An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Wei-Zang tongzhi 衛藏通志

Sep 11, 2019 © Ulrich Theobald

Wei-Zang tongzhi 衛藏通志 a local gazetter on Tibet. An author is not indicated, but the compilation was either supervised by Sungyūn 松筠(1754—1835), amban (resident minister) in Tibet (zhu Zang dachen 駐藏大臣) from 1794 to 1799, or by Helin 和琳 (1753-1796, participated in the second Gorkha war and the post-war arrangements), or by Heying 和瑛 (Hening 和寧, 1741-1821, amban in Tibet 1793-1800).

The title of the book is derived from the names of the two regions of Central Tibet.

Tibetan name Transliteration Chinese rendering Chinese alternative
Ü, Lhasa dbUs དབུས Wei 衛 Qianzang 前藏 "Near Tibet"
Tsang, Shigatse gTsang གཙང Zang 藏 Houzang 後藏 "Farther Tibet"

The gazetteer was compiled between 1794 and 1797, but was thereafter revised several times. It is mainly based on documents in the archive of the Tibet ambans (zhu Zang dachen yamen dang'an 駐藏大臣衙門檔案), but also includes other, more general material on the population of Tibet.

The book with a length of 16 juan and an introductory fascicle (juanshou 卷首, including imperial writings related to Tibet) describes the history, administration, and culture of Tibet to the end of the Qianlong reign-period 乾隆 (1736-1795). The text is divided into 16 chapters that follow the common pattern of local gazetteers. The Wei-Zang tongzhi is more detailed than an older gazetteer, Yūnli's 允禮 (d. 1738) Xizang zhi 西藏志, at least regarding the Qianglong reign-period.

An exemption is the chapter on compensation and welfare (14 Fuxu 撫恤) which gives evidence of the tax cuts adopted after the second Gorkha war (1791-1792). The government of Tibet, the Kashag (Tib. bka' shag, Ch. gaxia 噶廈), was encouraged not to levy or to levy less grain, cattle, sheep, and monetary payments. The Qing government unburdened the Kashag by remitting money to Lhasa.

The text quotes from many memorials, imperial edicts, archival sources, and texts of rules and statutes (like Qinding Xizang zhangcheng 欽定西藏章程 from 1793), which is not quite common for typical local gazetteers. It is important as a source on the Gorkha wars, as it provides information not found in the military annals Balebu jilüe 巴勒布紀略 and Kuo'erka jilüe 廓爾喀紀略.

The Wei-Zang tongzhi is found in the series Jianxicunshe congshu 漸西村舍叢書 (1895), Wanyou wenku 萬有文庫 (1931), Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編 (1937), Guoxue jiben congshu 國學基本叢書 (1968), and Zhongguo bianjiang congshu 中國邊疆叢書 (1965). The 1982 edition of the Xizang Renmin Press 西藏人民出版社 includes commentaries by Wu Fengpei 吳豐培.

Table 1. Contents of the Weizang tongzhi 衛藏通志
1. 考證 Kaozheng Critical notes on historical sources
2. 疆域 Jiangyu Administrative units
3. 山川 Shanchuan Mountains and rivers
4. 程站 Chengzhan Courier stations
5. 喇嘛 Lama The lamaist clergy
6. 寺廟 Simiao Monasteries
7. 番目 Fanmu The nobility, local administration
8. 兵制 Bingzhi Military system
9. 鎮撫 Zhenfu Defence and public security
10. 錢法 Qianfa Monetary policy
11. 貿易 Maoyi Trade
12. 條例 Tiaoli Regulations
13. 紀略 Jilüe Documents
14. 憮恤 Wuxu Compensation and welfare, tax cuts
15. 部落 Buluo Mongol tribes and foreign peoples
16. 經典 Jingdian Religious literature
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Zhou Weizhou 周偉洲, Ding Jingtai 丁景泰, ed. (2006). Sichou zhi lu da cidian 絲綢之路大辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 792.