University of Hawai'i Press
  • The Local in the Imperial Vision:Landscape, Topography, and Geography in Southern Song Map Guides and Gazetteers

This article examines the generation of topographic maps and geographical writings about local regions of the Southern Song (1127–1279). It identifies two distinct yet interrelated models in the making of local regions in maps and writings: first, map guides (tujing 圖經), which were produced and updated regularly at different tiers of local government for administrative purposes; second, a growing number of monographs, some of them also named "map guides" (tujing) and others "gazetteers" (zhi 志 or difang zhi 地方志), which were compiled by local literati scholars. Upon close examination of these two models, one finds that the local consciousness and identity voiced by the provincial elite were congruous with centralist sentiment and discourse at this time. Specifically, the literati described features of local topographies within an imperial context and in the language of the authorities. Moreover, the wide circulation of these writings also contributed to the collective imagining of a Song Empire in the daily life of the society. In sum, this article argues that there was a close relationship between cartographic discourse and the production of empire at the local level. On the one hand, the state of the Southern Song, traditionally thought to have lost momentum in local control, still proactively maintained regular checks on local geography through mapmaking. On the other hand, local literati strived to establish ties with the central state in various ways while documenting their communities in gazetteers.


Song dynasty, map guide, tujing, gazetteer, difang zhi, geography, topography

[End Page 333]


Map guides (tujing 圖經, literally "map and treatise") and gazetteers (difang zhi 地方志, literally "record of a local region") were the two dominant genres of geographical writing in the Song dynasty (960–1279). The meaning of these two terms may seem self-evident, as it is generally accepted that a map guide refers to an administrative text comprising maps and treatises on a given jurisdiction, whereas a gazetteer, although accompanied by maps in some cases, primarily contains written records of a local region produced by local elites. To date, Song dynasty historians James Hargett and Peter Bol have provided the most insightful research on this topic in the contexts of the Tang-Song transition and the rise of a local identity among scholars in the Southern Song (1127–1279).1 They observed in particular a clear change in which map guides were being replaced by gazetteers compiled by local scholars in the Southern Song. This shift in the Southern Song was in line with the "localist turn" that characterized the increasingly important roles and networks played by scholars in their regions.2 However, local government documents recently brought to light show that the state remained active in making maps, registers, and map guides in the Southern Song. Therefore, I propose that there existed two parallel models of geographical writing during the Song dynasty: first, maps and map guides made by local governments as administrative records, and second, map guides and gazetteers compiled by local scholars with the support of local officials. Map guides should not be considered just the precursor to the gazetteer genre; rather, they remained in use by local governments in the Southern Song.

Although these two models assumed different forms, procedures, and styles of writing, they were not unrelated. Instead, they shared social capital during the process of their compilation. The first model, essentially a manifestation of state power and an extension of court centralism, provided not only information and data but also financial and human resources for the compilation of the second. In the writing of the second model, the empire was represented as a ubiquitous and unified state that local scholars, as compilers, identified themselves as a part of. Accompanying the wide circulation of these writings, the information, vocabularies, and concepts used in the two models were appropriated in social life in a subtle and complex manner: they permeated into everyday language and shaped the trajectory of travelers [End Page 334] through route maps. The first two sections of this article focus on the two models of geographical writing, respectively, and the third discusses the notion of "four extremes and eight directions" (sizhi badao 四至八到) in mapmaking, which is crucial to understanding the geophysical and jurisdictional space of a given region in both models. The "localist turn" of the Southern Song should be understood as a pattern ultimately different from that of later periods in Chinese history. For example, it stands in contrast to the self-governing of local communities with little state supervision during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The state of the Southern Song, traditionally thought to have lost momentum in local control, still proactively maintained regular checks on local geography through mapmaking. At the same time, local literati strove to establish ties with the central state in various ways while documenting their communities in gazetteers.

