Illustrated Introduction to Countries over the Seas


Hai guo tu zhi (Illustrated introduction to countries over the seas) is a comprehensive and systematic history and geography of the world and the first great masterpiece of Chinese modern history. Its source was Si zhou zhi (Encyclopedia of four continents), written by Lin Zexu (1785−1850), a scholar official and prominent figure in the campaigns of the First Opium War (1839−42). The work was compiled after consulting historical records and gazetteers as well as materials published since the Ming, particularly relating to the islands and seacoast. The first edition was published in the 22nd year of the Daoguang reign (1842), in 50 juan and 570,000 characters. It was later expanded by Wei Yuan (1794−1857) into 100 juan and 880,000 characters. The entire work includes 75 maps, 57 pages of illustrations depicting crafts of the West, and seven drawings describing theories of earth and astronomy. Presented here is juan one, including the title page, preface by Wei Yuan, and the table of contents for 100 juan, with one of the prefaces giving the date of the seventh year of Tongzhi (1868). It became a great masterpiece on world history and geography with rich contents, fine style—and exquisite illustrations in the full work. It attained far-reaching influence in the country, broadening the Chinese people’s world view and contributing to their learning. To certain degree, it also provided an impetus to its neighboring countries, such as Japan, especially in the reforms of the Meiji era (1868−1912).

Publication Information

Guweitang, Shaoyang, Hunan


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Physical Description

20 volumes ; 20.5 x 14.9 centimeters

Last updated: July 31, 2014