Similar to historiography, geography was not from the beginning an integral part of book catalogues, although there can be no doubt that maps in earliest times served to administer the empire. One example supporting this assumption is the famous story of Jing Ke 荊軻 (d. 227 BCE) who attempted to assassinate the king of Qin 秦 and eventual First Emperor 秦始皇帝 (r. 246-210 BCE). His dagger was hidden inside a map of the commandery of Dukang 督亢 (modern Zhuoxian 涿縣, Hebei), a territory that should be ceded to the kingdom of Qin as a kind of appeasement present.
Yet it seems that such maps were only seen as archival documents at that time, and not as a type of literature: In early writings, the word for "map" (tu 圖) is often used side by side with that for "registers" (ji 籍), showing that both tools, maps as well as (household and tax) registers, served as sources for concrete political "plans" (which is another meaning of the word tu, besides "chart"). A further interesting linkage between graphical illustration and mental projection are maps of the starry sky serving as astrological tools, or maps of the earth serving for the determination of ideal (i.e. auspicious) building sites. This leads to a third meaning of the word tu, namely "chart" or "figure", like in the famous apocryphal "River Chart" Hetu 河圖 on which the spatial distribution of symbolic forces (represented by numbers and/or trigrams) was depicted.
The possession of such important files as maps and registers was crucial for any government. After the downfall of the Qin, the first action after the conquest of the metropolitan region was therefore to seize them. Xiao He 蕭何 (d. 193 BCE), an advisor of Liu Bang 劉邦 (r. 206-195 BCE), the eventual founder of the Han dynasty 漢, 206 BCE-220 CE), brought the maps and documents of the Qin in his possession, so that he came to know all strategically important places.
The common Chinese term for geography, dili 地理, literally means "arrangement of the earth". The word is first used in the Xici 繫辭 commentary of the "Book of Changes" Yijing 易經, where it is used as the opposite of the term tianwen 天文 "patterns of Heaven" (see astronomical treatises). It is said there that "[the sage], in accordance with [the Yijing], looking up, contemplates the brilliant phenomena of the heavens, and, looking down, examines the definite arrangements of the earth."
The chapter on the suburban sacrifices in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書 (25 Jiaosi zhi 郊祀志) explains that the "three radiators" (sanguang 三光: sun, moon and the five planets) symbolized the patterns of Heaven (tianwen), while mountains and rivers signified the arrangement of the earth (dili). The Guayan 卦驗 commentary in the Yijing holds that the winter solstice expressed the "patterns of Heaven", and the summer solstice the "arrangement of the earth". Another "definition" is given in the commented "River Classic" Shuijingzhu 水經注 which explains that while human affairs were throughout opaque, geographic features were clearly visible throughout. A special meaning of the word dili is "geomancy", as can be seen in the title of the book Dili daquan 地理大全 (see divination books).
The history of the bibliographical category of geographical treatises will be narrated further below.
|1. 宮殿簿之屬 Gongdian pu Palaces|
|三輔黃圖 六卷||Sanfu huangtu||(Liang) NN|
|2. 總志之屬 Zongzhi Imperial geographies|
|畿服經 *||Jifujing||(Jin) 摯虞 Zhi Yu|
|十三州記 (十三州志) *||Shisanzhou ji (Shisanzhou zhi)||(Northern Wei) 闞駰 Kan Yan|
|元和郡縣志 四十卷||Yuanhe junxian zhi||(Tang) 李吉甫 Li Jifu|
|括地志 *||Kuodizhi||(Tang) 李泰 Li Tai, 蕭德言 Xiao Deyan|
|輿地圖 *||Yuditu||(Song) 朱思本 Zhu Siben|
|太平寰宇記 一百九十三卷||Taiping huanyu ji||(Song) 樂史 Yue Shi|
|元豐九域志 十卷||Yuanfeng jiuyu zhi||(Song) 王存 Wang Cun (imp. ord.)|
|輿地廣記 三十八卷||Yudi guangji||(Song) 歐陽忞 Ouyang Min|
|方輿勝覽 七十卷||Fangyu shenglan||(Song) 祝穆 Zhu Mu|
|輿地紀勝 二百卷 (續修)||Yudi jisheng||(Song) 王象之 Wang Xiangzhi|
|大元大一統志||Da-Yuan dayitong zhi||(Yuan) 札馬剌丁 Jamal ad-Din, 虞應龍 Yu Yinglong (et al.; imp. ord.)|
|寰宇通志 *||Huanyu tongzhi||(Ming) 夏原吉 Xia Yuanji (et al.; imp. ord.)|
|大明一統志 九十卷||(Da-)Ming yitongzhi||(Ming) 李賢 Li Xian (et al.; imp. ord.)|
|廣輿圖 (續修)||Guangyutu||(Ming) 羅洪先 Luo Hongxian|
|大清一統志 五百卷||Da-Qing yitong zhi||(Qing) 和坤 Heshen (et al.; imp. ord.)|
|皇輿全圖 *||Huangyu quantu||(Qing) (comp.; imp. ord.)|
