Historical Geographic Data of the Silk Road Zone II Versions EN2 Vol 3 (3) 2018
A dataset of lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang region of the late Qing and Republican period
: 2018 - 05 - 14
: 2018 - 05 - 28
: 2018 - 08 - 16
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Abstract & Keywords
Abstract: Lakes and wetlands are sensitive factors and indicators of regional environmental changes in arid areas. The recovery of lake and wetland information in Xinjiang provides hydrologic data for global change studies, as well as essential environmental data for studies of the Silk Road in historical periods. This dataset was obtained by means of digitalizing the 1909 Atlas of Xinjiang Province and a set of large-scale military topographic maps of Xinjiang in 1935. All the data extracted were then validated against historical documents and modern satellite images. Standard classification and coding were then performed to build the dataset of lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang region of the late Qing and Republican period.
Keywords: Xinjiang; first half of the 20th century; modern map; lakes; wetlands
Dataset Profile
Chinese title晚清民国新疆地区湖泊、湿地数据集
English titleA dataset of lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang region of the late Qing and Republican period
Data corresponding authorPan Wei (475174983@qq.com)
Data authorsSu Raorao, Wang Fang, Pan Wei
Time range1900s, 1930sData volume1.08 MB
Geographical scopeXinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
Data format*.prj, *.sbn, *.sbx, *.shp, *.shx, *.xlsx
Data service system<http://www.sciencedb.cn/dataSet/handle/618>
Sources of fundingNational Social Science Fund of China (14ZDB031); Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2017CSZ017)
Dataset compositionThis dataset consists of lake and wetland data of Xinjiang in the 1900s and 1930s.
1.   Introduction
Under accelerated globalization starting from the 20th century, global environmental change has become a hot topic in academic fields. Relevant projects were launched in succession, such as International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) and International Human Dimensions Program (IHDP).1 Global change has multiple effects on the earth's resources, particularly water resources. In this background, water security was listed among the Millennium Development Goals by United Nations.2 As important containers of water storage, lakes and wetlands are sensitive factors and indicators of global environmental change which are widely concerned by scholars.3–7
Scientists have conducted in-depth studies on lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang, such as the use of lake sediments and historical topographic maps to reveal environmental changes and climate background of the lake area,5,8–11 the exploration of lake and wetland changes and their driving factors through 3S, water chemistry or historical literature.12–17 Despite progress in the data collection, existing datasets are largely of contemporary periods and the datasets are not opened for public access.18–20 Lack of complete spatio-temporal data on the lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang has restricted the study of water environment in arid regions under the background of global environmental change. While historical literature can play an important role in global change research,21 topographic maps of late Qing and Republican China have provided solid data support for this study.
2.   Data collection and processing
2.1   Data sources
2.1.1   Source overview
For lack of modern technologies in the late Qing and Republican period (e.g., satellite remote sensing), reconstruction of the lake and wetland data in Xinjiang of the period has to rely on accurate maps. The surveying and mapping of Xinjiang region started relatively late as compared to the mapping of other parts of China. The maps drawn prior to the Republican period were not uniform in scale and had large errors.22,23 Among a number of maps compiled in late Qing and Republican China, most notable are Atlas of Xinjiang Province (《新疆全省舆图》) published in 1909, and the 1:300 000 Military Topographic Mapsof Xinjiang (hereinafter referred to as Topographic Maps) compiled by the Bureau of Land Survey of the General Staff of Republican China (Table 1).
Table 1   Profile of source maps
MapYear publishedScaleRegistration methodVersion
Atlas of Xinjiang Province1909VariedLatitude & longitude / geographical namesReprint edition by the Oriental Society
Military Topographic Maps of Xinjiang19351:300 000Four-corner latitudes and longitudesEdition compiled by the Bureau of Land Survey of the General Staff
A complete set of modern atlases of Xinjiang, Atlas of Xinjiang Province is part of Xinjiang Maps and Illustrations (《新疆图志》).23 This study uses a reprint edition published by the Oriental Society in 1909. Made up of 58 maps, the atlas reflects the geographical pattern of Xinjiang in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.23,24 The map uses Beijing as the central meridian and the equator as the central latitude. 24
The original copy of Topographic Maps is currently stored in the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica. According to its description, Topographic Maps, was published in 1935 – 1936, and it contains 217 sets of maps, of which 3 are missing. With a full provincial coverage, it uses a uniform scale of 1:300 000, and the latitude and longitude are placed at the four corners of the map. Topographic Maps as a whole reflects the basic geography of Xinjiang in the first half of the 20th century.11
As the quality of the data relies on the accuracy of the map elements, we validated the data extracted from Atlas of Xinjiang Province against historical documents of the same period, including Xinjiang Maps and Illustrations25 and Xinjiang Local Records (《新疆乡土志稿》).26 It was found that all the lakes and wetlands were well documented by Atlas of Xinjiang Province, including their locations and shapes, and that Atlas of Xinjiang Province presented a consistent record of other elements such as settlements, water systems, post stations, road directions, etc., which basically confirmed the authenticity and reliability of the data.
