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Xu Xiake youji 徐霞客遊記

Nov 1, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Xu Xiake youji 徐霞客遊記 is a report of a travel by the late Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) geographer Xu Hongzu 徐弘祖 (1586-1641), style Xiake 霞客. Xu had failed in the state examinations and, unable to ever obtain a state office, dedicated himself to the study of historical geography.

From 1608 he travelled around China to observe historical sites by his own eyes. He came through all provinces of the empire and noted down every information he could obtain from the spots he visited. Especially noteworthy are his observerations of the mining industry in the southwest and his descriptions of some rivers in that regions which were hitherto not described sufficiently. He was the first scholar describing the connection between climate, soil and vegetation.

His notes were later arranged by some friends of his and published as a manuscript book. The book suffered through the ages and was only printed in 1776, but a part was already lost. The value of the book was only discovered in the 20th century. Ding Wenjiang 丁文江 (1887-1936) produced some maps and had the Xu Xiake youji published in 1928, based on a print from the early 19th century.

In 1980 another edition (Shanghai Guji Press 上海古籍出版社) was published by Chu Shaotang 褚紹唐 and Wu Yingshou 吳應壽. This edition included a critique based on two newly discovered manuscripts, as well as 39 new maps.

There is a translation of the Xu Xiake youji by Li Chi (1974), The Travel Diaries of Hsü Hsia-k'o (Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong).

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