maps and map guides as administrative documents made by local governments

In an edict issued during the Daye era (605–618) of the Sui dynasty (581–618), Emperor Yangdi 煬帝 (r. 604–618) requested that all commanderies (jun 郡) categorize (tiao 條) and report their customs, products, and maps to the Department of State Affairs (Shangshu sheng 尚書省).3 Although map guides had been compiled sporadically in local regions since the Eastern Han (25–220), if not earlier, this seems to have been the first formal call from the central government for their compilation.4 Subsequently, three collections were produced: Records on Local Products and Customs of All Commanderies (Zhujun wuchan tusu ji 諸郡物產土俗記) in 151 fascicles, Maps and Treatises of All Domains (Quyu tuzhi 區宇圖志) in 129 fascicles, and Collections of Map Guides of All Regions (Zhuzhou tujing ji 諸州圖經集) in 100 fascicles.5 The compilation process involved more than just assembling the documents. Take Maps and Treatises of All Domains as an example: when its first edition was completed by Cui Ze 崔賾 (548–616) and a few other scholars, Emperor Yangdi rejected it because of its brevity and poor organization, and he immediately ordered Yu Shiji 虞世基 (?–618) to recompile it.6 Yu had Du Bao 杜寶 (6th–7th century) and three other scholars present the customs of four commanderies and then selected one of the four samples as the template for further compilations. Under the emperor's supervision, [End Page 335] the new edition also introduced some innovations that would be followed in later geographical writings:

Emperor [Yangdi] requested [that the compilers] expand this edition to 1,200 fascicles (juan 卷). At the beginning of each fascicle are images. In addition, new forms (xinyang 新樣) are also introduced: the height of each sheet of paper is two chi [approximately 52 cm]. The chapter on mountains and rivers starts with a landscape painting; the chapter on a commandery, princedom, or marquisate with a map of their townships; and the chapter on a township with an architectural plan of its building complexes. Mountains, rivers, and towns on these images are inscribed with small characters.

Emperor Yangdi's insistence on the new material form and structure demonstrates his vision of establishing a new model for the state-regulated cartographic project. The height of two chi doubled the size of a regular government file or manuscript, which in the sixth and seventh centuries had usually measured one chi (Rong 2001, 345–350). The placement of maps at the beginning of map guides, as James Hargett has correctly observed, became the standard for future map guides and gazetteers (Hargett 1996, 410).

During the Tang dynasty (618–906), the Bureau of Operations (Zhifang 職方) was granted the right to gather local map guides and registers once every two to five years. If jurisdictional divisions or mergers occurred, additional submissions would be made accordingly.7 The main purpose of making the Tang map guides was to supply the central government with up-to-date maps and factual information about local transportation networks, the transformation of local administrative institutions, customs, local products, and landmarks and famous sites (Hargett 1996, 410).8 This structure is also clearly seen through the surviving portions of Maps and Treatises of Shazhou (Shazhou tujing 沙州圖經) and Maps and Treatises of Xizhou (Xizhou tujing 西州圖經) (Wang and Zheng 1993, 109–141, 208–214). According to Xin Deyong 辛德勇, the burgeoning production of map guides in the Tang was spurred by the newly implemented rule that officials should be appointed to jurisdictions other than their own birthplace, with term limits ranging from three to four years. Up-to-date map guides would allow such officials to familiarize themselves with the local geography, resources, and customs (Xin 2003, 443–444). [End Page 336]

During the Song, the court continued the Tang practice of soliciting map guides from local jurisdictions and further expanded it to almost every jurisdictional level.9 The making and use of maps was thereby woven into the fabric of many imperial affairs. The motivation for this intensification lay in the political imperative of a centralized power and the necessity of translating the imagination of a holistic empire into visual form. Only a few decades after the founding of the dynasty, Taizong 太宗 (r. 976–997) resumed the collection of local maps and registers. All circuits and prefectures were required to submit these documents during the intercalary year in the Yongxi era (984–987) and during every other intercalary year in the Chunhua era (990–994) (Li Tao [1183] 2004, 18/410). An intercalary year (runnian 閏年) on a Chinese lunar-solar calendar usually takes place every two or three years. The extra leap month in that year allowed local officials more time to tend to additional duties. It was said that one year's submission of the prefectural and county maps could add up to four hundred fascicles (Li Tao [1183] 2004, 18/410). These maps were submitted to various units of the central government, such as the Bureau of Operations, which was responsible for the preservation of military maps, and the Bureau of the Presented Phoenix (Yiluansi 儀鸞司), which was responsible for providing imperial ceremonial equipment (Wang Pu [961] 1955, 779/3a). Despite the apparent neatness of the system, however, glitches and uncertainties occurred in the on-the-ground operation. For example, the vice director of the Bureau of Operations, Wu Shu 吳淑 (947–1002), complained about the difficulty in piecing together the prefectural maps since the shape of each prefecture was as "uneven as the teeth of dogs" (quanya xiangru 犬牙相入). To remedy this, Wu proposed in 1001 that each circuit should first assemble its prefectural maps before submitting them to the Bureau of Operations (Li Tao [1183] 2004, 49/1070). This episode took place only four decades after the Song was founded, so Wu's proposal can be seen as an instrumental initiative that would potentially escalate the centralization of imperial authority. It could also be read as a revealing metaphor for empire building: in order to present the empire as a unitary, holistic entity on a countrywide map, the central government needed to artificially remove or amend the glitches in the process of assembling the maps.

