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Hefang tongyi 河防通議

Mar 28, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Hefang tongyi 河防通議 "Comprehensive discussions of river conservancy" is a description of 300 years of water conservancy projects along the Yellow River. The book was compiled by the Northern Song-period 北宋 (960-1126) scholar Shen Li 沈立 (1007-1078), courtesy name Lizhi 立之, and finished in 1048, yet this book is lost and has been reconstructed during the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) by the Persian scholar Šansi 贍思 (1278-1351), who was during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) renamed to Šakši 沙克什.

Šakši had been educated in a Chinese manner so that he was also interested in the interpretation of Confucian Classics. He wrote quite a number of Chinese books on geography and recent history, like Zhenyang fengtu ji 鎮陽風土記, Xu Dongyang zhi 續東陽志, Xiguo tujing 西國圖經, Xiyu yiren zhuan 西域異人傳, Jin Aizong ji 金哀宗記, and Zhengda zhuchen liezhuan 正大諸臣列傳.

Šakši's book on water conservancy was compiled in 1321 on the base of a version from Kaifeng 開封 (the Bian version 汴本) and includes the surviving part of the original Hefang tongyi, Zhou Jun's 周俊 book Heshiji 河事集 as well as the official book (jianben 監本) Hefang tongyi from the Jin empire 金 (1115-1234), compiled by the Directorate of Waterways (dushuijian 都水監). Because it is not the original book, the Yuan-period version is also called Chongding Hefang tongyi 重訂河防通議 "Revised discussions...".

Šakši's compilation is 2-juan long and divided into 6 chapters. It describes the geography of the Yellow River, the shape and situation of the canals, main irrigation arteria, and the organisation, material and accounting matters of water conservancy works.

The Hefang tongyi is an important book on the practicality of taming the floods of the Yellow River. It shows that inundation was not Heaven's will to punish mankind and their rulers, but that it was the result of the insufficiencies in water control. Sophisticated engineering and careful planning could prevent catastrophes of inundation. It provides a lot of information how water conservancy was concretely implemented and organised.

It is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Shoushange congshu 守山閣叢書, Congshu jicheng 叢書集成, and the Zhongguo shuili zhenben congshu 中國水利珍本叢書 from 1931.

Table 1. Contents of the Hefang tongyi 河防通議
河議 Heyi Plans for taming the Yellow River
制度 Zhidu The system of works
料例 Liaoli Material and rules
功程 Gongcheng Engineering work
輸運 Shuyun Transport
算法 Suanfa Accounting
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