Travel Diaries of Xu Xiake: Not Divided in Juan


Xu Xiake you ji (Travel diaries of Xu Xiake) by Xu Hongzu (1586‒1641) was the first travel record in China, with detailed geographical descriptions of the places visited by the author. The book contains the earliest descriptions of karst rocks in China along with detailed research on the causes of this rock formation. Xu Hongzu, courtesy name Xiake, was a native of Jiangyin (present-day Jiangyin, Jiangsu). Already in his youth he was known as a special and uniquely talented individual. He began to travel in his twenties. Within 30 years, he had crossed the Min Jiang River in Fujian in the east, climbed Hua Shan Mountain in the west, reached Yan and Jin in the north, and gone all the way to Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangdong, and Guangxi in the south, thus covering most of China. He wrote about every place that he visited. Si ku quan shu zong mu ti yao (Annotated bibliography of the complete imperial library) states that Xu “recorded what he saw and heard with his own eyes and ears, with more accurate descriptions. As Guizhou and Yunnan are barren and far away, there has not been much local history written. This work provides a clear and detailed analysis of the arteries and veins of mountains and rivers, with research based on evidence.” After Xu’s death, his manuscripts were scattered; what was passed on was compiled and edited by later generations. Presented here is a Qing manuscript edition from the Zhibuzu Zhai Collection of Bao Tingbo (1728‒1814), which is among the earliest existing copies. The handwriting is elegant and exquisite. The work was edited and corrected by Bao Tingbo and has inscriptions by Qing book collectors Wu Qian and Tang Hanti. At the front is a hand-copied Xu Xiake zhuan (Biography of Xu Xiake), written by Qing official and scholar Qian Qianyi (1582‒1664).

Last updated: July 27, 2016