Nearly ten years ago, Dr. Grace Fong (McGill) began an ambitious digitization project that made accessible, some for the first time, close to 90 poetry collections produced by Chinese women writers during the Ming and Qing dynasties (spanning the 17th to 19th centuries). Working with the Harvard Yenching Library and later with additional partners from China’s Peking and Sun Yat-sen Universities, the collection became the “Ming Qing Women’s Writings” online archive and database, which today is frequently rated among the top ten digital collections at McGill by usage.
Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Development Grant, the database is currently developing cross system access to the China Biographical Database at Harvard University, which allows for larger scale study of women writers within their socio-familial context in Late Imperial China. Additionally, the fully digitized texts are accessible by thematic content, ethnicity and other metadata fields, as well as more traditional search fields. The breadth of both the collection and access points makes MQWW an extremely powerful research tool for students and researchers alike.
Originally supported by the Dr. Richard Charles & Esther Yewpick Lee Foundation, Dr. Fong’s team has recently received funding from the Henry Luce Foundation, which will allow the archive to begin the digitization process of 230 collections from the National Library of China, making it the largest and perhaps most comprehensive collection of women’s writings of the period. When asked about her future goals for the project, Dr. Fong noted that the grant will allow her team to explore new research methods and develop visualization and data mining tools for the interface, in addition to the inclusion of new material.
The Ming Qing Women’s Writings archive can be accessed via its website http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/mingqing/english/index.htm