2.1.2   Source analysis: advantages and constraints
Atlas of Xinjiang Province and Topographic Maps have many advantages when used to reconstruct the lake and wetland data in Xinjiang of the late Qing and Republican period. These include: (1) Good spatial coverage. The two sets of maps cover the entire territory of Xinjiang; (2) Representative time span. While the past century witnessed the most significant global changes, the maps reflect the first half of the 20th century when data were relatively scarce; (3) Well preserved source material. Only three topographic maps are missing, which had little effect on the overall reconstruction work; (4) Clear map symbols, which helped identify and extract the lakes and wetlands. On the other hand, the maps have the following constraints: (1) Atlas of Xinjiang Province lacks a good mathematical foundation. The feature of an administrative unit was expressed through irregular shapes, and the elements within the territory were expressed in greater detail while those beyond the unit were roughly represented. In addition, with a small scale in response to Xijiang’s fewer settlements, maps that used four-corner coordinates or place names to register usually had substantial distortion or deformationl (2) As noted by Topographic Maps, the maps were drawn from different sources and with varied complexities, and erroneous directions or positions might have occurred during the editing process. (3) Atlas of Xinjiang Province used different scales for different maps, which directly affected the map stitching work. Among the set of maps, the largest scale adopted was 1:257 000for Fukang County (阜康县) and Fuyuan County (孚远县) while the smallest scale was 1:2000 000 for Hotan Prefecture (和田州), and the average scale was about 1:722 500.
2.2   Collection and processing methods
Based on modern maps, this dataset was built by referring to Landsat images (Landsat Global Synthetic Data 1999 – 2003) and standard place names for map registration. Under ArcGIS 10.2 environment, two-dimensional vector data of the lakes and wetlands were identified and extracted by using a uniform 2000 China Geodetic Coordinate System (CGCS2000). In the process, errors were corrected and the data were classified and encoded to generate the dataset (Figure 1). Following measures were taken to tackle the above-mentioned problems.

Fig.1   Flowchart for generating the lake and wetland dataset
First of all, concerning post-registration distortion and deformation, we converted the maps in Atlas of Xinjiang Province using its own latitude and longitude system. The central meridian of Beijing (116.40°E) was converted into the prime meridian (i.e., 0° central meridian), while the latitude remained unchanged. We adopted the WGS1984 coordinates system for all the conversions. Place name registration was performed on the deformed maps to minimize deviation. This is hitherto a more effective way to deal with the set of maps. There were also errors derived from the digitized historical maps, on such aspects as measurement, assumed latitude and longitude, or the research itself. We referred to modern images, where ancient and modern features were located.27 Based on the latitude and longitude information on CHGIS4.0 1911 (Chinese Historical Geographic Information System), we calculated the latitude and longitude deviations of the map information after registration, and then performed spatial correction on the lake and wetland map layers. At the same time, manual adjustment was made by referring to Landsat images, modern electronic maps, historical documents25,26,28–30 and place name data, which proved to be effective in reducing errors in the absence of sufficient registration or deformation information.
Secondly, to break the predicaments of Topographic Maps, we used the maps’ own latitude and longitude information for positioning and map registration. It was found that, after registration, the ground objects were offset from their original positions, in a disordered distribution pattern that demonstrated no obvious laws. A comparison of the settlement latitude and longitude between the map and those of CHGIS4.0 showed similar errors, which indicated such deviations were actually caused by mapping techniques. We then performed manual adjustment on the layers by referring to the latitude and longitude information on CHGIS4.0 in 1911, Landsat images and modern electronic maps.
The varied scales adopted by Atlas of Xinjiang Province, on the other hand, resulted from social and regional conditions of that time. In late Qing and early Republican China, for political turbulence complicated geomorphological conditions and territorial vastness of Xinjiang, maps failed to adopt a uniform scale. However, this only restricted our selection of certain features, while the shape and spatial location of the surface water was not affected, which means that the data sources are still reliable.
In addition, the lakes in Xinjiang were classified into settlement lake, subsidence lake, glacial lake, inter-river lake, oxbow lake, wind erosion lake, overflow lake and artificial lake.30 A validation of the data against modern satellite imagery showed that certain water elements recorded in Atlas of Xinjiang Province and Topographic Maps were represented ambiguously – certain non-lake and non-wetland valleys were denoted by the symbol of lake. This might result from limited surveying and mapping techniques of that particular time, where cartographers had to refer to other maps for filling in the blank. For such cases, the original water body pattern was retained during data extraction.
