With a member count of one editor for every five million Chinese people, you would be forgiven for assuming that WikiProject China is too small to cope with such a heaving load of work. However, the project is coping more than well enough without the massive number of participants. In this week's WikiProject Report, we present a special double interview with Danaman5 and PericlesofAthens.
Tell us a little about your history in relation to Wikipedia.
Danaman5: I first edited Wikipedia in November 2004, but my account lay dormant for a long time after that. I returned in January 2006, doing various edits. I became an administrator in September 2007. Besides my involvement with WikiProject China, which I will detail below, I have done a lot of grunt work: categorizing, formatting, new page patrol, anti-vandalism, and so on.
Chinese language abilities are helpful, but not required; there are plenty of people who can help you translate anything that you need to.
What appealed to you most about WikiProject China?
I study Chinese language and culture in college, so it was a natural fit for me. I also felt that it was under-represented on the English Wikipedia due to a natural bias toward European and American topics. As a result, there was, and is, so much left to do.
Which areas of WikiProject China do you contribute to?
I do a lot of tagging of articles, which is important, because it gets them into our workflow through article alerts and the like. I also do quite a bit of translation from the Chinese Wikipedia. There are a lot of articles about places in China and Chinese political figures that have an article on the Chinese Wikipedia, but not here. Furthermore, I have written and improved some articles, including Beijing opera and Jin Shengtan. Finally, I help to answer questions on the talk page for the project.
How can new users contribute to WikiProject China?
We don't have a very rigid structure, so just join in. Chinese language abilities are helpful, but not required; there are plenty of people who can help you translate anything that you need to. We always need help on article assessments, as well as solid article writers.
Are there any content or review drives at the WikiProject?
Nothing beyond our article assessments, but perhaps we should start one.
Which areas of the Chinese coverage on Wikipedia are you the most pleased with? Which do you think need more work?
Thanks to some excellent work by User:PericlesofAthens and others, a lot of our Chinese Dynasty articles are very good now, as are our articles on important intellectuals in China's past. As I mentioned above, we need a lot of work on places in China and modern Chinese political figures. Many of these places have over 100,000 people in them, certainly deserving of an article, since we have articles about little towns in the United States with a fraction of that. With the political figures, too, we still lack articles for a lot of people who would be on the level of Members of Congress in the United States, yet we have no articles for them.
Honestly, I don't really follow soccer (I'm an American, what did you expect?), but I've heard that China's team is pretty bad, so they probably won't even make the World Cup.
Tell us a little about your background on Wikipedia and with WikiProject China.
PericlesofAthens: I joined Wikipedia back in March 2007 after I was made aware that a fellow member on a history forum All Empires had made a Wiki account (and was possibly adding dubious content that needed to be fixed!). I won't name names. I initially focused on editing just a few articles relating to Chinese history (which I have been studying in college). I first joined WikiProject Three Kingdoms—a workgroup under WikiProject Chinese history—as a means to help anyone who might have inquiries about Three Kingdoms topics. However, I have a broad interest in Chinese history that expands far beyond the Three Kingdoms, reflected in the articles I have brought to Good and Featured status. I also don't confine my efforts to what WikiProject China lists as its target articles for improvement (you could call me a loner or a rogue in that regard). However, I have often sought the aid and advice of WikiProject China members such as User:Nlu and User:Ling.Nut (the latter has unfortunately retired).
Over the two years that I have been a member at Wikipedia, I've elevated Tang Dynasty, Song Dynasty, Ming Dynasty, and many other articles to featured status, with the help of various members. I also have a featured topic for Song Dynasty and its various branch articles that I brought to good or featured status. Sometime this year, I hope to nominate my second featured topic on the era of the Han Dynasty and the related branch articles I created; so far I have lifted all of them up to Good status. History of the Han Dynasty is a current featured article candidate (still working out the kinks, though). If I had to name my favorite specialized interest within Chinese history, it would have to be the progress of science and technology throughout the ages. In this regard, I lifted the articles on China's premodern scientists and inventors Zhang Heng and Shen Kuo to featured status, while Su Song and the military technology book Huolongjing are both Good articles thanks to my contributions.
Sometimes, when I perhaps get a little bored with Chinese history, I choose to work on history articles that only partially focus on China or do not deal with Chinese history at all. In terms of featured articles of mine in this category, I could point to Tibet during the Ming Dynasty, the 15th-century Korean traveler Choe Bu, the 14th-century Florentine chronicler Giovanni Villani (his Nuova Cronica is a Good article of mine), and the first ruler of the Roman Empire, Augustus. I felt the latter article needed serious attention, and since I had access to a university library (and still do), I considered myself the man for the job. I also brought the article on the 16th-century Portuguese traveler Fernão Pires de Andrade to Good status, a crucial history article in terms of Europe's first direct contacts with the premodern Chinese empire.
Due to its large scope and complexity, do you consider WikiProject China to be an umbrella project?
Yeah, I would certainly consider it an umbrella project. One glance at the page WikiProject China/Workgroups shows the variety of subjects that the WikiProject covers. Beyond the history workgroup which I'm a member of, there are separate workgroups for arts and entertainment, geography, government, language, etc. It has basically 'everything under the sun', so to speak. The assertion on WikiProject China's main page that "the scope of this project includes all topics related to China" holds true, although I have found many new and old articles relating to China where the WikiProject China banner was not yet featured on the talk page. However, the more articles we tag, the more we build awareness of our WikiProject. Whenever I create a new article relating to China, I never forget to 'fly the banner'.