|乾隆內府輿圖 *||Qianlong neifu yutu||(Qing) (comp.; imp. ord.)||讀史方輿紀要 百三十卷 (續修)||Du shi fangyu jiyao||(Qing) 顧祖禹 Gu Zuyu|
|3. 都會郡縣之屬 Duhui junxian Capital Cities, large Cities, commanderies and counties|
|(乾道)臨安志 三卷||(Qiandao) Lin'an zhi||(Song) 周淙 Zhou Cong|
|(淳熙)三山志 四十二卷||(Chunxi) Sanshan zhi||(Song) 陳傅良 Chen Fuliang, 梁克家 Liang Kejia|
|吳郡志 五十卷||Wujun zhi||(Song) 范成大 Fan Chengda|
|(嘉泰)會稽志 二十卷||(Jiatai) Guiji zhi||(Song) 施宿 Shi Su (et al.)|
|(寶慶)四明志 二十一卷||(Baoqing) Siming zhi||(Song) 羅濬 Luo Jun|
|(景定)建康志 五十卷||(Jingding) Jiankang zhi||(Song) 周應合 Zhou Yinghe|
|(咸淳)臨安志 九十三卷||(Xianchun) Lin'an zhi||(Song) 潛說友 Qian Yueyou/Shuoyou|
|(延祐)四明志 十七卷||(Yanyou) Siming zhi||(Song) 袁桷 Yuan Jiao|
|齊乘 六卷||Qicheng||(Yuan) 于欽 Yu Qin|
|姑蘇志 六十卷||Gusu zhi||(Ming) 林世遠 Lin Shiyuan, 王鏊 Wang Ao|
|滇略 十卷||Dianlüe||(Ming) 謝肇浙 Xie Zhaozhe|
|閩書 一百五十四卷 (存目)||Minshu||(Ming) 何喬遠 He Qiaoyuan|
|後湖志 *||Houhu zhi||(Ming) 趙官 Zhao Guan|
|帝京景物略 八卷*||Dijing jingwu lüe||(Ming) 劉侗 Liu Tong, 于奕正 Yu Yizheng|
|天下郡國利病書 一百二十卷 (存目)||Tianxia junguo libing shu||(Ming) 顧炎武 Gu Yanwu|
|日下舊聞 *||Rixia jiuwen||(Qing) 朱彝尊 Zhu Yizun|
|(欽定)日下舊聞考 一百二十卷||(Qinding) Rixia jiuwen kao||(Qing) 于敏中 Yu Minzhong, 英廉 Yingliyan (et al.; imp. ord.)|
|(欽定)熱河志 八十卷||(Qinding) Rehe zhi||(Qing) 和珅 Hešen, 梁國治 Liang Guozhi (et al.; imp. ord.)|
|(欽定)滿洲源流考 二十卷||(Qinding) Manzhou yuanliu kao||(Qing) 阿桂 Agui, 于敏中 Yu Minzhong (et al.; imp. ord.)|
|(欽定)皇輿西域圖志 五十二卷||(Qinding) Huangyu xiyu tuzhi||(Qing) 傅恆 Fuheng, 劉統勳 Liu Tongxun, 于敏中 Yu Minzhong (et al.; imp. ord.)|
|四川通志 四十七卷||Sichuan tongzhi||(Qing) 黃廷桂 Huang Tinggui (et al. rev.); 張晉生 Zhang Jinsheng (et al.; comp.)|
|成都府志 *||Chengdu fu zhi||(Qing) 佟世雍 Tong Shiyong (comp.); 何如偉 He Ruwei (rev.)|
|增修灌縣志 *||(Zengxiu) Guanxian zhi||(Qing) 莊思恆 Zhuang Siheng (comp.); Zheng Tishan 鄭珶山 (rev.)|
|歷代帝王宅京記 二十卷||Lidai diwang zhaijing ji||(Qing) 顧炎武 Gu Yanwu|
|澳門記略 二卷 (續修)||Aomen jilüe||(Qing) 印光任 Yin Guangren, 張汝霖 Zhang Rulin (comp.)|
|乾隆西藏誌 四卷 (續修)||(Qianlong) Xizang zhi||(Qing) 允禮 Yunli|
|4. 河渠之屬 Hequ Rivers and canals|
|禹貢||Yugong (part of Shangshu 尚書)||(Zhou) NN|
|水經注 四十卷||Shuijingzhu||(Later Wei) 酈道元 Li Daoyuan|
|吳中水利書 一卷||Wuzhong shuili shu||(Song) 單鍔 Shan E|
|禹貢指南 四卷||Yugong zhinan → Commentaries on the Classics||(Song) 毛晃 Mao Huang|
|禹貢說斷 四卷||Yugong shuoduan → Commentaries on the Classics||(Song) 傅寅 Fu Yin|
|河防通議 二卷||Hefang tongyi||(Yuan) 沙克什 Šakši|
|治河圖略 一卷||Zhihe tulüe||(Yuan) 王喜 Wang Xi|
|河防記 *||Hefangji||(Yuan) 歐陽玄 Ouyang Xuan|
|河防一覽 十四卷||Hefang yilan||(Ming) 潘季馴 Pan Jixun|
|吳中水利全書 二十八卷||Wuzhong shuili quanshu||(Ming) 張國維 Zhang Guowei|
|淮南水利考 *||Huainan shuili kao||(Ming) 胡應恩 Hu Ying'en|
|禹貢圖說 *||Yugong tushuo → Commentaries on the Classics||1) (Ming) 鄭曉 Zheng Xiao, 2) (Qing) 周之翰 Zhou Zhihan, 3) 馬俊良 Ma Junliang, 4) 譚沄 Tan Yun|
|山東運河備覽 *||Shandong yunhe beilan||(Qing) 陸耀 Lu Yao|
|今水經 一卷 (存目)||Jin shuijing||(Qing) 黃宗羲 Huang Zongxi|
|河防疏略 二十卷||Hefang shulüe → Edicts and memorials||(Qing) 朱之錫 Zhu Zhixi|
|(欽定)河源紀略 三十六卷||(Qinding )Heyuan jilüe||(Qing) imp. ord.|
|三江水利紀略 *||Sanjiang shuili jilüe||(Qing) 蘇爾德 Su Erde|
|西域水道記 四卷 (續修)||Xiyu shuidao ji||(Qing) 徐松 Xu Song|
|行水金鑒 一百七十五卷||Xingshui jinjian||(Qing) 傅澤洪 Fu Zehong|
|禹貢錐指 二十卷||Yugong zhuizhi → Commentaries on the Classics||(Qing) 胡渭 Hu Wei|
|水道提綱 二十八卷||Shuidao tigang||(Qing) 齊召南 Qi Zhaonan|
|海塘錄 二十六卷||Haitanglu||(Qing) 翟均廉 Zhai Junlian|
|河防志 *||Hefangzhi||(Qing) 張希良 Zhang Xiliang|
|東南水利略 *||Dongnan shuili lüe||(Qing) 凌介禧 Ling Jiexi|
|5. 邊防之屬 Bianfang Frontier defense|
|柳邊紀略 四卷 (續修)||Liubian jilüe||(Qing) 楊賓 Yang Bin|
|蒙古游牧記 十六卷 (續修)||Menggu youmu ji||(Qing) 張穆 Zhang Mu; 何秋濤 He Qiutao (suppl.)|
|寧古塔紀略 一卷 (續修)||Ningguta jilüe||(Qing) 吳振臣 Wu Zhenchen|
|秦邊紀略 四卷 (存目)||Qinbian jilüe||(Qing) NN|
|三省邊防備覽 十四卷 (續修)||Sansheng bianfang beilan||(Qing) 嚴如熤 Yan Ruyi|
|籌海圖編 十三卷||Chouhai tubian||(Qing) 鄭若曾 Zheng Ruoceng|
|6. 山水之屬 Shanshui Mountains and lakes|
|南嶽小錄 一卷||Nanyue xiaolu||(Tang) 李沖昭 Li Chongzhao|
|廬山記 三卷||Lushanji||(Song) 陳舜俞 Chen Shunyu|
|茅山志 十五卷 (續修)||Maoshan zhi||(Ming) 劉大彬 Liu Dabin|
|普陀山志 二十卷 (續修)||Putuoshan zhi||(Ming) 許琰 Xu Yan|
|四明山志 九卷 (續修)||Simingshan zhi||(Qing) 黃宗羲 Huang Zongxi|
|天台山全志 十八卷 (續修)||Tiantaishan quanzhi||(Qing) 張聯元 Zhang Lianyuan (comp.)|
|武夷山志 二十四卷 (續修)||Wuyishan zhi||(Qing) 董天工 Dong Tiangong|
|峨眉山志 十八卷 (續修)||Emeishan zhi||(Qing) 蔣超 Jiang Chao|
