The CHGIS project began with a bequest from the estate of Prof. Robert Hartwell who passed away in 1996.

Hartwell bequeathed datasets that he and Marianne Colson Hartwell created under the auspices of his Chinese Historical Software, Ltd. to Harvard Yenching Institute. These materials included a functioning set of GIS datasets for the Chinese Dynasties, from Tang to Ming, which were based on the concept of "co-location," or the use of GIS representations of modern county-level administrative units as building blocks to depict the approximate shapes of historical areas.

See: The Late Robert M. Hartwell "Chinese Historical Studies, Ltd." Software Project by Peter Bol.

The Hartwell datasets are available at the permanent repository URL: