on the CBDBid links to information about the informant in CBDB)
 
Keep in mind that:
  • you can filter from both the Table and Map views (IndexYear filter in Basic Table View allows for ranges)
  • views are interactive so you can set a filter in one table and move back to another table or view
  • reset the filter (top right) or you will be adding filters
  • you can sort from individual columns or from the top sort menu

Introduction video

 

Online textual markup and analysis

In 2014 Hou Ieong Brent Ho and I launched a first version of MARKUS, an online reading and text analysis platform that is based on the manual markup procedures described above. In MARKUS you can upload any text in traditional Chinese characters and automatically encode personal and place names, time references, and bureaucratic offices or use custom dictionaries and tags. MARKUS automatically links to CBDB and other databases and allows you to visualize tagged data in one simple step in maps, networks graphs, pie charts, tag clouds, and tables. These features and a range of other functionality is listed on Digital Asia and illlustrated in short videos

Below we link to MARKUS files that include informant and title tags for Wang Mingqing's, Sima Guang's, and Zhang Shinan's notebooks. Brent Hou Ieong Ho converted these from the original TEI-XML files and Daniel Stumm reviewed the converted files. Since time conversion works differently in MARKUS than in the original temporal markup, I have included separate excel files with the temporal data (nianhao and emperors) referred to and tabulated in Information, Territory and Networks. Links to spreadsheets with the basic data used in the interactive reading platform and the data included in the MARKUS files are also provided below. There may be minor discrepancies between the original markup used in Information, Territory and Networks and the converted files. If you spot any problems or have questions feel free to contact us.

Hilde De Weerdt

 

Links

All notebooks (揮麈前錄,揮麈後錄,揮麈第三錄,揮麈餘話,投轄錄,玉照新志,涑水記聞,游宦紀聞)

Interactive reading platform

 

揮麈前錄 [王明清] (hzls1)

Interactive reading platform | network data (excel)

Informants and texts: Save text (MARKUS) | data (excel) 

Time references (nianhao and emperors): data (excel)

 

揮麈後錄 [王明清] (hzls2)

Interactive reading platform | network data (excel)

Informants and texts: Save text (MARKUS) | data (excel)

Time references (nianhao and emperors): data (excel)

 

揮麈第三錄 [王明清] (hzls3)

Interactive reading platform | network data (excel)

Informants and texts: Save text (MARKUS) | data (excel)

Time references (nianhao and emperors): data (excel)

 

揮麈餘話 [王明清] (hzls4)

Interactive reading platform | network data (excel)

Informants and texts: Save text (MARKUS) | data (excel)

Time references (nianhao and emperors): data (excel)

 

投轄錄 [王明清] (txl)

Interactive reading platform | network data (excel)

Informants and texts: Save text (MARKUS) | data (excel)

Time references (nianhao and emperors): data (excel)

 

玉照新志 [王明清] (yzxz)

Interactive reading platform | network data (excel)

Informants and texts: Save text (MARKUS) | data (excel)

Time references (nianhao and emperors): data (excel)

 

涑水記聞 [司馬光] (ssjw)

Interactive reading platform | network data (excel)

Informants and texts: Save text (MARKUS) | data (excel)

Time references (nianhao and emperors): data (excel)


游宦紀聞 [張世南] (yhjw)

Interactive reading platform | network data (excel)

Informants and texts: Save text (MARKUS) | data (excel)

Time references (nianhao and emperors): data (excel)

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