MCGD Search Engine

The Modern China Geospatial Database (MCGD) seeks to provide an all-encompassing series of datasets for the spatial analysis of modern China. The ENP-China project has produced a comprehensive series of vector layers related to the administrative geography of China in the Republican period. These data layers are available on the MCGD repository on ArcGIS Online.

On this page, we provide another component of MCGD, namely the gazetteer of all place names in modern China, with its Search Engine. Our purpose is to identify and collect all the name variants under which locations in China were named in historical sources. In particular, this includes the amazing variety of transliteration systems through which Westerners designated place names (e.g. for Shanghai: Shang-hae, Changhaï, Schanghai, etc.). Of course, the main purpose is to enable users to find and locate any place name on a map thanks to the geo-coordinates attached to each location.

The MCGD Search interface can be used to identify and locate place names. Users can search a single place name or they can upload a list of place names as a CSV file. The search engine will retrieve any name, in Chinese or any transliteration system, and provide the geo-coordinates, along with the current name in Chinese and pinyin, as well as all known designations. In Latin scripts, names are capital sensitive. All place names in any system of transliteration should start with a capital letter.

For best results, we recommend to always include both the name of the place and the name of the province as the same place names appear multiple times across China.
The MCGD gazetteer is made up of the MCGD Main Dataset, and two subsets: MCGD_Rep and MCGD_PRC. We describe below the content of each dataset, but the search interface also provides a statistical description of the content of each file by province.

MCGD Main Dataset contains all the data that we have collected on locations in modern China. Altogether there are 466,165 entries. We update the content regularly as new names come to our knowledge. The data include the following variables: name of locations and their variants in Chinese, pinyin, and any recorded transliteration; name of the province in Chinese and in pinyin; Province ID; latitude and longitude; Name ID and Location ID.  The Name IDs all start with “H” followed by seven digits, except for locations in Taiwan that start with “T” (data from Geonames). Locations IDs that start with “DH” are data points extracted from the China Historical GIS (Harvard University); those that start with “D” are locations extracted from the data points in Geonames; those that start with “A” or “E” represent data points that we have added from various map sources. The Name ID and Location ID are the internal ID system of MCGD.

MCGD_Rep is a sample of data extracted from the MCGD Main Dataset for the Republican period. It is based mostly on the list of xian (county) seats in 1931 [Source: Zang, Lihe  臧励龢, ed. Zhongguo gujin diming da cidian 中国古今地名大辞典. Shanghai 上海: Commercial Press, 1931], with the addition of some external sources. By and large, it presents a list of the major locations in China between 1900 and 1949. It contains 1,977 entries with the following variables: name in Chinese, name in pinyin; name of the province in Chinese and in pinyin; latitude and longitude, and Name ID and Location ID.

MCGD_PRC is a list of cities in today’s People’s Republic of China. It includes 2,525 locations, with with the following variables: name in Chinese (both traditional and simplified Chinese), name in pinyin, name of the province in Chinese and in pinyin; latitude and longitude.
All MCGD data is published for free academic use, and the contents are made available on the ENP-China Repository on Zenodo.

Cite this blog post
Christian Henriot (2022, February 9). MCGD Search Engine. Elites, Networks and Power in modern China. Retrieved February 29, 2024, from

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