A Digital Archive of Buddhist Temple Gazetteers

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Marcus Bingenheimer

    Dharma Drum Buddhist College

  2. 2. Jen-Jou Hung

    Dharma Drum Buddhist College

Work text
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A Digital Archive of
Buddhist Temple
Bingenheimer, Marcus
Dharma Drum Buddhist College
Hung, Jen-jou
Dharma Drum Buddhist College
Temple gazetteers are a subset of the Chinese
genre of gazetteers (difang zhi
). Chinese
gazetteers, or local histories, are composite texts
containing descriptions, bibliographies, poems
and other material pertaining to the history
of a location or region. The temple gazetteers
produced since the 16th century are important
for the study of Chinese Buddhist history. They
are especially relevant for the last three hundred
years, but contain much older material on the
history of Buddhist sites.
The archive is currently being constructed at the
Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taiwan, and
for the first time opens up a large amount of this
material for the study of Buddhism, which so far
has been available only with great difficulty. The
project website is at:
The poster briefly introduces the content and
then focusses on the technical realization
of the "Digital Archive of Buddhist Temple
Though mainly conceived as an online image
database, the project includes 12 large gazetteers
as full-text. These are marked up in TEI for
names and dates and connected to the Buddhist
Authority Database Project (
), to serve information to the
interface. The project is an example for the
growing trend to present full text next to digital
facsimiles and the poster will show one way this
can be done.
As of autumn 2009, the image database consists
of more than 100,000 archival-quality images
in TIFF format. The images were scanned in 8-
bit greyscale at a resolution of 400dpi. From the
digital master we produce watermarked JPEG
files for use in the interface, and these are made
freely available under a Creative Commons
license. The quality of the JPEG files is sufficient
to read and research the material.
The main limitation on the facsimile value of
these images is that they are scans of copies of
the original prints or manuscripts and therefore
cannot achieve the same verisimilitude as
facsimiles taken directly from the originals. This
deficit is mitigated by the fact that the material
itself is unproblematic. Mostly text, it consists
of black and white woodblock prints or brush
writing. Due to the large character-size and
the high image resolution the actual facsimile
quality is high in the “Excellent Readability”
range of the Quality Index (QI) benchmark
for printed text (Kenney & Chapman 1995).
Eventually, 237 gazetteers will be digitized and
made available in the image database.
The gazetteer project includes various kinds of
meta-data. We use MIX (Meta-data for still
Images in XML) to record technical information
about the image files, and meta-data for the TEI
full-text files is kept in the teiHeader section
of each file. While the MIX data is mainly
generated automatically, the TEI meta-data is
created as part of the mark-up process.
There are two other important datasets. First
is the bibliographic data, which contains
important information about the location of
the temples, the relationship between the
two printed collections, the edition history
and chapter order of individual gazetteers,
and additional bibliographic information on
gazetteers collected from other sources. All
this is kept in TEI files to allow for seamless
integration with the other textual data.
Second, we have collected semantic data
pertaining to each image file, i.e. each page.
This data includes the image filename and the
page number from the printed edition, which
is required for the interface, especially for the
majority of gazetteers which have not been
digitized as full-text. This semantic image meta-
data also records the first three characters on
each page and, importantly, all title headings
that appear on the page. This results in a
database of all title headings, which in turn
allows for shallow searches across the whole

Although for production purposes it was useful
to create distinct meta-data sources for the
project, for archival purposes we integrate all of
these different resources in METS wrappers.
The interface is based on the the ExtJS
JavaScript library (
). ExtJS
was chosen because it is one of the more
advanced JS libraries available. It provides
many vital interface functions ‘out-of-the-box’
and is used in for a number of other projects
at the Library and Information Center. The full-
texts are kept in a native XML database called
eXist (
), which stores
and retrieves the TEI source files.
The interface is geared to enable convenient
reading of the gazetteers online. The design is
based on the assumption that digital archives
will increasingly want to present electronic text
in conjunction with and alongside electronic
facsimiles of the original source. Among the
challenges we solved here was how to have
images and text move in unison. Another
problem we faced was how to give the user an
idea about where she was in the structure of
the text, and it was decided to offer a detailed
navigation panel, which contains detailed titles
of every section to address this need. Finally,
for better and more convenient accessibility of
the image files we have included a magnifier to
aid reading. A sophisticated search function lets
users choose to search for strings in the fulltext,
metadata or both, over the whole archive or one
single gazetteer.
Bingenheimer, Marcus
'Bibliographical notes on Buddhist temple
gazetteers and some remarks on their use for the
study of Chinese Buddhist history'.
Oslo Studies
in Language
Brook, Timothy
Sources of Ming-Qing History.
monographs in Chinese Studies. Ann Arbor:
Univ. of Michigan, Center for Chinese Studies V.
Eberhard, Wolfram
Temple Building
Activities in Medieval and Modern China.
Monumenta Serica. V. 23, pp. 264-318.
Zhongguo Fosi Shizhi Huikan
Compiled by Du Jiexiang

(ed.). Taipei 110 vols.
Zhongguo fosizhi congkan

Compiled by Zhang Zhi
(ed.). Hangzhou: Guangling shushe
130 vols.

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2010
"Cultural expression, old and new"

Hosted at King's College London

London, England, United Kingdom

July 7, 2010 - July 10, 2010

142 works by 295 authors indexed

XML available from https://github.com/elliewix/DHAnalysis (still needs to be added)

Conference website: http://dh2010.cch.kcl.ac.uk/

Series: ADHO (5)

Organizers: ADHO

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None