Week 7 (Feb 28, Mar 2):

Tuesday Biography and Prosopography

  • Learning Objectives:
    • Understand the traditions of Chinese biographical writing
    • Understand “prosopography” as an approach of historical research
  • Readings:
    • Denis C. Twitchett, “Chinese Biographical Writing.” Historians of China and Japan. Eds. W. G. Beasley and Edwin G. Pulleyblank. London: Oxford University Press, 1961. 95-114.
    • Biography of Lü Zuqian” in the dynastic history
    • Lawrence Stone, “Prosopography.” In Historical Studies Today, edited by Felix Gilbert, E. J. Hobsbawm and Stephen Richards Graubard. New York: W. W. Norton, 1972.
  • Further Readings:
    • K. S. B. Keats-Rohan, ed. Prosopography Approaches and Applications: A Handbook (Oxford: Unit for Prosopographical Research University of Oxford, 2007): “Abstracts of Papers” (pp.xi-xix) and “Introduction” (pp.1-32).

Study Guide:

  1. According to Twitchett, what are the most significant differences between a Chinese biography and a biography in the Western tradition? How does he explain these differences?
  2. Read the biography of Lü Zuqian as an example of an official biography from imperial China. Does it support Twitchett’s argument? What information does a Chinese biography usually provide? What historical questions will Chinese biographies help address? What are the questions a Chinese biography cannot answer?
  3. Read Lawrence Stone’s classical review of prosopography. Consider: What is prosopography? How are the goals and methods of prosopography variously conceived? What are the methodological assumptions in Stone’s account of prosopography? What are the limits and dangers of prosopographical studies?

Thursday XML, RegEx and Data Mining

Study Guide:

  1. Read Birnbaum’s article carefully. Consider: What does an XML document do? In what ways is it different from a simple free-flowing text? More specifically, you should be able to explain the following concepts about an XML file after reading this article.
    • What is an “element”? What does it consist of?
    • What is an “attribute”? Where does it appear in an XML file?
    • What requirements does a well-formed XML document have to meet?
    • What are “character entities”? What character entities cannot be entered directly into an XML document? What is the solution to this problem?
    • Try your best to understand the structure of an XML document and be able to draw a tree diagram for an XML document.
  2. Skim the article by Peter Bol. Consider how he and his team have employed computational methods to extract data from texts.