The HGIS Experience of Drawing Sub-county Unit Boundaries in the Jiangnan Region of Late Imperial China

Ka Chai Tam, Kee Long Billy So

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


During the late imperial period (1100.1911), the Chinese documented local information on almost every part of the imperial realm into generations of local gazetteers (difangzhi or fangzhi). “Local gazetteers are chronicles of the history, present conditions, and noted people of local areas, arranged by topic (Brook 1988: 49.72).” In addition to the detailed accounts of taxation and population records, local customs, governmental policies, biographies of native notables and local historical events, these gazetteers also include primitive maps of towns and other local landmarks. However, there are two obvious limitations to consulting these highly specialized sources when performing geographical and historical research. First, the primitive maps and diagrams of these gazetteers provide insufficient coordination for modern cartography, and give few hints related to spatial analysis (Fig. 11.1). In other words, it would not be worthwhile to handle them directly as secondary sources to be converted into Geographical Information System (GIS) raster data by computer scanning. Second, although much of the information provided by the gazetteers is extremely precise in spatial terms, without a reliable unit platform for sub-county divisions and landscape structures, they can only be analyzed verbally at the county (xian ãp), prefectural (fu) and even provincial levels. It used to be almost impossible to conduct a meso-level analysis of the individual households and the county, i.e., the basic units of Chinese imperial control.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSpace-Time Integration in Geography and GIScience
Subtitle of host publicationResearch Frontiers in the US and China
EditorsMei-Po Kwan, Douglas Richardson, Donggen Wang, Chenghu Zhou
PublisherSpringer, Dordrecht
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9789401792059
ISBN (Print)9789401792042, 9789401779050
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2014

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Geographical Information System
  • Ming Dynasty
  • Historical Geography
  • Triangulate Irregular Network
  • Geographical Information System Database


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