3. Has there been any discussion of a tagging/reassessment drive to help fix that problem?
Not that I know of. Adding appropriate banners is done more on an individual basis, rather than by a motivated group effort. It's difficult to spot all of the recently-established articles that might be missing the banner, since one would have to pay close attention to all the sub-categories under Category:China. Since this is the case, I think planning a group effort by all WikiProject members to tag talk pages with the banner would be a worthwhile pursuit.
A map of one's country with clearly-defined borders is a powerful symbol of national identity. As one would expect, there has been some discussion at Talk:Geography of China about the limits of China's geography and whether it should be described as the land under one state or another, or should be described as the land under all states which claim "China" as their sovereign territory. Parallel to the separation of articles for China, People's Republic of China, and Republic of China, one can easily see why there are separate articles for Geography of China, Geography of the People's Republic of China, and Geography of Taiwan: Wikipedia does not take a stand on which parts of "China" can be legitimately claimed by either state, but includes the viewpoints of both the PRC and ROC on the matter of jurisdiction. One would think the article Geography of China might become a playground for those who push a certain POV, but I would say that less "sexy" geography articles receive far less attention in this regard than articles like the Political status of Taiwan (the title itself spells trouble! Hah). Despite the (necessary) existence of certain articles which seem to attract ultranationalists who have too much time on their hands and something to prove, I would argue that the vast majority of talk page discussions for China-related articles are tame and cordial ones between established users.
5. You mentioned bringing Song Dynasty and its satellites to Featured Topic status, as well as the possibility of doing the same with Han Dynasty. Besides the other dynasties, what China-related topics would you like to see featured?
6. Do Chinese-language translations, transliterations, or sources ever pose a problem to you or the other non-speakers of the project?
Well, I'm learning Mandarin Chinese right now, so the difficulty of recognizing various characters is becoming less of a concern. However, I can't speak or read at the native level yet, so I still have trouble assessing some Chinese language sources used here. That's unfortunate, because in my experience at Wikipedia, I have run into some serious problems with Chinese-language sources. However, sometimes this has nothing to do with my inability to read them, but simply the obscurity of them or their unavailability at places like my university library. The most recent example of this would be a source used in Inner Asia during the Tang Dynasty; the only way I could get my hands on this particular source used there would be to purchase the book online. If I had access to the source, I could defuse an ongoing conflict there between two members: the editor who originally cited the source, and another editor who doubts that the latter faithfully represented his source. In regards to Chinese-language translations and transliterations, there are members of WikiProject China who can speak and read both Chinese and English at the native level, so they have no problem writing English-based Wiki articles using Chinese-language sources like the Zizhi Tongjian.
Aside from confirming material in Chinese-language sources or using them to write entire English-based articles, there is also the issue of translating key terms and phrases. Unless a term is very obscure (in which case it probably shouldn't even have an English Wiki article), direct translations should not be the creative inventions of Wiki editors, but should follow credible scholars and how they choose to translate certain Chinese-language terms or phrases into English. For example, in the article Government of the Han Dynasty, for the central-government post of Yushi dafu 御史大夫, I used the translations of three different scholars: Hans Bielenstein (1980) chooses to translate it as "Grandee Secretary", Rafe de Crespigny (2007) chooses to translate it as "Imperial Counselor", while Wang Yu-ch'uan (1949) chooses to translate it as "Imperial Secretary". Since there is really no scholarly consensus on how this phrase should be properly translated into English, it's best to present multiple English renditions from different scholars. The only problem I've seen on Wikipedia regarding translations such as this is editors failing to present what the scholarly consensus is; if there is no widespread consensus, the other problem is editors only presenting a translation variant from one source instead of many.
This may come as a surprise to you, but as far as I know, there was no direct involvement of the WikiProject with the 2008 Olympic Games article! No big announcements, no discussion on the WikiProject talk page, nothing (although members of the WikiProject might have taken the initiative to edit the article in individual efforts; the answer lies buried in the article's revision history). Although I kept myself updated by periodically viewing the page for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games (while it was still going on), I did not bother to edit the article at all. The Olympics are simply not my forté, although I'll admit that they were entertaining to watch (especially the opening ceremony). Given its public and global prominence, that's the type of Wiki article which receives a great amount of attention by dedicated editors from all over the globe. I would much rather focus my efforts on articles which don't receive such widespread attention, but are nonetheless deserving of quality contributions. Olympic games come and go in a flash; other things are more timeless.
8. Finally, do you think WikiProject China's more contentious articles could benefit from some form of flagged revisions?
I honestly don't think it would hurt if such an alert system was in place for the more "contentious" articles. What the WikiProject China Banner has so far is a "comments" page for all articles' quality ratings, where the issue of an edit war might come up in regards to its effect on an article's rating. However, this doesn't specifically address contentious articles that would perhaps need to be stewarded by WikiProject members, and doesn't alert WikiProject members that the article might have edit war problems. I'm not sure how the WikiProject would officially categorize such articles, perhaps [[Category:China-related articles under WikiProject China supervision]]??? I don't think the WikiProject could have too much of a role in this, though, considering how contentious edit wars are already handled by forces outside the WikiProject. Any individual—whether a WikiProject member or not—can contact the Administrator's Noticeboard about violations of the three-revert rule. There's also the Arbitration Committee which handles a variety of contentious issues.