Historical Geographic Data of the Silk Road Zone II Versions EN1 Vol 3 (3) 2018
A dataset of human settlements in the Shiyang River basin of Qing and Republican periods
: 2018 - 05 - 13
: 2018 - 05 - 29
: 2018 - 08 - 19
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Abstract & Keywords
Abstract: Located in arid Hexi Region, the Shiyang River basin is historically an unavoidable node of the Silk Road. Human settlements in the basin are important for studies of social and ecological environment in arid regions. This dateset is hence not only important for research on ecological environment changes in arid regions, but also for historical studies of the Silk Road at large. The dateset assembles human settlement information in the Shiyang River basin from gazetteer, geographical survey, and atlas. Through detailed textual research, we identified the spatial and temporal distribution of these human settlements. The settlements were then classified into different categories for building the dateset of human settlements in the Shiyang River basin of Qing and Republican periods.
Keywords: Qing and Republican China; Shiyang River; human settlement; geographic information system
Dataset Profile
Chinese title清至民国石羊河流域聚落数据集
English titleA dataset of human settlements in the Shiyang River basin of Qing and Republican periods
Data corresponding authorZhang Ping (zhangping029@126.com)
Data authorsLuo Cong, Zhang Ping
Time range1644 – 1949
Geographical scope37°06′N – 39°27′N, 101°22′E – 104°04′E; specific areas include Jinchang City, Wuwei City, Yongchang County, Minqin County, Gulang County, and northern Tianzhu County.
Data volume2.48 MB
Data format*.shp, *.dbf, *.prj, *.sbn, *.sbx, *.shx
Data service system<http://www.sciencedb.cn/dataSet/handle/586>
Sources of fundingNational Social Science Fund of China (14ZDB031)
Dataset compositionThis dataset is composed of four shapefiles on human settlements in 1657, 1749, 1934 and 1939. Each shapefile consists of six files in the following formats: *.shp, *.dbf, *.prj, *.sbn, *.sbx, *.shx.
1.   Introduction
Connecting the West with the East, the Silk Road passed through lots of human settlements that became important traffic nodes. These settlements have, as a whole, formed a vital part of the Silk Road studies.1 Settlement evolution reflects not only the socio-cultural changes of a place, but also the environment changes of a place like the Shiyang River basin which is characterized by environmental fragility. For this reason, human settlement evolution has received considerable scholarly attention.
Based on modern geography, settlements are divided into urban and rural. A traditional way of settlement research is through narratives. In recent years, new methods emerged as the Geography Information System was popularized in historical studies. The land use of historical cities was estimated,2 presenting a new approach to urban studies. Meanwhile, the emergence of new methods has fostered a diversification of data sources. To gather the place names of an ancient city, map is another important material besides traditional sources.3 Human settlement data provide importance references not only for historical studies of settlement evolution, but also for research on environmental changes in historical periods. Especially in ecologically fragile regions, an analysis of such data allows us to perceive the relationship between the scale, location, hierarchy, and environment of a settlement.4 Human settlement data are thus especially important. While there is abundant literature on this aspect for the Qing and Republican periods, few are applicable to the Shiyang River basin whose ecological environment was under dramatic changes. Traditional literature cannot fully reflect human settlement evolution in the Shiyang River basin of Qing and Republican periods. This dataset assemblages settlement data from gazetteer, survey and atlas, providing data for studies on settlement evolution and ecological changes of the basin, as well as for studies on social and environmental changes in arid regions at large.
2.   Data collection and processing
2.1   Data sources
This dataset is collected from gazetteer, survey and atlas.
(1) Gazetteer constitutes the main source of the human settlement data. These include Liangzhen Chronicles (reprinted) issued in 1964 (the 6th year of the reign of Emperor Shunzhi), Annals of Five Counties in Liangzhou issued in 1749 (the 14th year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong), Zhenfan County Annals issued during the reign of Emperor Xuantong, and Gulang County Annals for the Republican periods. Information covers the name, location and quantity of human settlements, as well as their distances to respective cities.
(2) Geographical survey refers to the Geographical Survey of Gansu Province released during the reign of Emperor Xuantong, when the Qing government surveyed geographic conditions nationwide except for Tibet. Now kept in Gunsu Provincial Library, this survey recorded geographic information of Gansu Province of that period in units of town or township, covering such aspects as the location, distance, households, population and annotations of 65 units of county levels and above.5 It is an important material for collecting the settlement information in the Shiyang River basin. However, the survey does not have a full coverage of the basin – It covers Gulang and Yongchang counties but not Minqin and Wuwei counties.
(3) The atlas refers to Provincial- and County-level Atlas of Gusu Province published in Beiping (a former name of Beijing) in 1934. It consists of 84 maps, including 81 county-level maps and 3 provincial-level maps of the current Qinghai, Gansu and Xining provinces. The Atlas has some advantages. First, it has a full coverage of human settlements in the Shiyang River basin. Second, it uses varied measurement scales for different-scaled counties. For example, a 1:80 000 000 scale is used for the map of Yongchang county, 1:34,000,000 for Gulang county and 1:50,000,000 for Minqin county, and 1:40,000,000 for Wuwei county. The varied scales provide important references for using this atlas. The settlement information presented in this atlas serves as important supplementary data for building the dataset of human settlements in the basin of Qing and Republican periods.
2.2   Collection and processing methods
This dataset is for the settlements in the Shiyang River basin of Qing and Republican periods. Settlement here generally refers to all kinds of human living places,6 including prefecture, county town, village, Manchu city and fort-type settlements. The data have a time range from the Qing Dynasty to the Republican period. On this basis, this study extracted the name and location of the settlements, as well as their distance to respective county towns, which were saved as Excel files.
The correspondence between historical and modern settlements was the focus of the data processing. In the 305 years from Qing to Republican periods, these settlements rose and fell, the process of which was accelerated by ecological environment changes, which rendered particular importance to textual research of the settlements. After textual validation of each settlement, the correspondence between historical and modern settlements was categorized into the following three cases:
(1) The historical settlement has a consistent name with its corresponding modern settlement. We measured the location of each settlement and its distance from the country town, based on which we determined whether the locations of the historical and modern settlements were consistent or not. The specific locations of the historical settlements were confirmed.
(2) The historical settlement still exists but its name has changed. The locations of these settlements were then determined by their corresponding modern settlements, which were taken from history books including A Collection of Place Names in Wuwei County, Place Names in Yongchang County, Place Names in Gulang County, The Gazetteer of the People’s Republic of China: Gansu Province, and so on.
(3) Ancient settlements were abandoned. For these settlements, their longitude and latitude were checked and determined through textural research.
Another difficulty of the data processing was to trace the time of settlement formation and abolishment. The first concerns the starting year of the settlements. Because the settlements were formed gradually which exhibited a certain degree of temporal continuity, some of the fortresses or cities in the early Qing Dynasty dated back to the Ming Dynasty. For example, Liangzhen Chronicles (reprinted), which recorded the settlement status of the year 1644, was compiled in 1657 (the fourteenth year during the reign of Emperor Shunzhi). The formation year was entered if it was clearly recorded, or the time of the literature compiled, where the settlement was first recorded, was taken as the year of settlement formation. The second concerns the time of settlement abolishment. If the settlement lasts until present, the time of its abolishment was recorded as 1949, as per the time range of this dataset. But if the settlement was abolished and the time was not recorded, the time of the literature compiled, where the settlement was recorded for the last time, was taken as the time of settlement abolishment. The above-mentioned temporal information was stored in Excel to supplement existing human settlement data.
