Voyage and Exploration in Cambodia and the Area to Its North


Jianpuzhai yi bei tan lu ji (Voyage and exploration in Cambodia and the area to its north) is a Chinese translation from an original French work entitled Voyage d'exploration en Indo-Chine effectué pendant les années 1866, 1867 et 1868 par une commission française. Its author was François Garnier (1839‒73), a French naval officer and explorer. The work was written around 1873 during the reign of Emperor Tongzhi (1862‒74). The exploration began after the French entered the coastal area of Vietnam, and further encroached on other territories. Captain Ernest Doudart de Lagrée (1823‒68) was dispatched as the leader of the French Mekong Exploration Commission, later led by Garnier, his second-in-command, when Doudart de Lagrée became fatally ill. Jianpuzhai and Ganbozhi, the word used by Gu Yanwu (1613‒82) in his work, Tian xia jun guo li bing shu (On the natural advantages and vulnerabilities of provinces and prefectures in the Chinese Empire), are both terms for Cambodia. Situated between Vietnam and Siam (present-day Thailand), this tiny country sustained its existence despite frequent invasions, border incidents, and exploitation by its more powerful neighbors. It was Ding Richang (1823‒82), a late-Qing official, restoration leader, reformer, and book collector, who had this French work translated into Chinese. Ding Richang was born in Fengshun, Chaozhou Prefecture, Guangdong (present-day Canton). He helped Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang, two political reformers, in the Westernization movement. During his posting as governor of Jiangsu and Fujian, he widely recruited translators to make foreign-language works available in Chinese. He was also an avid book collector, mostly of printed and handwritten Song and Yuan editions. In August 1881, the seventh year of the Guangxu reign, Hanlin scholar Li Wentian (1834‒95) stayed in Ding’s mansion Xieyuan in Jieyang while on a visit to Chaozhou Prefecture. It was there that he was shown Ding’s book collection. Ding also showed Li works not listed in his book catalog, among them translations of works by Westerners, including this translation. Li asked Ding to have a copy made so that he could share it with friends, but Ding died before Li’s wish could be fulfilled. Later Ding’s son Ding Huiheng made a handwritten copy, from which Li Wentian was able to make a copy for his own use, which is now in the National Central Library collection. This copy thus has Li’s handwritten note and preface, in which he relates how he acquired the work and states that “I have witnessed the Governor’s great skill and ease in handling difficult tasks, but I never knew this other side of his ability.” On the left side of the dust wrapper of the first volume, below the book title, is a two-line inscription that reads: “hand-copied from the translation copy in the collection of Chijingzhai [the name of Ding Richang’s library].” The preface, table of contents of juan 1, and juan 1 are presented here.

Last updated: May 31, 2017