Journal of Official Statistics, Vol.3, No.1, 1987. pp. 3743

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The Earliest Statistical Tables in China

This paper discusses the embryonic forms, the compilations, and the evolution of statistical tables from Shang Dynasty (1 600–1 700 B.C.) to West Han Dynasty (206–8 B.C.) in China.This paper emphasizes the work of the Chinese historian Sima Qian who compiled ten chronological tables in 91 B.C., the earliest statistical tables ever known in China. These tables consist of a combination of words and figures and provide basic information about the Dukedoms under the reign of Han Dynasty emperors. Sima Qian laid down explicitly the basic forms of statistical tables including headings, item titles, units of measurement, sequence of events, shape of table, and the name of the indicator. There seems to be little difference between these tables and the modern ones as far as the form is concerned. Sima Qian also put forward some theories about statistical tables. The theories and techniques of statistical tabulation created by Sima Qian have had a great influence on the development of science and culture in China.

Statistical tables, statistical data; Book of History; Records of History; chronological table, Sima Qian; tortoise shell inscription; tax rating.

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