Google Earth was used as a reference to locate the historical settlements. All the data retrieved were stored in KML format, which were then converted into a shapefile using Arctoolbox on ArcGIS 10.2. The GCS_WGS_1984 coordinate system was used as the geographical reference system of this study. The specific process for establishing this dataset is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1   Flowchart for generating the dataset of human settlements in the Shiyang River basin in Qing and Republican China
3.   Sample description
3.1   Data classification
This dataset demonstrates settlement changes in the Shiyang River basin in Qing and Republican periods. The settlements were divided into three categories in the light of different geographic entities they represented: city, fortress, village (Table 1). As such, there were four cities – Wuwei, Gulang, Minqin and Yongchang. Fortress here designates military settlements, including small fort [堡寨], camp/barrack [营], manchu city [满城]. Village designates rural settlements. This partition was made based on the different functions of the settlements.
Table 1   Classification of human settlements in the Shiyang River basin in Qing and Republican China
分类ClassClassification code
3.2   Sample description
In the shapefile, the field “ancient_c” in the attribute table records the county where the historical settlement was located. “ancient_s” records the name of the historical settlement. “present_c” records the current county where the historical settlement was located. “present_s” records the current name of the historical settlement, where “abandoned” designates vanished settlements. “distance” records the distance between the settlement and its respective county town (unit: li), where “0” designates missing data when the settlement information was extracted from maps. “begin_year” records the time when the settlement started to emerge. “end_year” records the time when the settlement vanished. “references” records the source of the data. Through data query, users can obtain settlement information in the Shiyang River basin of any specified year during 1644 – 1949.
Figures 2, 3, 4 & 5 show settlement data of the years 1657, 1749, 1934, and 1939, respectively. The distribution maps were drawn using ArcGIS 10.2, based on settlement information extracted from literature material and maps and a subsequent spatial location of the settlements.

Figure 2   Settlement distribution in 1657

Figure 3   Settlement distribution in 1749

Figure 4   Settlement distribution in 1934

Figure 5   Settlement distribution in 1939
4.   Quality control and assessment
Quality control of the settlement data was mainly performed from the following three perspectives. The first concerns data sources. Located in northwest China, the Shiyang River basin was not sufficiently recorded in local gazetteers in the Qing and Republican periods. We used geographical survey and atlas for the Republican period to supplement local gazetteers, through which comprehensive settlement information of the basin during the Qing and Republican periods was collected. Fundamental data of this dataset are described in great details. The second concerns settlement verification. We tried to correlate the historical settlements with their corresponding current sites as a way of data verification, through geographical name, cultural and historical documents, academic work and textual criticism. Fundamental data of this dataset are of high credibility. Finally, we used ArcGIS 10.2 to check and modify the data to ensure data accuracy.
5.   Usage notes
The dataset is made up of shapefiles that can be read and written by the mainstream GIS software. This dataset records the settlement evolution in the Shiyang River basin of Qing and Republican periods. The data are drawn from local gazetteers, survey and atlas. It hosts detailed settlement information in the Shiyang River basin from 1644 to 1949, Additionally, settlement data of the four years are illustrated through maps. This dataset can exhibit settlement distribution and related information of any specified year in this period, providing fundamental data to explore settlement evolution, social vicissitude or environmental evolution in the Shiyang River basin from the Qing Dynasty to the Republican period.
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Data citation
1. Luo C & Zhang P. A dataset of human settlements in the Shiyang River basin of Qing and Republican periods. Science Data Bank. DOI: 0.11922/sciencedb.586
Article and author information
How to cite this article
Luo C & Zhang P. A dataset of human settlements in the Shiyang River basin of Qing and Republican periods. China Scientific Data 3(2018). DOI: 10.11922/csdata.2018.0014.zh
Luo Cong
data acquisition, historical textual research, data generation.
PhD candidate; research area: historical settlement geography.
Zhang Ping
data acquisition, structural guidance.
PhD, Professor; research area: historical geography, historical geographical information system.
National Social Science Fund of China (14ZDB031)
Publication records
Published: Aug. 19, 2018 ( VersionsEN1
Released: May 29, 2018 ( VersionsZH2
Published: Aug. 19, 2018 ( VersionsZH3
Updated: Aug. 19, 2018 ( VersionsZH4