Wait! Before you go...

To improve user experience with the CCVGD datasets, we sincerely invite you to participate in our survey. This survey will help us understand users’ challenges and needs in understanding/using the datasets. Based on your feedback, we will be able to provide more support that will benefit our users.

Link to Survey

We appreciate your time and feedback!

University of Pittsburgh

Agenda Information for the Conference on Rural Society and Politics in China

April 22-23, 2022 | University of Pittsburgh


Amidst rapid urbanization and massive emigration from rural areas in recent decades, the countryside has suffered from increasing neglect. Yet growing urban-rural polarization around the world today tells us that the countryside remains as relevant as ever. American politics and European politics are now utterly divided between urban and rural areas. Similarly, urban-rural inequality bears profound consequences for Chinese society and politics. A substantial amount of the world’s population will remain in the countryside for decades to come, and their lives, livelihoods, and political participation will continue to affect the fates of societies as a whole. This conference brings together scholars from various disciplines to engage in an in-depth discussion about society and politics in the Chinese countryside. A central theme of this conference is to highlight the Contemporary Chinese Village Gazetteer Dataset assembled by the University of Pittsburgh Library System (ULS). Participants are encouraged to present preliminary findings using this dataset, although other kinds of intellectual contributions are also welcome.

Day 1 | Friday, April 22, 2022

Location: 3rd Floor of Hillman in Room 340 A&SC Instruction Room

Time Agenda
9:15–9:30 Opening remarks by Professor Iza Ding and Dr. Kornelia Tancheva, Hillman University Librarian and Director of the University Library System
9:30–10:30 Keynote by Professor Jean Oi, Stanford University (in person)
10:30–10:45 Coffee Break
10:45-11:45 Panel 1: Rural Development
Chair: Huaiyin li | History and Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin

Managing Energy Flow in the Countryside: A Textual and Quantitative Analysis of Fertilizer Data in Village Gazetteers (virtual)
• Zhaojin Zeng | History, Duke Kunshan University
• Qingyi Yin | History, Duke Kunshan University

The use of fertilizer posed a crucial challenge to agricultural production and labor management in Chinese villages in the Maoist period. Drawing on original textual and statistical data from the Chinese Village Gazetteer Database, we explore the dynamics of chemical fertilizer use and its related management, transportation, and educational practices in the countryside. We are particularly interested in the role of fertilizer in the shaping of the broader pattern of energy flow and circulation in the rural economy. A close examination of the village-level data on fertilizer and energy also allows us to better understand the changing relationship between rural and urban, villages and industrial cities, farming laborers and a developmental state in China’s accelerated path of industrial growth in the mid-twentieth century.

Variation of Infrastructure Building Effort in Chinese Villages (virtual)
• Yunhan Wen | Sociology, Princeton University

Using Contemporary Chinese Village Gazetteer Data (downloaded in March 2022), I explored variation in infrastructure building effort in Chinese villages by region. Infrastructure building effort was proxied by the year when tap water or electricity became first available in a village. Preliminary results show a variation in infrastructure building effort by region. Across all regions, there are villages where electricity and tap water were fairly recent fixtures (post 2000), but overall, electricity became available 20 years earlier than tap water. North, east, and south are the earliest regions to have tap water and electricity available in rural villages—not surprisingly, as those are the regions that are economically most developed. Due to the missing data problem, any result yielded by this exploration requires validation from external sources. I will use archival materials and China Family Panel Studies (CFPS), Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS), and census data to further explore variation of infrastructure building effort in rural China.

Rural China’s Mass-Communication Infrastructure as Reflected in Chinese Village Gazettes (in-person)
• Jay Jing Li | History, Duquesne University

Traditional Chinese villages were largely isolated from the outside world. After 1949, especially during the Reform Era, Chinese villages experienced a wide range of changes, and one such change has been in the means of mass communication. The expansion of the mass-communication infrastructure facilitated information flow in rural China, which in turn spurs further changes in the life of China’s rural population. This current paper, based on the information made available through the Contemporary Chinese Village Gazetteer project, takes a preliminary look at how rural China’s mass-communication infrastructure evolved in recent decades.
13:15-13:45 Presentation of the Contemporary Chinese Village Gazetteer Dataset project
• Haihui Zhang | East Asian Library, University of Pittsburgh Library System
• Daqing He | School of Computing and Information, University of Pittsburgh
14:00-15:00 Panel 2: Rural Governance
Chair: Kay Shimizu | Political Science, University of Pittsburgh

