Records of the Investigation of Things


Bo wu zhi (Records of the investigation of things) was originally compiled during the Western Jin (265‒316) by Zhang Hua (232‒300). It was annotated by Zhou Riyong and others during the Song dynasty and was published by Ming collector Wu Guan, who included it in his series Gu jin yi shi (Series of ancient and modern historical stories). Zhang Hua, courtesy name Maoxian, was a native of Fangcheng, in the commandery of Fanyang (present-day Gu’an, Hebei). His highest post was that of minister of works. According to Shi yi ji (Research into lost records) by Wang Jia of Eastern Jin (317‒420), Zhang Hua showed a great interest in reading works on strange events and supernatural phenomena, and he collected historical stories from all over the country. He first wrote Bo wu zhi in 400 juan, which he then presented to Emperor Wudi (reigned 265‒90). He later reduced the text to ten juan. The work recorded details on various subjects, including geography, antiquities, birds and animals, historical stories, mythology, alchemy, and so forth. The result was a collection of stories written in the genre of zhiguai (supernatural stories) about natural wonders and magical phenomena. The original work was lost. The existing edition is a compilation of stories taken from many early classics and adopted from other stories. Some of them did not originate from Zhang Hua’s original work. The copy presented here is the Wu Guan edition of Ming, one of the works included in his series Gu jin yi shi (Series of ancient and modern lost histories). It was printed during the Wanli era (1573‒1620). Qing book collector Huang Pilie collated the copy with his notations, based on a Song facsimile copy.

Last updated: April 14, 2017