A set of Southern Song governmental files of Shu 舒 Prefecture from the Southern Song, which were later used to print the Literary Collection [End Page 337] of Wang Wengong (Wang Wengong wenji 王文公文集), has only recently drawn scholars' attention.10 These files not only provide further evidence of the regular production of map guides but also shed light on their material form.

Among the files is a checklist of items that Huaining 懷寧 County submitted to Shu Prefecture in 1162 (Sun and Wei 2011, 19–20):11

Following precedents (yili 依例), our county has made a Map Guide (Tujing), a volume of Essential Knowledge (Xuzhi 須知) and other items below. Here I make a report to list them:

One volume (ce 冊) of Essential Knowledge;

One volume (ce) of Map Guide;

One volume (ben 本) of the "Four Extremes and Eight Directions" County Map (Benxian sizhi badao ditu 本縣四至八到地圖);

One set (ben) of Maps on Land Reclamation (Yingtian tu 營田圖).

Each of the four items listed above is not unfamiliar to students of the Song dynasty, but the ways in which they were grouped together and submitted deserve some attention. The content of this Essential Knowledge is unclear, because among the Shu documents, fourteen items are titled Essential Knowledge, and their subjects range from judicial investigation, armory, and workshop storage to wine tax.12 "Essential knowledge" in this context could have been used as a generic term for the documents covering the administrative and financial aspects of each jurisdiction, which could have been immensely useful during the handover between officials.13 All these brochures were dated the eleventh month of 1162, during Xiang Jun's 向汮 (active 12th century) appointment as prefect, a position he occupied until 1163 (Sun and Wei 2011, 6–7).14

Nonetheless, it is clear that the last three items listed in the above dossier are related to local maps and geography. The fact that each of these files was bound separately implies their difference in format from the map guides or gazetteers compiled by local scholars, which usually include maps and written descriptions in one volume. In the case cited above, the Map Guide, the "Four Extremes and Eight Directions" County Map, and the Maps on Land Reclamation were contained in one package but were produced and counted as three separate pieces, so it is safe to speculate that this "map guide" did [End Page 338] not actually include maps. An administrative manual of the Southern Song, Guidelines of Prefecture and County (Zhouxian tigang 州縣提綱), also suggests the same arrangement. In an entry titled "Drawing Detailed Maps" (Xiang hua ditu 詳畫地圖), the author thus advised: a newly arrived official of a prefecture or county can only get a rough idea of his jurisdiction from a map guide, but to get a thorough understanding he should first have maps of towns and villages drawn in detail and then assemble them into a composite map (Anonymous [late 12th c.] 1983, 2/18b–19a).15 In the case of Huaining, the essential knowledge and map guide measured by ce consisted only of writings, and the two sets of maps measured by ben only of images. Although the terms ce and ben were sometimes used interchangeably to count bound books or painting albums during the Song, ce often referred to the new binding format either for writings or images, and ben to the edition either in its original form or as copies. While promoting his "land-survey" (jingjie 經界) policies, Li Chunnian 李椿年 (1096–1164) required counties to make three copies (ben) of the land tax registers and maps of each township: one to be kept at the county office, one to be submitted to the prefectural office, and the third to be submitted to the circuit office (Xu Song [ca. 1809] 2008, 6/39–40; Tao Jing-shen 2009, 701). In the case of the Huaining document, ce may refer to the binding format for written documents, and ben may imply that there is more than one copy of these maps.

