General Gazetteer of Two Counties and Three Passes


This rare edition is one of 413 local gazetteers of China acquired for the Library of Congress by American agricultural botanist and explorer Walter T. Swingle (1871–1952). Swingle traveled to Asia in 1918–19 and collected a large number of books on botany. Gazetteers contain detailed descriptions of a locality at a given period and provide in-depth information and sources for the study of Chinese history, geography, local economy, culture, language and dialects, biographies, and the administration of local government. The author of this printed gazetteer is unknown. The work was published during the Jiajing reign (1522–66) of the Ming dynasty. According to Qian qing tang shu mu (Catalog of books in the Qianqingtang collection), the original edition had 23 juan. All surviving copies, including this one and the one in the collection of Toyo Bunko in Japan, are incomplete. This copy has 13 juan in eight volumes. It deals with the histories of the two prefectures and three mountain passes. The first five juan discuss the two prefectures, Xuanfu (four juan) and Datong (one juan). The 11th and 13th juan describe the three passes. The two prefectures border each other. Xuanfu is in northwestern Hebei Province; Datong is in northern Shanxi Province, in the northwest part of the high Mongolian plateau. The prefectures were of strategic importance, particularly during the Yongle period (1403–24), a time of military buildup and the construction of the Great Wall. The three passes, Yanmen Guan (Pass of the Gate of Wild Geese), Ningwu Guan (Pass of Peace and Force), and Piantou Guan (Pass of the Slanted Top), all located in Shanxi Province, controlled access through the mountains to the valleys below. Yanmen Guan, encircled by three major stone walls and the largest of the three passes, was situated high in the mountains. It is now one of China’s designated protected sites. Ningwu Guan stood in the valley of two mountains and was the pass to Datong in the north and Taiyuan in the south and thus the site of many military clashes. Piantou Guan, near the Yellow River, was built in the late 14th century and protected by 22 fortresses. The gazetteer also highlights the historical evolution of the Great Wall construction and the interaction between the Chinese and the Mongols north of the Great Wall from the beginning of the Ming dynasty to the Jiajing reign. On the cover of each volume is a seal impression of a Manchu inscription, which reads “the seal of Yang Shuxun,” who may have been the previous owner of the work.

Last updated: January 3, 2018