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Du shi fangyu jiyao 讀史方輿紀要


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Du shi fangyu jiyao 讀史方輿紀要 "Important notes on reading the geography treatises in the histories" is a comment on books on geography written by the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Gu Zuyu 顧祖禹. The original title was Ershiyishi fangyu jiyao 二十一史方輿紀要 "Important notes on the treatises of geography in the twenty-one official dynastic histories". It is 130 juan "scrolls" long and includes 36 maps and 35 tables. In the first part Gu Zuyu gives a general overview of the territorial extent of the empires through history and an insight into the local administration. The largest part, 114 juan, deal with the geographic history of the Ming empire 明 (1368-1644), the precursor of the Qing. For the two capitals and the 13 regional administration zones, the "provinces", Gu gives a detailed account on physical geography, administration, borders, garrisons, touristic spots, fords and passes, and historical events. In a 6 juan long part (Chuandu yitong 川凟異同 "Different and identical information about rivers and streams") Gu Zuyu deals with the course of important rivers and canals through history, as well as with the maritime border. The last juan (Fenye 分野 "Divisions of the wilderness") deals with borderlands (?). An appendix of 4 juan called Yutu yaolan 輿圖要覽 "Important overview of the geography" provides maps to the provinces, borderlands, the Yellow River and the maritime transport route from the lower Yangtze area to Beijing, the Grand Canal, as well as foreign countries like Korea, Annam, Southeast Asian and Central Asian countries.
Geographically, the book focuses on critical spots interesting for defense and attack, like mountains, fords and valleys. Topography is an important issue for warfare and has always been pointed out by military writers. Gu Zuyu tries to combine theory with the practical conditions of topography. He uses examples from history to show the importance of defense, like, for example, the location of the Ming 明 (1368-1644) capital Beijing in the north, which is exposed to attacks from the sedentary and non-sedentary polities in the north, like the Mongols and the Manchus. Therefore, Beijing disposed of several circles of defense, like the three garrisons of the capital (jinji sanfu 近畿三輔), the three passes in the north (neisanguan 內三關), three prefectural garrisons near the metropolis, nine border garrisons in the north, three outpost garrisons (sanwei 三衛) and three eastern garrisons in Shandong (sanqi 三齊). The book described the military system of whole China through the ages, indications the positions of garrisons and fortifications and the various possibilities of the local troops to attack and withdraw, with many examples from history. Of great importance is also the economic situation of the region. Provinces producing a lot of grain are also better able to provide the troops with rice during military campaigns.
The Fangyu jiyao was finished during the early Qing period when information about the Ming period geography was not yet systematically gathered. The first draft therefore had to be revised thoroughly. Extant versions of the draft and of the final product differ considerably. A copy of the draft is preserved in the Shanghai Library, as well as a manuscript. The oldest preserved printing is from 1811 from Long Wanyu's 龍萬育 Fuwen Studio 敷文閣. The Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局 has published a modern edition in the Wanyou wenku 萬有文庫 series.


Sources: Chen Bingcai 陳秉才 (1989), "Du shi fangyu jiyao 讀史方輿紀要", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Junshi 軍事 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, p. 211. ● Zhao Yongfu 趙永復 (1992), "Du shi fangyu jiyao 讀史方輿紀要", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, pp. 193-194.

September 14, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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