Analysis of trends, influential factors, and strategies of rural higher education in China (in person)
• Ruoyun Zheng | Education, University of Pittsburgh

Rural higher education is crucial to the promotion of the rural economy and urbanization in China. Figuring out the trends in higher education in rural areas, as well as potential contributing factors to the development of rural higher education, we could further analyze and study other issues existing in the countryside of China, such as the transformation of rural society, poverty alleviation, etc. Using the Contemporary Chinese Village Gazetteer Dataset, this presentation attempts to dig out the growing trends of rural higher education in China, the potential factors that influence it, and the strategies used to promote higher education.

Social Embeddedness, Power Balance, and Rural Governance in China (in person)
• Meina Cai | University of Connecticut
• Qi Zhang | Fudan University
• Xiaolu Zhao | Fudan University

This research reconciles the positive and negative perspectives of the role of informal institutions in local governance. It argues that local governance outcomes are jointly determined by social embeddedness—the extent to which local community leaders connect with their community members through informal ties, and power balance—the extent to which political power is balanced among local ruling elites to prevent it being captured by informal groups. Using a four-round survey (2005-2016) in rural China, we find that where village officials are more socially embedded and political power is monopolized by a clan, rural households received lower land-taking compensation, administrative expenditure increased, and public investment, although increasing, were unable to meet the public’s needs. Three mechanisms are at work: village officials from the monopolized ruling clan are better able to fragment collective resistance, buy off aggrieved villagers, and collude with the state.

Family planning and population data in village gazetteers (in–person)
• Tina Johnson | History, Saint Vincent College

Contemporary Chinese Village Gazetteer Data (CCVG) housed at the University of Pittsburgh is an important collection that contributes to our understanding of family planning practices and policies in many locations throughout China from 1949 to 2019. The CCVG is especially useful because of a lack of available primary source data from the early PRC period. In addition, the granularity of this local data may illustrate how national population policies were implemented at the village level. This presentation will discuss the types of family planning and population data and accompanying narratives in the gazetteers and how they may be used for scholarly research.
15:00-15:15 Coffee Break
15:15-16:15 Panel 3: Rural History and Religion
Chair: Ruth Mostern | History, University of Pittsburgh

Initial Conclusions from Select Contemporary Chinese Gazetteers –– Recovering History at the Grassroot Level (in–person)
• Yiming Hu | History, Indiana University

Ming and Qing Hunan was viewed as a frontier region, and there was a push by the central state throughout the period to tame Hunan through population settlement programs, the impact of which remains visible today in the contemporary village gazetteers that document the arrival of modern-day Hunanese from other parts of the empire. One salient part of that story is revealed the inclusion of settlement stories from prominent local family genealogies. Through those accounts, we see people who settled in rural Hunan being able to establish their legitimacy to stay there strategically through the establishment of local groupism. I will end my presentation with two more additional aspects of local society. First, it was interesting to see the state’s ownership of women’s bodies through the accounts of family planning. Second, there is the case of a local Tujia minzu identity reclaiming project documented in one of the gazetteers, which underscores an argument Melissa J. Brown made about the “disjuncture between officially assigned ethnic categories, culture and local identity” of Tujia. Hopefully, through my presentation of these three cases, I’m able to demonstrate the merits of village gazetteers as the documenter for both the state at the lowest capacity and grassroot civil societies.

Village Gazetteer as a Genre of Chinese Local Chronicles (in–person)
• Sharon Zhang | History, University of Pittsburgh

This paper examines the historiography of village gazetteers as a genre of Chinese local records. It traces back the history of a variety of early Chinese village gazetteers that first appeared in regions in East China during the Kangxi period of the Qing dynasty. Based on the Contemporary Chinese Village Gazetteer Data (CCVG) collection, the nationwide compilation of village gazetteers roughly began in the 1980s and were accumulated rapidly from 2010 onward. Villages in Northern China in Henan, Hebei, Shanxi, and Shaanxi, and coastal provinces such as Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Guangdong preserved the largest amount of existing chronicle records. Through the method of case studies, this paper focuses on two village gazetteers to comparatively analyze their publication types, the personnel structure of the compilers, and compiling rationales mentioned in the prefaces, investigating the different compilation characteristics of contemporary Chinese rural chronicles in economically developed and underdeveloped regions. The last part of this paper examines the current scholarship on Chinese village gazetteers, pointing out that the CCVG Data project developed by the University of Pittsburgh Library System has become one of the valuable datasets providing researchers in Social Sciences and Humanities with an interdisciplinary perspective on rural societies in contemporary China.