|西湖遊覽志餘 二十四卷||Xihu youlan zhiyu||(Ming) 田汝成 Tian Ruicheng|
|西湖志 十二卷||Xihu zhi||(Qing) imp. ord.|
|7. 古跡之屬 Guji Antique places|
|洛陽伽藍記 五卷||Luoyang qielan ji||(Later Wei) 楊炫之 Yang Xianzhi|
|吳地記 一卷||Wudiji||(Tang) 陸廣微 Lu Guangwei (?)|
|長安志 二十卷||Chang'anzhi||(Song) 宋敏求 Song Minqiu|
|洛陽名園記 一卷||Luoyang mingyuan ji||(Song) 李格非 Li Gefei|
|雍錄 十卷||Yonglu||(Song) 筒鰶 Tong Ji|
|長安志圖 三卷||Chang'an zhitu||(Yuan) 李好文 Li Haowen|
|汴京遺跡志 二十四卷||Bianjing yiji zhi||(Ming) 李濂 Li Lian|
|闕里志 *||Queli zhi||(Ming) 陳鎬 Chen Hao|
|8. 雜記之屬 Zaji Miscellaneous geographies|
|南方草木狀 三卷||Nanfang caomu zhuang||(Jin) 嵇含 Ji Han|
|荊楚歲時記 一卷||Jing-Chu suishi ji||(Liang) 宗懍 Zong Lin|
|北戶錄 三卷||Beihulu||(Tang) 段公路 Duan Gonglu (comp.); 龜圖 Qiu Tu (comm.)|
|桂林風土記 一卷||Guilin fengtu ji||(Tang) 莫休符 Mo Xiufu|
|益部方物略記 一卷||Yibu fangwu lüeji||(Song) 宋祁 Song Qi|
|岳陽風土記 一卷||Yueyang fengtu ji||(Song) 范致明 Fan Zhiming|
|東京夢華錄 十卷||Dongjing menghua lu||(Song) 孟元老 Meng Yuanlao|
|六朝事跡編類 二卷||Liuchao shiji bianlei||(Song) 張敦頤 Zhang Dunyi|
|會稽三賦 三卷||Guiji sanfu||(Song) 王十朋 Wang Shipeng (comp.); 周世則 Zhou Shize, 史鑄 Shi Zhu (comm.)|
|桂海虞衡志 一卷||Guihai yuheng zhi||(Song) 范成大 Fan Chengda|
|嶺外代答 十卷||Lingwai daida||(Song) 周去非 Zhou Qufei|
|都城紀勝 一卷||Ducheng jisheng||(Song) 耐得翁 Nai Deweng|
|夢粱錄 二十卷||Menglianglu||(Song) 吳自牧 Wu Zimu|
|武林舊事 十卷||Wulin jiushi||(Song) 周密 Zhou Mi|
|吳中舊事 十卷||Wuzhong jiushi||(Yuan) 陸友仁 Lu Youren|
|平江記事 一卷||Pingjiang jishi||(Yuan) 高德基 Gao Deji|
|閩中海錯疏 三卷||Minzhong haicuo shu||(Ming) 屠本畯 Tu Benjun|
|蜀中廣記 一百八卷||Shuzhong guangji||(Ming) 曹學佺 Cao Xuequan|
|龍沙紀略 一卷||Longsha jilüe||(Qing) 方式濟 Fang Shiji|
|泐史 *||Leshi||(Ming, Qing) anon.|
|黔史 *||Qianshi||(Qing) 猶法賢 You Faxian|
|閩部疏 一卷 (續修)||Minbu shu||(Qing) 王世懋 Wang Shimao|
|閩小紀 四卷 (續修)||Min xiaoji||(Qing) 周亮工 Zhou Lianggong|
|廣西名勝志 十卷 (續修)||Guangxi mingsheng ji||(Qing) 曹學佺 Cao Xuequan|
|蜀典 十二卷 (續修)||Shudian||(Qing) 張澍 Zhang Shu|
|續黔書 八卷 (續修)||Xu Qian shu||(Qing) 張澍 Zhang Shu|
|揚州畫舫錄 十八卷 (續修)||Yangzhou huafang lu||(Qing) 李斗 Li Dou|
|揚州畫舫錄 十八卷 (續修)||Yangzhou huafang lu||(Qing) 李斗 Li Dou|
|(欽定)新疆識略 *||(Qinding) Xinjiang shilüe||(Qing) 徐松 Xu Song|
|9. 游記之屬 Youji Travels|
|長春眞人游記 二卷 (續修)||Changchun zhenren xiyou ji||(Yuan) 李志常 Li Zhichang|
|徐霞客游記 十二卷||Xu Xiake youji||(Ming) 徐宏祖 Xu Hongzu|
|古今游名山記 十七卷 (續修)||Gujin you mingshan ji||(Ming) 何鏜 He Tang|
|咸賓錄 八卷 (續修)||Xianbinlu||(Ming) 羅曰褧 Luo Yueqiong|
|北邊備對 一卷 (續修)||Beibian beidui||(Song) 程大昌 Cheng Dachang|
|10. 外紀之屬 Waiji Descriptions of foreign countries|
|佛國記 一卷||Foguoji||(Liu-Song) 法顯 Faxian|
|大唐西域記 十二卷||Da-Tang xiyu ji||(Tang) 玄奘 Xuanzang, 辯機 Bianji|
|宣和奉使高麗圖經 四十卷||Xuanhe fengshi Gaoli tujing||(Song) 徐兢 Xu Jing|
|諸蕃志 二卷||Zhufanzhi||(Song) 趙汝适 Zhao Rukuo|
|溪蠻叢笑 一卷||Ximan congxiao||(Song) 朱輔 Zhu Fu|
|真臘風土記 一卷||Zhenla fengtu ji||(Yuan) 周達觀 Zhou Daguan|
|島夷志略 一卷||Daoyi zhilüe||(Yuan) 汪大淵 Wang Dayuan|
|殊域周咨錄 二十四卷 (續修)||Shuyu zhouzi lu||(Ming) 嚴從簡 Yan Congjian|
|西洋朝貢典錄 三卷 (xxx)||Xiyang chaogong dianlu||(Ming) 黃省曾 Huang Shengzeng|
|星槎勝覽 四卷 (續修)||Xingcha shenglan||(Ming) 費信 Fei Xin|
|瀛涯勝覽 一卷 (存目)||Yingya shenglan||(Ming) 馬歡 Ma Huan|
|鄭和航海圖 *||Zhenghe hanghai tu (part of Wubeizhi 武備志)||(Ming) (et al.; imp. ord.)|
|西域行程記 *||Xiyu xingcheng ji||(Ming) 陳誠 Chen Cheng, 李暹 Li Jin|
|坤輿圖說 二卷||Kunyu tushuo||(Ming) 南懷仁 Nan Huairen (Ferdinand Verbiest)|
|東西洋考 十二卷||Dong-Xiyang kao||(Ming) Zhang Xie 張燮|
|職方外紀 五卷||Zhifang waiji||(Ming) 艾儒略 Ai Ruolüe (Giuglio Aleni)|
|皇清職貢圖 九卷||Huang-Qing zhigong tu||(Qing) 傅恒 Fu Heng (comp.)|
|朔方備乘 六十八卷 (續修)||Shuofang beicheng||(Qing) 何秋濤 He Qiutao; 黃宗漢 Huang Zonghan et al. (suppl.)|
|使琉球錄 (續修)||Shi Liuqiu lu||(Qing) 1) 陳侃 Chen Kan; 2) 蕭崇業 Xiao Chongye, 謝杰 Xie Jie; 3) 夏子陽 Xia Ziyang, 王士禎 Wang Shizhen|
|海國圖志 百卷 (續修)||Haiguo tuzhi||(Qing) 魏源 Wei Yuan|
|小方壺齋輿地叢鈔 *||Xiaofanghuzhai yudi congchao||(Qing) 王錫祺 Wang Xiqi (comp.)|
One of the oldest "geographies" of China is the book Yugong 禹貢 that is, since the late Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE), a chapter of the Classic Shangshu 尚書. It describes the travel of Yu the Great 大禹, the eventual founder of the Xia dynasty, through what was — at least in a retrospective manner — China, collecting tributes (gong 貢) from the native peoples and their chieftains, classifying the quality of their soils, and bringing a (mental) order into the nine "provinces" (jiuzhou 九州) by constating which were the most important rivers and mountains.
The nine provinces were Jizhou 冀州 (Shanxi and north of modern Hebei), Yanzhou 兗州 (southern Hebei and western Shandong), Qingzhou 青州 (eastern Shandong), Xuzhou 徐州 (northern Jiangsu), Yangzhou 揚州 (southern Jiangsu), Jingzhou 荊州 (Hubei and Hunan), Yuzhou 豫州 (Henan), Liangzhou 梁州 (Chongqing and Sichuan, from the Han on called Yizhou 益州) and Yongzhou 雍州 (Shaanxi and Gansu, from the Han on called Liangzhou 涼州). Later Han period 後漢 (25-220 CE) sources add to these the provinces of Bingzhou 并州 (Shanxi), Youzhou 幽州 (northern Hebei) and Yingzhou 營州 (Liaodong). The text on Yu's "journey" is highly standardized and describes the whole empire according to geographical, economical, fiscal and ethnological criteria.
Another important old text is the pseudo-chronicle Mu Tianzi zhuan 穆天子傳 that describes the travel of King Mu 周穆王 (10th cent. BCE) of the Zhou dynasty to the west, mentioning numerous mountains and rivers. This book belongs to the realm of fiction, just as the bizarre geographic book Shanhaijing 山海經 "Classic of mountains and seas" that describes a large number of mountains in China and beyond its borders, with indications to the natural ressources, plants and animals found there, as well as strange, miraculous and extraordinary beings, both human and zoological. Also in this text, as fictional as it might be in some parts, shows features similar to the Yugong chapter which combine geography with economy and society.
Among the summer offices of the ritual classic Zhouli 周禮 a group of administrators responsible for the regions of the kingdom/empire (zhifang shi 職方氏) is to be found. The members of this office "were in control of the kingdom's maps in order to have a grip on the regions of the kingdom" (zhang tianxia zhi tu, yi zhang tianxia zhi di 掌天下之圖，以掌天下之地). They were in charge of the organization of the relations of the centre of the Zhou kingdom with the peoples living beyond the reach of the king and the regional rulers. They defined the borders of the regional states, the location of the cities, the spaces in which the numerous non-Chinese peoples lived, and were well aware of the amounts and kinds of valuables, grains and domestic animals owned by these "barbarians", and which of them were useful and harmful for the Zhou court. All in all, they cared for the welfare of the kingdom and the people(s) living in it.
Quite similar to the Yugong text, the Zhouli text then enumerates the nine provinces, their most important geographical spots, and their local products. The next paragraph presents a concentric pattern of designations for regions close to or distant from the capital region: a region of one thousand "square miles" around the capital was the royal domain (wangfu 王畿), an area five hundred miles beyond that the region of the marquisates (houfu 侯服), a further five hundred miles belonged to the outer domain (dianfu 甸服), the "ring" of the next five hundred miles was that of the barons (nanfu 男服), the next circle was called the domain of collectibles (caifu 采服), the last five-hundred-miles ring was that of protection (weifu 衛服), and beyond that were the rings of the Man barbarians 蠻, the Yi barbarians 夷, of the outer garrisons (zhenfu 鎮服), and finally the outskirts of the kingdom (fanfu 藩服).
The first reliable geography books were written during the Han period, mainly the geographic chapter (28 Dili zhi 地理志) in the Hanshu 漢書, and the "River Classic" Shuijing 水經. The Hanshu quotes extensively from the Yugong and the Zhouli chapter, and in its last parts also quotes from Liu Xiang's 劉向 (79-8 or 77-6 BCE) geographical report Yufen 域分 and Zhu Gan's 朱贛 collection Fengsu 風俗. The first was a type of text juxtaposing places on earth with starry constellations. This method is still seen in most geographical books and is known as fenye 分野.
For the region of Qin 秦 (Shaanxi), for instance, it is said that it corresponded to the constellations "Eastern Well" (Dongjing 東井) and "Humble Ghost" (Yugui 輿鬼) in the firmament. The text then renders a definition of the region of Qin by itemizing all commanderies (jun 郡) within the territory and those located at its borders, but belonging to other regions. These names of the regions roughly corresponded to the ancient states of the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE). Their names, as well as that of the "provinces" in the Yugong chapter, continued to be used through history—in spite of radical changes in the administrative system—and are still used today, for instance, in number plates (where Lu 魯, for example, is used for Shandong).
The geography chapter of the Hanshu does not clearly separate the Yufen text from that of the Fengsu, but it seems that for each region described the Yufen "definition" is quoted first, and then the Fengsu. For the capital region, for instance, it is said that because of its significance as the political centre persons from different regions moved there, so that the "customs were not pure" (fengsu bu chun 風俗不純). Concerning the regions of Ba 巴 and Shu 蜀 (modern Sichuan and Chongqing) the fertility of the soil is praised and the great varieties of economic plants growing there, as bamboos, timber, vegetables or fruits. The landowners of Shu used to buy slaves (tong 僮) from the southern tribes of the Dian 滇 and Bo 僰. In the mountain ranges of Qiong 邛 (the Qionglai Range 邛崍山) the inhabitants bred horses and yaks, while those of the plain bred fishes in the water of their irrigated rice fields. The people of Shu were of "light-hearted and unworried character", but on the other side resisted all attempts to introduce Han law and the ethical code of the Chinese. Only the writer Sima Xiangru 司馬相如 (179-117 BCE) was able to propagate more civilized attitudes. It can thus be seen that the modern translation of the term fengsu as "customs and habits" is too much focusing on ethnological aspects. Social and cultural history are covered by the expression as well.