The term "following precedents" implies that submitting maps and map guides remained an established practice in the Southern Song administration. Although in this case the term applies only to the submission from the county to the prefectural level, higher jurisdictional levels might have compelled similar practices, given the streamlined Song bureaucracy. Adhering to a particular format, these documents were supposed to be regularly produced by local governments for the administrative purpose of keeping detailed records on registration, landed property, and geographical boundaries. As I suggested above, I propose that there were two parallel models of map guides pertaining to writing about and mapping local geography. The first model was made solely to serve for government administrative documents, such as the Huaining dossier, that closely followed certain formats and were produced in a systematic and institutionalized manner. As government files that served administrative purposes, they were usually preserved for a short period, just as these Shu Prefecture documents were declassified [End Page 339] and recycled in order to print books about two to three decades after being written (Liu Xiangchun 2012, 54).

The second model, which I will discuss in the next section, was made in the form of monographs. Compiled by local scholars with support from government officials, these monographs reflected various writing styles, topics, and interests. However, I also argue that these two models of writing were not unrelated. Government administrative documents like the Huaining dossier provided primary sources for the compilation of map guides and gazetteers in the form of monographs, which were circulated outside the administrative institutions.

monographs of map guides and gazetteers compiled by local scholars

Frequently seen in geographical writings during the Southern Song are laments that the state-commissioned compilation of map guides after the Dazhong xiangfu era (1008–1016) came to a standstill. Attempts to compile a comprehensive gazetteer were made during the reigns of Shenzong (r. 1067–1085) and Huizong (r. 1100–1126). The Office for the Editing of the Map Guides and Records of the Nine Regions (Jiuyu tuzhi suo 九域圖 志所) was created in the imperial library during the Chongning era (1102–1106) to supervise the project, but the compilation was brought to an abrupt end by the dismissal of the reform-minded yet ill-famed chief councilor Cai Jing 蔡京 (1046–1126) in 1120 (Bol 2001, 46; Pan 2014, 91–94). After moving south in 1127, the state lost the imperative to compile administrative documents into monographs suitable for a larger audience. This rhetoric often appeared during the Southern Song, a time when map guides were increasingly named "gazetteers."16 These writings, as Hargett and Bol have observed, demonstrate a strong sense of local consciousness. In his study of Zhu Changwen 朱長文 (1039–1098) and his Supplement to the Map Guide of Wu Commandery (Wujun tujing xuji 吳郡圖經續記), historian Takashi Sue argues that this transition could be a complex process involving the local government's initiative and self-identification of the compiler. While Zhu intended to contribute to a new comprehensive gazetteer project as the subject of the Song empire, he also claimed his agency as a local scholar by refusing official appointments in the new government and voicing his criticism [End Page 340] in the gazetteer on the new policies of Wang Anshi 王安石 (1021–1086) (Sue 2009). Without dismissing the arguments made by Hargett and Bol, I believe that the dynamic relationship between compilers, supervisors, and readers in these gazetteer compilation projects should be foregrounded, as they are all active agents in the formation of a complex relationship between the local consciousness and the sense of belonging to a unified empire.

Due to space limitations, I focus mainly on four sets of map guides and gazetteers in this paper: those of Yan Prefecture 嚴州, Siming 四明, Lin'an 臨安, and Jiankang 建康. Three map guides and gazetteers of Yan Prefecture—one compiled in 1137 during the Shaoxing era, one compiled in 1186 during the Chunxi era (1174–1189), and one compiled sometime during the Jingding era (1260–1264)—show considerable continuities in their objectives and structure. The rhetoric and narrative in these three works consistently placed the prefecture in an imperial context in terms of its geographical and political significance. In the preface to the 1137 edition, the compiler, Dong Fen 董棻 (ca. 12th century), pointed out that the compilation was necessary because many changes had been made to the jurisdiction of Yan Prefecture by the central government since the Dazhong xiangfu edition compiled around the 1010s.17 Indeed, divisions and mergers of jurisdictions were frequently made to maintain governance and legitimacy throughout the Song (Mostern 2011, 103–165).