3.   Sample description
3.1   Data classification and dataset construction
Lakes and wetlands are important components of water resources. A unified classification and coding of the lakes and wetlands helps promote information exchange, integration and sharing between different systems. Based on the specifications of natural geographical entity classification (national standards GB/T 18521-2001), the data were divided into two categories (i.e., 1900s and 1930s) according to, their diachronic characteristics. Under each category, lakes and wetlands were further distinguished. Surface water properties and data source characteristics were used for the data classification, which optimized the lake and wetland dataset construction to the greatest extent.
Table 2   Classification standards and codes for the lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang of the late Qing and Republican period
ClassClass codeSubclassSubclass code
Lakes and wetlands in the 1900sA010LakeA011
Lakes and wetlands in the 1930sB030LakeB031
The dataset of lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang region of the late Qing and Republican period was constructed after the data were classified into lakes and wetlands. The polygon data were named and stored as "LAKE" and "WETLAND", respectively (Table 3).
Table 3   Division of data element layer
Attribute dataFeature layerData typeNumber of elements
Surface dataLAKES IN 1900Polygon538
3.2   Spatial distribution of the lakes and wetlands
Use ArcGIS to open the lake and wetland data, and the spatial distribution pattern of the lakes and wetlands is obtained (Figure 2).

Fig.2   Spatial distribution of the lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang in the 1900s(a) and 1930s(b)
We can use ArcGIS 10.2 to calculate the area of major lakes in the 1930s. Results are shown in Table 4.
Table 4   Major surface water bodies in Xinjiang in the 1930s
Lake nameChinese nameNorth latitude (°)East longitude (°)Elevation (m)Area (km2)
Ulungur Lake乌伦古尔湖47.287.3489887.3
Lop Nor罗布泊40907685610
Ebinur Lake艾比湖44.882.81891229
Sayram Lake赛里木湖44.581.22073333.3
Bosten Lake博斯腾湖41.986.61048621.3
Baijia haizi白家海子44.887.5894185.5
Aydingkol Lake艾丁湖42.689.2−16146.41
Manas Lake玛纳斯湖45.285.5257945.8
Kanas Lake喀纳斯湖48.786.91374132.5
4.   Quality control and assessment
A major problem for reconstructing the historical features of the lakes and wetlands is lack of data precision caused by survey and measurement errors. In this regard, the academic community has proposed more controllable methods.27,31 This study mainly uses the following three methods for data quality control and evaluation. Firstly, offset errors were estimated and corrected by superimposing the electronic map with extracted layers and surface water data. Secondly, the digitalized layers were validated and manually recalibrated by referring to existing research findings and Landsat images, including Western Region Atlas and Annotations (《西域图志》), Waterways of the Western Regions (《西域水道记》), Xinjiang Maps and Illustrations, Hydrogeography of Xinjiang, and Chinese Historical Physical Geography. Finally, topological errors were checked and corrected by using Arcgis10.2. Data quality was mainly controlled and guaranteed through the above-mentioned three methods.
5.   Usage notes
This dataset contains spatial data of the lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang region in the 1900s and 1930s. It can be opened and edited by using geographic information system software such as ArcGIS. This dataset can be used to evaluate the changes of the lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang, and to reconstruct the process of lake and wetland changes in Qing and Republican China in the background of global changes. In addition, it provides hydrologic and environmental data for the study of the Silk Road and the Xinjiang society in historical periods during Republican China.
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Data citation
1. Su R, Wang F & Pan W. A dataset of lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang region of the late Qing and Republican period, Science Data Bank. DOI: 10.11922/sciencedb.618
Article and author information
How to cite this article
Su R, Wang F & Pan W. A dataset of lakes and wetlands in Xinjiang region of the late Qing and Republican period, China Scientific Data 3(2018). DOI: 10.11922/csdata.2018.0018.zh
Su Raorao
data collection and processing, paper writing.
Master's candidate; research area: historical physical geography.
Wang Fang
data collection and processing.
MSc; research area: historical physical geography.
Pan Wei
technical support.
PhD, Associate Professor; research area: historical physical geography, historical geographic information system.
National Social Science Fund of China (14ZDB031); Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2017CSZ017)
Publication records
Published: Aug. 16, 2018 ( VersionsEN2
Released: May 28, 2018 ( VersionsZH5
Published: Aug. 16, 2018 ( VersionsZH6
Updated: Aug. 16, 2018 ( VersionsZH8