The main text of the geographical chapter in the Hanshu describes the commanderies and the "princedoms" (guo 國) of the Han empire, beginning with the three metropolitan commanderies Jingzhao yin 京兆尹, Zuofengyu 左馮翊 and Youfufeng 右扶風. The text explains when the administrative units were founded and given their names, lists the numbers of registered households and the population living there, and then goes on to describe the districts (xian 縣), also with the respective information about their history, figures of households and the population, and also mentions some important spots in their territory, like mountains or shrines, and informs the reader about local products. The text goes down to the level of townships (xiang 鄉).
A very interesting information in the Hanshu are the changes of place names, not only from the indirect administrative system of the Zhou to the bureaucratic system of the Qin 秦 (221-206 BCE), and the Qin to the Han, but also the tremendous extent to which the usurper Wang Mang 王莽 (r. 8-23 CE) systematically replaced the names even of towns and districts.
The part on the metropolitan commandery (Jingzhao yin 京兆尹), for instance, explains that during the Qin it was called Neishi 內史, and in 205 BCE, when the eventual founder of the Han occupied the region, he changed the name to Weinan Commandery 渭南郡, but in 198 the name was changed back to Neishi. In 135 it was named Youneishi 右內史, and in 104 finally Jingzhao yin. The census from the year 2 CE resulted in 195,207 households, with 682,468 persons. The commandery included twelve districts. That of Chang'an 長安 (the capital of the Han) was created in 202. The city wall was begun in 194 and finished in 188. There were 80,800 households, with 246,200 inhabitants. Wang Mang once renamed the city Chang'an 常安. Exept these statistical and historical data, the text concerning the other districts gives the following information: In the south of the district of Xinfeng 新豐, Mt. Lishan 驪山 was found, the ancient homeland of the Li-Rong barbarians 驪戎. In the hills of the disctrict of Lantian 藍田 beautiful jades could be found. There was also a shrine in Mt. Huhou 虎候山. In the district of Huayin 華陰, Mt. Taihua 太華山 was found, with many shrines, as well as Mt. Yuzhou 豫州山, with the "Temple Attracting the Spirits" (Jilinggong 集靈宮), founded by Emperor Wu, etc.
The Shuijing, written in the 3rd century and transmitted only together with the commentary Shuijingzhu 水經注, is a book specialized on the geography of rivers, but while the Shuijing only describes rivers and their tributaries (the course of the rivers being mainly oriented towards districts), the commentary, written by Li Daoyuan 酈道元 (466 or 472-527) during the Northern Wei period 北魏 (386-534), added a huge amount of information on the places located along these rivers.
While the "River Classic" simply explains that the River Luo 洛水 on its way to the east crosses the southern fringes of the commandery of Luoyang 洛陽, where the River Yi 伊水, coming from the west, sheds its waters into it. The commentary by Li Daoyuan adds that Luoyang was identical with Luoyi 洛邑 of anquity that had been founded as a secondary capital by the Duke of Zhou 周公旦. Li then adds quotations from the chapter Luogao 洛誥 of the Classic Shangshu, where the foundation of this capital and its extent is explained, and from the "Spring and Autumn Annals" Chunqiu 春秋, where an alternative name of the city, Chengzhou 成周, is explained.
In the Later Han, Wei 曹魏 (220-265) and Jin 晉 (265-420) periods, Luoyang still served as the or a government seat. As can be seen from a quotation of the (lost) book Weilüe 魏略, the character Luo 洛 was originally written 雒, but because the Wei dynasty chose a combination of the processes water and earth as auspicious signs, changed it to 洛 (with the water radical). A story from the book Changsha qijiu zhuan 長沙耆舊傳 (lost) tells a story of how a magistrate during a period of draught took over responsibility towards the deities for the "misdoings" of the city, and in fact they took pity and sent rain. Li Daoyuan further quotes a lengthy text from the (lost) geography Diji 地記, where several bizarre stories about the river were narrated.
The bibliographic chapter in the Suishu 隋書, Jingji zhi 經籍志, asserts that from oldest times the kings had been aware that the customs and habits (fengqi 風氣) of the inhabitants of each region differed from each other, not unlike their food and clothes, and that it was "not recommendable to forcible have them changed" (bu ke qian bian 不可遷變), yet on the other side they should be analyzed as to their strengths and shortcomings, and accordingly be treated, in order to "equalize one's politics and restructure one's lessons" (qi qi zheng er xiu qi jiao 齊其政而修其教). The writing of geography was thus aimed at political and administrative matters and had to serve as a means to find the difficult balance of spreading common laws while respecting local customs. According to the Zhouli, the Supervisor of the XXX (sixian 司險) of the Summer officials had the duty to administer the geographical archive with maps and information to rivers, mountains, forests, swamps and roads, and also information on the local populations, including the "barbarians". The XXX (baozhang 保章) of the Spring officials "analyzed each region according to star maps" (yi xingtu bian jiuzhou zhi di 以星土辨九州之地), in order to prognosticate mischief and good luck (yi guan yao xiang 以觀祅祥). Here again, the ties between astronomy/astrology and geography/geomancy can be seen.
In the first half century after its foundation the Han dynasty relied on documents of the Qin, as well as the geographical book Shanhaijing that in many points narrated more fiction than it explained facts. Even under the politically very active Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141-87 BCE) no new geographic book was written, barring Sima Qian's 司馬遷 (145-ca. 86 BCE) chapter on rivers and canals (29 Hequ shu 河渠書) in his history book Shiji 史記. The geographical chapter in Ban Gu's 班固 (32-92 CE) Hanshu was the first attempt to write an up-to-date geography of the empire.
Such a chapter on imperial geography is also found in the Houhanshu 後漢書, but it only records the changes that had taken place between the foundation of the Later Han (when the Hanshu was written) and its end. There were, admittedly, some books on geography written in the early centuries CE, but these recorded "but the names of provinces and commanderies" (dan ji zhou jun zhi ming er yi 但記州郡之名而已). The first geographic book worth that name was written during the Jin period by Zhi Yu 摯虞 (250-300), the Jifujing 畿服經 that was unfortunately lost as early as the 7th century. This might have been the reason that no scholary tradition of "geographers" developed. During the Qi period 南齊 (479-502), Lu Cheng 陵澄 compiled a geography book called Dilishu 地理書 that was based on 160 different sources. His book is lost, as is Ren Fang's 任昉 (460-508) extended version of this book called Diji 地記. Gu Yewang 顧野王 (519-581) wrote another geography called Yudizhi 輿地志.
With the foundation of the Sui dynasty 隋 (581-618) and the reunification of the empire after nearly four hundred years of divison, there was the need to write a (new) imperial geography. The result were several geography books, namely Zhujun wuchan tusu ji 諸郡物產土俗記 (151 juan of length, also called Zhujun tusu wuchan ji 諸郡土俗物產記), Quyu tuzhi 區宇圖志 (129 juan) by Yu Mao 虞茂 and Zhuzhou tujing ji 諸州圖經集 (100 juan, also called Sui tujing jiyi 隋圖經集記) by Lang Weizhi 郎蔚之.
