Bulletin Spring‧Summer Autumn‧Winter 1999

Seventeen cents per character A COMPUTERIZED DATABASE OF THE ENTIRE BODY OF EXTANT HAN (206 BC - AD 220) AND PRE-HAN TRADITIONAL CHINESE TEXTS The database when completed will be a most useful tool for research in ancient Chinese culture. This project will cost HK$135 million and involve the inputting of eight million Chinese characters into the computer. The gross cost of each character in the database is therefore 17 cents. In 1988, Prof. D.C. Lau of the Department o f Chinese Language and Literature and Dr. Fong-Ching Chen of the Institute of Chinese Studies put forward a proposal for the establishment of a computerized database of the entire body of extant Han (206 BC — AD 220) and pre-Han traditional Chinese texts. This project has now been given grants totalling $135 million by the University and Polytechnic Grants Committee and obtained technical support from the University's Computer Services Centre. A project team consistin g of seven members will compile this eight-million- character (30-40 M byte) database in three years. Prof. D.C. Lau (left) and Dr. F.C. Chen (right) Project Objectives This project has two objectives. First, as extant Han and pre-Han traditional Chinese texts constitute the backbone of traditional Chinese culture, the compilation o f a computerized database of such texts will bring them within the realm of computer technology, thus facilitating a wide range of research on the subject. The completed database w i ll be made available to the international academic community, whether scholars be interested in Chinese literature, history, philosophy, linguistics, or lexicography. Clearly the database w i l l be a most valuable tool for scholars in the field of ancient Chinese studies. Secondly, with the establishment of such a database, a series of concordances to individual ancient Chinese texts can be compiled and published in printed form. A similar task was attempted by the Harvard- Yenching Institute in the thirties, when Dr. William But undertook to supervise the compilation of the Harvard-Yenching Sinological concordance series. Unfortunately, wor k on this series was interrupted by the Second World War. Although quite a number of concordances were published, a far greater number of texts remained untouched. Prof. Lau recalls that, in 1965, when he called on Prof. Yang Lian Sheng at Harvard, he raised the question of reviving the concordance series and was told that the institute was no longer interested in resuming the work. With the advent of the computer, however, the compilation of such a computerized database in Hong Kong has become a possibility, and this University has taken upon itself the responsibility to complete the task started by the Harvard-Yenching Institute half a century ago. The project team plans to produce The Ancient Chinese Texts Concordance Series in two stages. Texts without existing concordances are to be done first. After this has been completed those texts with existing concordances w i l l be redone to achieve greater accuracy and to provide more detailed textual notes. r e s e a r c h 8