Religions in Contemporary Chinese Village Gazetteers (virtual)
• Hongyu Wu | School for the Humanities and Global Cultures, Ohio Northern University

This paper is a brief survey of religions as presented in some contemporary Chinese village gazetteers. The village gazetteers are rich resources for studying religions in practice at the grassroot level in contemporary China. Village gazetteers have painted a much more complex and diverse picture of the religious landscape in China, with a scope that extends beyond the five religions officially recognized by the Chinese government. The discourses on religion in different village gazetteers are not monolithic. Some of them are in line with the dominant ideology, while some of them subtly deviate from the state-approved discourses to define or categorize religions. In addition, the gazetteers also reveal the diversity in religious practices and the ways in which different religions interact with each other in villages of various areas in China.

Day 2 | Saturday, April 23, 2022

Location: University Club Conference Room A

Time Agenda
9:00-10:30 Panel 4: Rural Welfare and Culture
Chair: Kun Qian | East Asian Linguistics & Literature, University of Pittsburgh

Measuring Healthcare Quality in Rural China: Results from a Standardized Patient Study in the Last Decade (virtual)
• Yaojiang Shi | Shanxi Normal University, China
• Qiufeng Gao | Shanxi Normal University, China

Over the past decade, China has implemented reforms designed to expand access to health care in rural areas. Little objective evidence exists, however, on the quality of that care. This study tries to evaluate the quality of health care delivered by rural primary health facilities and explores effective measurements to improve their care quality. Using standardized patient method, we did three rounds of large-scale evaluation surveys from 2012 to 2021. We also conducted an impact evaluation of online and offline training programs. The findings of the three surveys show that the quality of care remains low. Further analysis suggests that the online training intervention has a significant impact on the quality of care delivered by grassroots providers. Our results highlight the need for policy action to improve primary health care and telemedicine interventions can be considered as feasible solutions.

Health Infrastructure and Slow Violence against Rural Childhood in Post-reform China: An Initial Inquiry (virtual)
• Minhua Ling | Centre for China Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong

China’s entrenched rural-urban divide determines that children of rural background are systematically disadvantaged not only in the education system but also health and other welfare systems. Drawing on ethnographic data, complemented with information from the Contemporary Chinese Village Gazetteer Dataset, this paper examines various aspects of everyday life that affect rural children’s wellbeing, including provision of water and food. It illustrates how rural childhood has been under the assault of “slow violence” (Nixon 2011) imbedded in the mundane yet fundamental health infrastructures. It also calls for a more integrated approach to understand the so-called “left-behind children” issue by turning attention to both material and political economic aspects of the “left-behind landscape” as a whole.

Visualizations of Chinese Local Performance Arts (virtual)
• Yuanziyi Zhang | Kaixinmahua Productions & Theatres Co. Beijing, China

In this presentation, I will introduce a project, Chinese Local Performance Arts from Village Gazetteers. Inspired by the Contemporary Chinese Village Gazetteer Data (CCVG) project, the project uses Chinese village gazetteers as main primary sources. By creating data visualizations in ArcGIS StoryMaps, preliminary conclusions on the geographic distribution pattern of performance art genres in Chinese villages are obtained. In addition, I will also discuss the process and reflections upon working on the project concerning an examination of the assembled dataset, an inspection on digital humanities tools used, and possible future directions of the project.

Education in Rural China: A General Description Using CCVG Data (in person)
• Tong Ru | Education, University of Pittsburgh

Taking advantage of the CCVG (Contemporary Chinese Village Gazetteer) Data that contains village-level geographic, administrative, and socioeconomic characteristics as well as individual-level demographics and educational information for 1,800 villages in rural China, this study will use the CCVG Data to tell a story about education in rural China from 1949 to 2019. First, this study will draw the general trends of educational development in rural China. Along with the continuously revised educational policies and education-related social policies, this study will look at the changes of the following four educational outcomes: 1) Villagers’ highest educational attainment; 2) Enrollment in local primary school; 3) Villagers’ enrollment in higher education; 4) The number of teachers at the local primary school. Then, this study will look at the educational attainments by socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. For socioeconomic status, this study will show whether educational gaps exist between regions, natural environments, and income for the four educational outcomes; for demographics, will mainly describe whether educational gaps exist between ethnicity and migration status. Hopefully, this study will serve as a foundation for future studies to explore more well-designed educational experiments at these villages and improve educational outcomes for rural villages.
10:30-10:45 Coffee Break
10:45-12:15 Panel 5: Cultural Revolution
Chair: Benno Weiner | History, Carnegie Mellon University

