Collected Essays on Timber-Felling in the Western Region


This Ming dynasty work in two juan, in one volume, was printed in black and blue inks during the Jiajing reign (1522–66). It is the only known copy. The author was Gong Hui, who received his jin shi degree in 1523 and then held various official posts. As vice president of the Bureau of Public Works, he supervised the water conservancy work at the Huai River. When he was military governor-general in south Jiangxi, he suppressed the powerful bandits operating in the region. He was dispatched to Sichuan to supervise the felling of timber for building the Palace of Benevolence and Longevity in the Forbidden City, in Beijing. This book, with its 15 illustrations and descriptions of the methods and tools used in timber cutting, is a rare source for studying the techniques and craftsmanship of its time. Also included are several poems and essays and a memorial to the emperor describing the hardships endured in transporting timber to the capital. As a result of Gong Hui’s memorial, the emperor discontinued the tree-felling project. The work also includes an essay entitled Shuo mu (Discourse on trees) by Zeng Yu (1480–1558), and a postscript, written by Jia Ding, a fellow official. On the first page of the book is a large square seal impression of the imperial Hanlin Academy in Chinese and Manchu scripts, an indication that it was a master copy for the compilation of Si ku quan shu (The complete collection of the four treasuries). It was originally in the collection of Tian yi ge (The Tianyi Pavilion Library), but after the completion of the Siku Collection the book apparently was not returned. The seal impression of Tian yi ge later was cut out and the book was taken out of the imperial academy and sold.

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2 juan in 1 volume


  • Only extant blue block-printed edition

Last updated: November 5, 2015