The geographical books in the Suishu catalogue are arranged chronologically, and not according to content. Besides the semi-fictional Shanhaijing and the "Water Classic", a book called Huangtu 黃圖 "Yellow Maps" is listed, reporting about palace halls, temples, imperial mausolea and national and dynastic altars in the three metropolitan regions (Sanfu 三輔). This book was therefore later known as Sanfu huangtu 三輔黃圖.
Capital cities remained the theme of geographical descriptions, in northern China (on Luoyang, as Lu Ji's 陸機 [261-303] Luoyang ji 洛陽記, the anonymous Luoyang gongdian bu 洛陽宮殿簿, Yang Quanqi's 楊佺期 [d. 399] Luoyang tu 洛陽圖 or Lu Hui's 陸翽 Yezhongji 鄴中記) as well as in southern China (Liu Xun's 劉損 Jingkouji 京口記). From the 5th century on geographical books were written that described individual cities or commanderies, as Shan Qianzhi's 山謙之 Wuxingji 吳興記 and Nanxuzhou ji 南徐州記, Gu Yi's 顧夷 Wujunji 吳郡記, Zhu Yu's 朱育 Guji tudi ji 會稽土地記, He Xun's 賀循 (260-319) Guiji ji 會稽記, Sheng Hongzhi's 盛弘之 Jingzhou ji 荊州記 or Lei Cizong's 雷次宗 (386-448) Yuzhang ji 豫章記.
The genre of travel reports, as initiated in the fictitious report Mu Tianzi zhuan, experienced first sprouts in Guo Yuansheng's 郭緣生 Shuzhengji 述征記 and Dai Yanzhi's 戴延之 (also called Dai Zuo 戴祚) Xizhengji 西征記, and then explodes with quite a large amount of texts on travels inside China (as the anonymous Jiangbiao xingji 江表行記), beyond the borders (as Zhang Qian chuguan zhi 張騫出關志 or Huisheng xingzhuan 慧生行傳), diplomatic missions between the courts of the Northern and the Southern Dynasties (as Wei pinshi xingji 魏聘使行記, Jiang Dezao's 江德藻 [509-565] Pinbei daoli ji 聘北道里記 or Cai Yungong's 蔡允恭 [c. 561-c. 628] Bingzhou ruchao daoli ji 并州入朝道里記), military campaigns (as Song Wu beizheng ji 宋武北征記 [might be identical to Dai Yanzhi's Xizhengji] and Zhuge Ying's 諸葛潁 Beifaji 北伐記), or inspection tours (Zhuge Ying's Xunfu Yangzhou ji 巡撫揚州記).
Zhou Chu's 周處 (236-297) book Fengtuji 風土記 stands in the tradition of Zhu Gan's book Fengsu from the Han period, just as Huang Min's 黃閔 Shenrangji 神壤記 in that of the Shuijing, namely as a report on rivers (and mountains) in Xingyang 滎陽. How much geography had to do with history can be seen in two old books that, seen from the title, might rather be categorized as histories: Shen Huaiwen's 沈懷文 (409-462) Suiwang ru Mian ji 隨王入沔記 "The Prince of Sui's entering the region of River Mian", Yang Xiong's 揚雄 (53 BCE-18 CE) Shuwang benji 蜀王本記 "Annals of the kings of Shu" or Jin Shi's 晉世 Sanfu gushi 三輔故事 "Stories from the ancient capital".
Fengsu 風俗 "customs and habits" (or probably "local wisdom") was the focus of several local geographies, not only of foreign lands like those of the “northern wilderness” (Beihuang fengsu ji 北荒風俗記) or the "many barbarians" (Zhufan fengsu ji 諸蕃風俗記), but also of commanderies inside China, as can be seen in Juan Cheng's 圈稱 Chenliu fengsu zhuan 陳留風俗傳.
While the oldest text on "extraordinary things", Dongfang Shuo's 東方朔 (154-93 BCE) Shenyijing 神異經, is more likely to be called a collection of fanciful stories, there is half a dozen of books explaining the "strange" customs and habits of different places, as Yang Fu's 楊孚 Yiwuzhi 異物志 and Jiaozhou yiwu zhi 交州異物志, Wan Zhen's 萬震 Nanzhou yiwu zhi 南州異物志, Zhu Ying's 朱應 Funan yiwu zhi 扶南異物志 (Funan was located in southern Vietnam), and Shen Ying's 沈瑩 (d. 280) Linhai shuitu yiwu zhi 臨海水土異物志 (a book on sealife?) and Liangzhou yiwu zhi 涼州異物志.
Going back again half a millennium we might find one reason why geographers were so interested in "strange" matters. In the bibliographic chapter in the Hanshu, the Shanhaijing can be found among a handful of divination books used for geomancy (Guochao 國朝 "The orientation of court and country" and Gongzhai dixing 宮宅地形 "[The relation of] buildings to the shape of the earth") and to prognosticate the future by inspection of face and hands (Xiangren 相人, with a size of no less than 24 juan!), by inspection of precious swords (Xiang bao jiandao 相寶劍刀, 20 juan) and the bones of domestic animals (Xiang liuren 相六畜, 38 juan). The description of unexpected or uncommon phenomena thus served to determine the cosmic position of geographical places.
Reports on foreign countries are (barring such fictional compositions as Mu Tianzi zhuan and Shanhaijing) first found in several chapters of the history books Shiji (110 Xiongnu liezhuan 匈奴列傳, 113 Nanyue liezhuan 南越列傳, 114 Dongyue liezhuan 東越列傳, 115 Chaoxian liezhuan 朝鮮列傳, 116 Xinanyi liezhuan 西南夷列傳, and 123 Dayuan liezhuan 大宛列傳) and Hanshu (94 Xiongnu zhuan 匈奴傳, 95 Xinanyi liang-Yue Chaoxian zhuan 西南夷兩粵朝鮮傳 and 96 Xiyu zhuan 西域傳). The reports on the "Western Territories" (Xiyu 西域, modern Xinjiang) are important for the history of Central Asia.
The Houhanshu is the first book including a chapter describing the Qiang 羌 tribes (87 Xiqiang zhuan 西羌傳) and the steppe federations of the Wuhuan 烏桓 and Xianbei 鮮卑 (90). The emergence of the Three Kingdoms (Samguk 三國) in Korea and the rise of the beginning of nation building in Japan is reflected in chapters on foreign countries in the history book Sanguozhi 三國志 (30). The Suishu bibliography lists three books on countries in the west and south, namely the two reports on Central Asia and India, Monk Faxian's 法顯 (337-422) Foguoji 佛國記 (surviving) and Monk Zhimeng's 智猛 (d. 453) Youxing waiguo zhuan 遊行外國傳, as well as the anonymous Jiaozhou yinan waiguo zhuan 交州以南外國傳 that was a report on what is today Vietnam, and probably some other countries in Southeast Asia. Other books on foreign countries are Rinan zhuan 日南傳 (northern Vietnam), Monk Tanjing's 曇景 Waiguozhuan 外國傳, Waiguozhuan by the translator Brahman (Boluomen 婆羅門), Linyi guoji 林邑國記 (Linyi in southern Vietnam), Tujue suoshu fengsu shi 突厥所出風俗事 (Turkish customs in China?), and two books on phantasy countries, Nanguozhuan 男國傳 and Nüguozhuan 女國傳, the "Country of Men" and that of women.
