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A Chinese ancient book digital humanities research platform to support digital humanities research

Chih-Ming Chen (Graduate Institute of Library, Information and Archival Studies, National Chengchi University, Taipei City, Taiwan)
Chung Chang (Research Center for Chinese Cultural Subjectivity, National Chengchi University, Taipei City, Taiwan)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 3 June 2019

Issue publication date: 3 June 2019




With the rapid development of digital humanities, some digital humanities platforms have been successfully developed to support digital humanities research for humanists. However, most of them have still not provided a friendly digital reading environment and practicable social network analysis tool to support humanists on interpreting texts and exploring characters’ social network relationships. Moreover, the advancement of digitization technologies for the retrieval and use of Chinese ancient books is arising an unprecedented challenge and opportunity. For these reasons, this paper aims to present a Chinese ancient books digital humanities research platform (CABDHRP) to support historical China studies. In addition to providing digital archives, digital reading, basic search and advanced search functions for Chinese ancient books, this platform still provides two novel functions that can more effectively support digital humanities research, including an automatic text annotation system (ATAS) for interpreting texts and a character social network relationship map tool (CSNRMT) for exploring characters’ social network relationships.


This study adopted DSpace, an open-source institutional repository system, to serve as a digital archives system for archiving scanned images, metadata, and full texts to develop the CABDHRP for supporting digital humanities (DH) research. Moreover, the ATAS developed in the CABDHRP used the Node.js framework to implement the system’s front- and back-end services, as well as application programming interfaces (APIs) provided by different databases, such as China Biographical Database (CBDB) and TGAZ, used to retrieve the useful linked data (LD) sources for interpreting ancient texts. Also, Neo4j which is an open-source graph database management system was used to implement the CSNRMT of the CABDHRP. Finally, JavaScript and jQuery were applied to develop a monitoring program embedded in the CABDHRP to record the use processes from humanists based on xAPI (experience API). To understand the research participants’ perception when interpreting the historical texts and characters’ social network relationships with the support of ATAS and CSNRMT, semi-structured interviews with 21 research participants were conducted.


An ATAS embedded in the reading interface of CABDHRP can collect resources from different databases through LD for automatically annotating ancient texts to support digital humanities research. It allows the humanists to refer to resources from diverse databases when interpreting ancient texts, as well as provides a friendly text annotation reader for humanists to interpret ancient text through reading. Additionally, the CSNRMT provided by the CABDHRP can semi-automatically identify characters’ names based on Chinese word segmentation technology and humanists’ support to confirm and analyze characters’ social network relationships from Chinese ancient books based on visualizing characters’ social networks as a knowledge graph. The CABDHRP not only can stimulate humanists to explore new viewpoints in a humanistic research, but also can promote the public to emerge the learning interest and awareness of Chinese ancient books.


This study proposed a novel CABDHRP that provides the advanced features, including the automatic word segmentation of Chinese text, automatic Chinese text annotation, semi-automatic character social network analysis and user behavior analysis, that are different from other existed digital humanities platforms. Currently, there is no this kind of digital humanities platform developed for humanists to support digital humanities research.



Chen, C.-M. and Chang, C. (2019), "A Chinese ancient book digital humanities research platform to support digital humanities research", The Electronic Library, Vol. 37 No. 2, pp. 314-336.



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