CIDR project "The Chinese Deathscape" is published by Stanford University Press

March 20, 2019
Chinese Deathscape cover

The Stanford Libraries' Center for Interdisciplinary Digital Research (CIDR) is proud to share in the announcement of a new publication, by the Stanford University Press, of The Chinese Deathscape: Grave Reform in Modern China, a longstanding collaboration led the publication's editor, Professor Thomas S. Mullaney of the Department of History, and featuring custom design and software development primarily by former CIDR developer David McClure.

This publication is the latest in SU Press's Digital Scholarship series of interactive scholarly works, and the first fully peer-reviewed and professionally published of CIDR's many projects in the digital humanities and computational social sciences.

Interactive scholarly works are an altogether new genre of scholarship that was first described by Karl Grossner and Elijah Meeks (both of whom were CIDR staff members at the time this project was begun) as encompassing digital works that "blur the line between archive, tool, and publication." 

Chinese Deathscape is an interactive scholarly work in the truest sense: it is not only a collection of peer-reviewed essays on a fascinating and little-explored aspect of modern Chinese history, but also a custom-built, interactive historical and geospatial data visualization.  As a reading experience, it prioritizes the immersion that long-form narrative requires; as immersive and interactive scholarship, it encourages the independent exploration of a painstakingly collected and meticulously analyzed set of mapped, time-dependent data.  Deeply combining these two modes of engagement, the Chinese Deathscape application enabled Mullaney and his co-authors to integrate their interpretations with their data, to present their data to the reader, and to extend to her the possibility of scholarly exploration on her own.


Chinese Deathscape screen shot

The "Chinese Graves" project (as we called it internally) began with Mullaney's submission of a proposal in response to one of CIDR's regular calls for faculty collaborations, and its selection by CIDR's faculty advisory board.  A long period of project scoping, planning, data gathering, coding, and refining followed, during which Mullaney — working hand-in-hand with CIDR designers, developers, project managers, and eventually authors — co-created both a unique and compelling platform for scholarly publication, and a proof-of-concept that later digital humanists can look to and adapt for their own scholarship.  Mullaney's work was also aided by student researchers and the staff of Stanford's Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA).

The new publication, hosted by SU Press after its successful creation and migration by a small army of people from both CIDR and the Press, past and present, includes original essays by Mullaney, Christian Henriot (of Aix-Marseille Université), and Jeffrey Snyder-Reinke (of the College of Idaho).  In addition, Mullaney contributed an introduction to the topic of Chinese grave relocation, and McClure (currently a Ph.D. student in the MIT Media Lab) along with digital humanities librarian Glen Worthey contributed a colophon essay describing the origins, design principles, and affordances of the application itself.

The project has been featured in a 7-minute video produced by the Stanford Humaniies Center, and has been the subject of other news reports, from which one can get a glimpse of the importance and fascination of the topic of grave relocation in modern China.  But we invite you to explore the topic in its new native form, by engaging with it directly at

Our congratulations and thanks to everyone on the CIDR and Stanford Press teams who helped make this publication possible, and especially to its lead designer / developer and our former colleague David McClure, and its editor — a truly outstanding scholar, colleague, and collaborator — Tom Mullaney.