Travelers along the Silk Road were not exclusively groups of merchants or monks, but also large armies or diplomatic missions. It was therefore necessary to have data at hand with which to plan such a campaign. The book Xiyu daoli ji 西域道里記 "Distances in the Western Territories" by Cheng Shizhang 程士章 might have been such a handbook. Maps were likewise important tools supporting the administration, and we find therefore a number of geographical books that included such, as Zhou ditu ji 周地圖記 (a kind of atlas of North China? 109 juan), Jizhou tujing 冀州圖經, Qizhou tujing 齊州圖經 or Youzhou tujing 幽州圖經 (descriptive atlases of particular provinces). The bibliographic chapter in the Suishu also lists a census register, Yuankang liunian hukou buji 元康六年戶口簿記 from 296.
It can be said that around 600 geography had become a discipline of its own, with a substantial number of writings (139 texts). Some authors began commenting on older texts (Shanhaijing tuzan 山海經圖讚, Shanhaijing yin 山海經音) or compiling extracts from longer geographical books (Dili shuchao 地理書抄, excerpts of the books of Lu Cheng, Ren Fang and Liu Huangmen 劉黃門).
Mountains and rivers remained the focus of some writings, as Yu Zhongyong's 庾仲雍 Hanshuiji 漢水記, Xie Lingyun's 謝靈運 (385-433) Ju mingshan ji 居名山志, Liu Chengzhi's 劉澄之 Yongchu shanchuan gujin ji 永初山川古今記, Monk Dao'an's 道安 (312-385) Sihai baichuan shuiyuan ji 四海百川水源記 or Master Zhang's 張氏 Jiangtu 江圖.
The description of particular institutions (apart from imperial palaces) seems to have been invented by Buddhist writers. The most famous of these is Yang Xianzhi's 楊衒之 (d. 555) Luoyang qielan ji 洛陽伽藍記, a description of all monasteries in Luoyang, but there were some more, as Liu Lu's 劉僇 Jingshi sita ji 京師寺塔記, Monk Tanzong's 曇宗 Jingshi sita ji 京師寺塔記 (both also describing monasteries and pagodas of the capital) and Zhang Guanglu's 張光祿 Huashan jingshe ji 華山精舍記, a description of hermitages on Mt. Huashan.
The bibliographic chapter of the official dynastic history Jiutangshu 舊唐書 seems to be incomplete. It lists no more than 93 geographical texts, while the Xintangshu 新唐書 knows at least 106, which is still less than the earlier catalogue. Interesting texts found here are Zhigongtu 職貢圖, written by Emperor Yuan 梁元帝 (r. 552-555) of the Liang dynasty 梁 (502-557) and probably precursor to the famous, illustrated book on the "tributary peoples" Huang-Qing zhigong tu 皇清職貢圖, further Fengshi Gaoli ji 奉使高麗記 (on a mission to Korea), Xinanman ruchao shouling ji 西南蠻入朝首領記 (about native chieftains of the southwestern Man bringing tributes to the court), and the atlases of the "ten circuits" Chang'an sinian shidao tu 長安四年十道圖 (from 704) and Kaiyuan sannian shidao tu 開元三年十道圖 (from 715).
The Xintangshu lists quite a few books more that were written during the Tang period. To begin with, the large geographies Zhouditu 周地圖 (an atlas, 130 juan), Kuodizhi 括地志 (550 juan) and Li Jifu's 李吉甫 (758-814) Yuanhe junxian tuzhi 元和郡縣圖誌 (54 juan). There were also some shorter books written as overviews on the geography of Tang China, as Wei Ao's 韋澳 (jinshi degree 821) Zhudao shanhe diming yaolüe 諸道山河地名要略, Jiuzhou yaolüe 九州要略 by Liu Zhitui 劉之推 and Wen Kuo 文括, and the anonymous Gujin junguo xiandao siyi shu 古今郡國縣道四夷述, a book of 40 juan informing about all parts of the empire (including the "barbarians") through the ages.
The constant change of place names and administrative units over time made necessary a handbook on place names, as Gujin diming 古今地名. Books on non-Chinese peoples belonged to the must-haves, and therefore Tang-period writers wrote a great number of such, as Zhufanji 諸蕃記 by Dai Dou 戴斗 (the title later inspired Zhao Rukuo 趙汝适 [1170-1228] to write his famous Zhufanzhi 諸蕃志), Yunnan ji 雲南記 by Yuan Zi 袁滋 (749-818), Manshu 蠻書 by Fan Chuo 樊綽 (fl. 862), Nanzhao lu 南詔錄 (the kingdom of Nanzhao was located in Yunnan) by Xu Yunmin 徐雲虔, and Xiyu guo zhi 西域國志 by Xu Jingzong 許敬宗 (592-672).
Reports on capital cities continued to play an important role, as can seen in Deng Lulong's 鄧世隆 Dongduji 東都記, Wei Ji's 韋機 Dongduji, Ma Wen's 馬溫 Yedu gushi 鄴都故事 or Liu Gongrui's 劉公銳 Yecheng xinji 鄴城新記. The first book on local tombs as touristical sites is Li Dan's 李彤 Shengxian zhongmu ji 聖賢塚墓記.
During the Tang period, a new genre of historical reports emerged that was later known as "miscellaneous geographies" (zaji 雜記). Representants of this type of geography were Mo Xiufu's 莫休符 Guilin fengtu ji 桂林風土記 (that is, admittedly, itself inspired by earlier texts, but the only surviving book of this type), Duan Gonglu's 段公路 Beihu zalu 北戶雜錄 (better known as Beihulu 北戶錄) or Yu Zhigu's 余知古 Zhugong gushi 渚宮故事 (later classified as a "miscellaneous history", zashi 雜史). "Miscellaneous geographies" were not written for administrative purposes, but have a more private nature.
While the Jiutangshu and Xintangshu catalogues still list a wide range of books written before the Tang period, most of these, particularly the descriptions of commandiers or books related for foreign peoples, did not survive the turmoils of the 10th century. The geography sections of early Song-period catalogues therefore are much shorter than those before. That of the Junzhai dushu zhi 郡齋讀書志 lists but 35 books, the (reconstructed) Chongwen zongmu 崇文總目 85, and the bibliographic chapter in the universal history Tongzhi 通志 64.
Most important among these few listed books is the imperial geography of the young Song dynasty, Taiping huanyu ji 太平寰宇記, compiled by Le Shi 樂史 (930-1007), and that of the Southern Tang, Fangyuji 方輿記, written by Xu Kai 徐鍇 (920-974). The catalogue Suichutang shumu 遂初堂書目 unfortunately only lists titles, without commenting these or mentioning the authors (if these are not considered part of the title), but presents a list of 180 titles, of which less than fifty were written before the Song period. This shows that a new wave of books on geography set in in the eleventh century.
