Scheduled to officially launch on October 13, 2020, the "Multi-database Search System for Historical Chinese Characters" is a joint enterprise of the Institute of History and Philology (IHP), Academia Sinica Center for Digital Cultures (ASCDC), Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Historiographical Institute, the University of Tokyo, National Institute of Japanese Literature, National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics, and the Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University.
The System integrates digitized resources that originate in China and Japan and are now housed in the abovementioned institutions. These data come in a wide variety, comprising wooden and bamboo slips, papers, documents, classics, manuscripts, and woodblock copies from BC eras to the 19th century. Through a single portal, users can access around 1.5 million entries of high-resolution character and images from the five databases across countries and institutions. The digital files are released under the Creative Common license and can be downloaded free of charge for value-added uses.
The standardization of Open Data in recent years has triggered a paradigm shift in digital archives. The "Wooden Slips Character Dictionary—the Edsen-Gol Wooden Slips database from The Institute of History and Philology’s collection" is a joint development that began in 2019 by the IHP and ASCDC. With an open database structure that focuses on wooden and bamboo slips, this Database incorporates technologies such as the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) protocol and Link Open Data (LOD). The Wooden Slips Character Dictionary is not simply a powerful tool intended to step up research that enables browsing with adjustable zoom settings, single-character retrieval, image comparison, and image annotation. It is also a treasure trove for opening up and sharing IHP-housed Han wooden slip images and meta-data, serving as the foundation for the cross-border enterprise, namely the "Multi-database Search System for Historical Chinese Characters."
The IHP, ASCDC, and Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties have jointly established the system for sharing and exchanging text and image data and have agreed to the IIIF common application interface protocols. With the common query language protocols being observed by multiple ends, the queried character images can be retrieved from participating databases and reused.
The "Multi-database Search System for Historical Chinese Characters" is the first innovative cooperation among character image archival institutions. Its official launch marks the beginning of more institutions joining the endeavor and the possibility of furthering technological development. In this very spirit of data sharing, we look forward to breaking through spatial and temporal restrictions and thereby re-creating the chronology and historical context of Chinese character culture complex in East Asia.
Query through the “Multi-database Search System for Historical Chinese Characters” to retrieve simultaneous results from the five participating archival institutions.
"Open Source Database—Wooden Slips Character Dictionary" (2020 "Digital Archives and Digital Humanities Research Project" Digital Research Expo)