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Daoyi zhilüe 島夷志略

Jul 17, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Daoyi zhilüe 島夷志略 "A short account on the islands of the barbarians" is an account on foreign countries, especially Southeast Asia, from the very late Yuan period 元 (1279-1368). It author, Wang Dayuan 汪大淵 (1311-1350), courtesy name Huanzhang 煥章, was an official at the important harbour city of Qingquan 清源 (modern Quanzhou 泉州, Fujian), a place where merchants from all parts of East, Southeast and South Asia, even Arabian and Persian sailors met.

In this port, Wang Dayuan obained all information about foreign countries he needed to compile a "Report of the Island Barbarians (i.e. Foreigners of the Archipelago)" (Daoyizhi 島夷志) that was appended to a local gazetteer of Qingyuan, Qingyuan xuzhi 清源續志, compiled by Wu Jian 吳鍳. The Daoyizhi was later published separately by Wang Dayuan. Both Yuan-period versions are lost, likewise the original Qingyuan xuzhi, only the prefaces are preserved.

The Daoyi zhilüe describes in 100 short chapters the general situation of more than 200 foreign countries from Africa to the Philippines, including geography, customs and habits, regional products and the situation of commerce. Many locations and countries mentioned in the Daoyi zhilüe are seen for the first time in Chinese literature. Wang's reports could be quite reliable because he saw many locations with his own eyes during his two voyages into the Indian Ocean onboard of merchants fleets during the first half of the 14th century.

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