An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yue haiguan zhi 粵海關志

Apr 6, 2021 © Ulrich Theobald

Yue haiguan zhi 粵海關志 is a book on the overseas custom of Guangzhou 廣州 (Canton), Guangdong, which was of particular importance for Western merchants during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911). The book of 30 juan of length was compiled by Liang Tingnan 梁廷楠 (1796-1861), courtesy name Zhangzhou 章舟, style Tenghua Zhuren 藤花主人. He hailed from Shunde 順德, Guangdong, and had obtained the degree of tribute student second class (fu gongju 副貢舉). In 1835, he took part in the compilation of a book on maritime defence, Haifang huilan 海防彙覽, and was appointed director of the Yue-Hua Academy 越華書院. During these years, Liang wrote several books on maritime trade and tribute countries, like Yuedao gongguo shuo 粤道貢國説, Yesujiao nanru Zhongguo shuo 耶蘇教難入中國説, Lanlun oushuo 蘭侖偶説 or He juguo shuo 合衆國説. In 1841, he was made assistant instructor (xuandao 訓導) of Chenghai 澄海, and gave advise in military training to governor-general Xu Guangjin 徐廣縉 (1797-1869). His career was crowned with the title of secretary of the Grand Secretariat (neige zhongshu 内閣中書) in combination with that of reader-in-waiting (shidu 侍讀).

Apart from the books mentioned above, he wrote several scholarly studies and the books Jinshi chengli 金石稱例 and Yifen wenji 夷氛聞記, Yue-Hua jilüe 越華紀略, Nanyue wuzhu zhuan 南越五主傳 and many more. His collected writings are called Tenghuating wenji 藤花亭文集.

His book on the Guangzhou Customs is a valuable source on the overseas trade during the mid-Qing period. The books is divided into 14 chapters, ranging from imperial edicts concerning the matter, to a history of the Customs, regulations for levies on various commodities, expenditure, coast guards, tribute ships, merchants guilds and foreign entrepreneurs. A special focus is on the military establishment of the region and the attempts to prevent the smuggling of opium as well as the illegal access of Europeans to Chinese soil. The text was finished in 1837. It is included in the series Guangzhou shizhi congshu 廣州史志叢書.

Fig. 1. Tariffs on plant products
Image from Yue haiguan zhi 粵海關志 10, showing tariffs on various plant products. Xuxiu siku quanshu edition 續修四庫全書.
Table 1. Contents of the Yue haiguan zhi 粵海關志
1 皇朝訓典 imperial instructions and statutes
2-4 前代事實 General history of the overseas trade of Guangzhou
5-6 口岸(附各口岸圖說) Ports of the region (app. maps)
7 設官(附清粵海關職官表) Customs officials through the ages (app. tables)
8-14 稅則 Customs tariffs
15-16 奏課 Internal communication and organisation
17-19 禁令 Trade ban
20 兵衛 Military organisation
21-23 貢舶 Tribute ships
24 市舶 Merchant ships
25 行商 Guild merchants
26-29 夷商 Foreign merchants
30 雜識 Various matters
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