The Dilemma of Revolution: The "Revolutions" of the "Revolutionary Parents" in the Sent–down Campaign (1968–1978) (virtual)
• Peidong Sun | History, Cornell University

What did the CCP expect from Chinese parents during the Sent-down Campaign (1968-1978) in the name of revolution? How did the State define “revolutionary parents” since the beginning of the Campaign? Why did the “revolutionary parents” provoke their “revolutions” in every campaign stage? Using local gazetteers, archives, oral history, newspapers, and personal correspondence, the article examines the multiple interactions between the party-state, parents, Zhiqing, and media regarding four revolution issues in the Campaign. Whether sending children to the countryside, putting more daily goods or Chairman Mao's Thoughts in children's luggage, encouraging children to come back celebrating Spring Festivals, helping children go back to cities, or staying in the countryside, their actions demonstrate the dilemma of the Chinese revolution.

Maintaining Social and Political Order in Rural China: Reports from the Police (virtual)
• Juan Wang | McGill University

Rural areas were of particular importance for the CCP. As a revolutionary party that relied on peasants to win a civil war, the CCP was on alert about the remaining armed and organized resistant groups in the countryside. To consolidate its control, the CCP was attentive to the mobilization of political prosecution in villages. To facilitate industrialization and economic redistribution, the CCP was vigilant in keeping rural residents from moving to the cities. All the above efforts were carried out primarily by the police force. This paper draws upon rich archival records of police work reports to county authorities in western China between 1949 and 1963 to examine practices of policing. In particular, Wang looks at the reported operation of a county police department in dealing with population movement and household registrations, which served as foundations for executing policies related to social order, political prosecution, and economic redistribution. Wang’s paper analyzes these police reports with a focus on the language used, the venue and manner in which investigations were conducted, and explanations for conclusions reached. In doing so, this research sheds light on the close connections between investigative methods, the making of bureaucrats, and narrative construction as a practice of policing.

Mobilizing for Trust: The Lasting Impacts of Sent–Down Youths (1968–1977) on Chinese Rural Society (in–person)
• Xin Han | Political Science, University of Pittsburgh

Instead of Putnam’s vigorous civic engagement in making democracy work, authoritarian countries tend to launch mass campaigns to obtain political support and trust from the grassroots for the survival of the party-state. This paper examines the long-term effects of the Sent-Down Youths (SDYs) movement, a state-led campaign sending about 16 million urban youths to rural areas from 1968 to 1977, on social trust in rural China. Using data from historical gazetteers and contemporary surveys, this article shows that rural citizens who were exposed to more intensity of SDYs in history tend to have a higher level of social trust, union membership, and a lower level of trust in local governments. However, no significant evidence shows its effects on their formal political engagement such as village elections. Witnessing the state repression during the SDYs campaign may have engendered less interest in participating in formal political processes such as elections among rural citizens and led them to retreat to associational life based on their increased social trust. Moreover, the peer effect from the social engagement between the sent-down urban youths and the local rural youths as well as the “learning by doing” effect of one’s early life experience are the two main channels of influence to shape rural youths’ social trust and political participation in their later life.

To be Red: Child Propagandists and their Success in the Cultural Revolution (virtual)
• Yi Ren | History, University of Pennsylvania

This presentation explores the success of children in the PRC from a historical perspective, focusing on the case study of a nationally-known model propaganda team, “Red Children,” that was active during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). Serving as a microcosm of children’s success in Mao’s China, the history of the Red Children in rural Southeast Shanxi shows how these children worked within top-down state initiatives to construct their sense of success. Using fresh oral histories, narrowly-circulated internal documents, and CCVG Data source, this presentation argues that, although the party-state was powerful in constructing its discourses on children’s success, children demonstrated agency in utilizing Party-endorsed discourses to define and rationalize their own success.
13:30-14:45 Panel 6: Innovative Use of Rural Data
Chair: Pierre Landry | Government and Public Administration, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Placing published gazetteers in the context of the complete population of villages (virtual)
• Pierre F. Landry | School The Chinese University of Hong Kong
• Austin J. Bliss | School The Chinese University of Hong Kong

While the publication of village gazetteers offers exciting opportunities for China research, questions arise regarding the small share of villages and neighborhoods that can be mapped to a publication. This paper addresses this concern explicitly, by placing villages for which gazetters are available within the broader context of all known villages. We do so first by creating a complete dataset of all villages of Shandong province, based on administrative, demographic as well as remote-sensing data, focused on the urban process of state-driven administrative urbanization, demographic dynamics, and land use. We then test how villages with published gazetteers compare with the ‘silent’ ones, and contrast our findings across various streams of gazetteer data, namely the collection of the University of Pittsburgh, the USC Collection at CUHK, as well as Wan Fang online. We find that Pitt’s collection has considerable strength in numbers and is reasonably representative of the underlying population, at least in Shandong, though we detect a significant ‘urban bias’ that users should account for at the analysis stage. Urban bias is even more pronounced in the holdings of other collections.

Comparative Study of County Gazetteers and Village Gazetteers: A Case from Shandong Province (1987–2013) (virtual)
• Rongqian Ma | School of Computing and Information, University of Pittsburgh

County gazetteers (xianzhi) and village gazetteers (cunzhi) are two major genres of local gazetteers (difang zhi) valuable to historical and social science research in China. This presentation serves as an exploratory study to examine differences in county and village gazetteers as two primary archival sources. The findings and the new questions raised along the way will inform the understanding of the two genres of local gazetteers from an archival perspective. Publications of county gazetteers and the Contemporary Chinese Village Gazetteer (CCVG) database make it possible to discuss the two genres by comparing specific data and descriptive narratives. This presentation compares county gazetteer and village gazetteer with a case study from Shandong Province. More specifically, I compare the data presented in the Gazetteer of Jiaozhou County胶州市志 (1987-2013) and those of three villages in Jiaozhou County included in the CCVG database, which are Nantan 南坦, Shengli 胜利, and Ligezhuang 李哥庄. Multiple questions are asked to guide the comparison: (1) Do the county and village gazetteers include the same data categories? (2) How different are data for the same categories (e.g., education, economics, population) presented and described in county and village gazetteers? (3) What do the differences suggest about the characteristics of the two genres and the ways they can be used for Chinese historical and social sciences research?

How Land Price Distortion Aggravates Rural Inequality in China (in–person)
• Qing Chang | Political Science, University of Pittsburgh

Existing literature demonstrates that local governments intentionally reduce industrial land prices to attract investment while increasing residential land prices to boost government revenue. This “development on land” strategy promotes economic growth but comes with the cost of increasingly rural-urban inequality. This paper provides systematically empirical evidence of how local governments’ intervention in residential land prices worsens rural-urban inequality. I construct a panel dataset on rural-urban inequality using nightlight density from satellite imagery. This approach allows me to measure inequality based on geographical boundary. Combining this dataset with land price data extracted from government digital archives, I show how residential land price distortion contributes substantively to rural-urban inequality.

The Village Consolidation in China: Based on The Contemporary Chinese Village Gazetteer Data (in–person)
• Shuwen Zhang | University of Illinois at Chicago
• Xin Zhi | University of South Carolina

The consolidation between villages is the result of economic development and population migration. From a top-down perspective, village consolidation can integrate resources and streamline government structures; from a bottom-up perspective, with the loss of rural population, the phenomenon of “hollow villages” has appeared in many villages (Tang and Sing, 2010). The consolidation of villages enables the less developed villages to have a better level of public services. However, there are also concerns that the consolidation will exacerbate poverty in less-developed villages (Cui, 2020). This study will identify villages that may have experienced consolidation through the rapid population changes in the Contemporary Chinese Village Gazetteer Data (CCVG), and then cross-check them through content analysis of the Villages Gazetteers. After identifying these consolidated villages, both qualitative and quantitative analysis will be applied to explore the factor and consequences of consolidation. First, this study will extract insight into the consolidation from the Villages Gazetteers through content analysis. Then, the consolidation information will be combined with other socio-economic and political data for a Difference-in-Difference analysis to explore pre- and post-consolidation changes.
14:45-15:00 Coffee Break
15:00–16:00 Concluding Keynote by Andrew Walder, Stanford University (in–person)