Foreign affairs played an eminent role in geography writing, with a dozen of books alone on the Kitans which controlled the northernmost provinces of China: Qidan jiyi tongyao 契丹機宜通要, Qidan shiji 契丹事迹, Yanjing huiyao 燕京㑹要, Qidan shilu 契丹實錄, Qidan jiangyu tu 契丹疆宇圖, Qidan chaoxian liwu li 契丹朝獻禮物例, Qidan zhi 契丹志, Yanbeilu 燕北錄, Qingli fengshi lu 慶曆奉使錄, Xiongnu xuzhi 匈奴須知, Beizhi 北志, Qidan xuzhi 契丹須知, Zhang Fulin's 張浮休 Shi Liao lu 使遼錄, Zhao Zhizhong's 趙志忠 Yinshan zalu 陰山雜錄, and Qidan huiyao 契丹㑹要.
Some dictionaries or word glossaries are also counted as geographical books, namely Fan erya 蕃爾雅 (on "barbarian" languages), Shu erya 蜀爾雅 (on the language of Shu/Sichuan) and Beilu fangan 北虜方言 ("local tongues" of the northern tribes).
With the official support of Daoism and Buddhism as state religions books on mountains (where countless Daoist hermits and also Buddhist monks had withdrawn to) became fashionable. Such are Nanyue xiaolu 南嶽小錄, Lushan ji 廬山記, Xu Lushan ji 續廬山記, Huizhou Huangshan tujing 徽州黃山圖經, Tiantaishan tu 天臺山圖, Tiantai xiaolu 天臺小錄, Huoshan ji 霍山記, Jiuhua lu 九華錄 or Sanmao ji 三茅記. The rise of class of scholar-literati with plenty of time for cultural activities (apart from learning for the state examinations) was the main reason for the upcoming of a kind of "tourism", as can be seen in reports on travellers to famous mountain sites, as Nanyue xunsheng lu 南嶽尋勝錄. Reports on "ancient sites" (guji 古跡) were not any more of a pure historical interest, but also served as guidelines for such "tourists" where ancient tombs, temples or shrines were found.
One might regret that virtually no pre-Tang or even Tang period description of a commandery or prefecture has survived. Yet seen from the side of the Song period government or even private readers it must be said that they were outdated anyway. New reports on the individual prefectures of the empire were written, as can be seen in the late Song-period catalogue Zhizhai shulu jieti 直齋書錄解題, where the user finds, just to mention a few, Nankang zhi 南康志, Tongrui xinzhi 桐汭新志, Xunyang zhi 潯陽志, Yichun zhi 宜春志, Xujiang zhi 盱江志, Fuchuan zhi 富川志, Nan'an zhi 南安志, Guangling zhi 廣陵志, Yongyang zhi 永陽志, Wuling zhi 吳陵志, Gaoyou zhi 高郵志, etc.
The first catalogue in which the section on geography books is divided into subsections is Zheng Qiao's 鄭樵 bibliographic chapter in his history Tongzhi. He uses the third-layer categories of imperial geographies (dili 地里), capital regions, palaces and parks (ducheng gongyuan 都城宮苑), regional geography (junyi 郡邑), atlases (tujing 圖經), local creatures and objects (fangwu 方物), hydrology (chuandu 川瀆), mountains and caves (mingshan dongfu 名山洞府), missions to and from foreign countries (chaopin 朝聘), travels, inspection tours, military campaigns and relocations of the court (xingyi 行役), and "barbarians" (manyi 蠻夷). This pattern is not imitated by later catalogues.
The Zhizhai shulu jieti, for instance, does not use subcategory titles, but uses nevertheless an integral thematic structure. It begins with the ancient texts Shanhaijing and Shuijingzhu and then lists imperial geographies, then books on Luoyang, Chang'an and other capital cities. From then on it goes to each region of the empire (with those close to the then-capital Lin'an 臨安/Hangzhou 杭州, as Suzhou 蘇州, coming first, the remote ones last), presenting books on individual commanderies as well as overviews as Fan Chengda's 范成大 (1126-1193) Guihai yuheng zhi 桂海虞衡志, Zhou Qufei's 周去非 (1135-1189) Lingwai daida 嶺外代答, or specialized texts as the "rediscovered" Nanfang caomu zhuang 南方草木狀 (on southern plants) by Ji Han 嵇含 (263-306) or Chen Zhiyong's 陳致雍 Jinjiang haiwu yiming ji 晉江海物異名記 (on marine fauna).
The next section of the Zhizhai shulu jieti consists of a single book on palaces, namely Li Fang's 李昉 (925-996) Lidao gongdian ming 歷代宮殿名, followed by books on mountains and such on rivers, lakes and the sea, like Pan Dong's 潘洞 Xiangjiang lun 湘江論, Dou Shumeng's 竇叔蒙 Haidaozhi 海濤志, Qian Qiye's 錢棲業 Taixuhu lun 太虛潮論, Yan Su's 燕肅 (961-1040) Haichao tunlun 海潮圖論 and Zhang Junfang's 張君房 (fl. 1001) Chaoshuo 潮說. The geography section closes with books on foreign countries. This structure is more or less imitated in the bibliographic chapter of the statecraft encyclopaedia Wenxian tongkao 文獻通考 from the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368), and was in some respect also the model for the standarized arrangement in the Siku quanshu.
The imperial collectanea Siku quanshu divides the subcategory of geographical book into ten sections, namely palaces and capitals (Gongdian bu 宮殿簿, 2 books), general and imperial geographies (Zongzhi 總志, 7 books), local geographies (Duhui junxian 都會郡縣, 47 books, including one on ancient capitals), books on rivers and river conservation (Hequ 河渠, 23 books), border areas and border defence (Bianfang 邊防, 2 books), mountains and lakes (Shanshui 山水, 7 books), ancient places (Guji 古跡, 14 books), miscellaneous records (Zaji 雜記, 28 books), travel reports (Youji 游記, 3 texts), and books on foreign countries (Waiji 外紀, 17 books). The category of books on (maritime) border defense is new, but, as the introductory part in the Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書總目提要 holds, "highly important" (chong shi yong 崇實用). It includes two books from the Ming period, Hu Zongxian's 胡宗憲 (1512-1565) Chouhai tubian 籌海圖編 and Zheng Ruoceng's 鄭若曾 (1503-1570) Zheng Kaiyang zazhu 鄭開陽雜著. The cunmu 存目 part (books described but not included in the Siku quanshu corpus) of the descriptive catalogue includes a huge amount of books not included in the collectanea, with 3 books on palaces, 17 general and imperial geographies, 108 local geographies, 52 books on water conservancy, 21 books on border defense, 97 books on mountains and lakes, 37 books on ancient places, 42 miscellaneous geographies, 21 travel reports, 34 books on foreign countries, with a total sum of 432 books.