The 1186 edition supplemented information missing in the previous edition and recorded changes that had occurred during the last five decades. In addition to the maps and imperial edicts placed at the beginning of the monograph, the first fascicle of this edition provided detailed information on Yan Prefecture with regard to the following: institutional vicissitude in the previous dynasties, the corresponding heavenly realms (fenye 分野), customs, prefectural boundaries, townships and shrines, registers, academies, civil service examinations, governmental offices, hostels and posthouses, storage facilities, military camps, wards and markets, bridges, canals, produce, local tribute, tax and revenue, Buddhist and Daoist temples, historical sites, worthy prefects, records of the selected civil and military service examination candidates, celebrated people, and steles (Liu Wenfu [1185] 1990, 4275–4347). The subsequent two fascicles, modeled after the structure of the first fascicle, covered the above aspects of two counties under prefectural jurisdiction separately.18 [End Page 341]

The third edition, compiled in the Jingding era, documents only institutional changes, events, and people that appeared after the completion of the 1186 edition, and it therefore shows a conscious continuity with the previous records, both temporally and geospatially. By the same token, the new edition does not include any maps because they had already been collected in the previous edition. The phrase "continued records/gazetteers" (xuzhi 續志) in the new title represents a semiotic signifier for its continuity with—rather than its rupture from—the previous form. This edition's records on prefectural institutions expand from one fascicle to four, although its basic structure remains relatively the same except for a few newly added categories. The changes seem to place an emphasis on local schools, elites, scholar-officials, and local scenery, which the local elites, like the compilers themselves, would have frequently encountered in their own lives (Zheng and Fang [1262] 1990, 4349–4412). Considerable description, for example, is given to schools and academies, especially those where officials and scholars received their training. Both compilers Zheng Yao 鄭瑤 (b. 1217) and Fang Renrong 方仁榮 (active 13th century) were teachers at the prefectural school. A government-sponsored school named the Fishing Terrace Academy (Diaotai shuyuan 釣臺書院), where Zheng was the head, also receives a thorough introduction in this monograph.19 The names of Zheng and Qian alongside others appear in the lists of prefectural instructors (jiaoshou 教授) and presented scholars (jinshi 進士). The names of these scholars, who were apparently considered local assets, are the epitomes of the prefectural quotas from the perspective of the imperial court, which can be found in the chart on the General Map (Yudi tu 輿地圖) made in the 1260s (figure 1).

There is no doubt that the information gathered in the above monographs had to rely on the administrative documents of the local governments—namely, the first model of map guides and maps. First, both the maps and the written description of Yan Prefecture and its counties include complete information on the so-called "Four Extremes and Eight Directions," a title that also appears in the Hu aining. Second, the data in the monographs—including information about the tax on wine, tea, salt, incense, and alum; revenue from silk and cotton production; population; troop deployment; and examination candidates—must have been extracted from government statistics in the form of essential knowledge or map guides. Third, the monographs present the strong rhetoric that identified the prefecture as part [End Page 342]

Figure 1. Map of Yudi tu, ink-line sketch after rubbing, Southern Song. Source: . <br/><br/>Used with permission from Wenwu chubanshe 文物出 版社, Beijing, China.
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Figure 1.

Map of Yudi tu, ink-line sketch after rubbing, Southern Song. Source: Cao et al. (1990, plate 82).

Used with permission from Wenwu chubanshe 文物出 版社, Beijing, China.

[End Page 343] of the empire. The quotations of the "Tribute of Yu" and the Rites of Zhou on geographical, ritual, and customary aspects of Yan Prefecture, which imply a sense of belonging to a larger political entity and a continuous cultural tradition, also match the grand narrative in the "Treatise on Geography" (Dili zhi 地理志) of dynastic histories, which can be traced back to the Han shu 漢書. The edicts relevant to the prefecture are placed at the beginning of the monographs, announcing the princes being assigned as governors of Yan Prefecture (Liu Wenfu [1185] 1990, 4277–4278).20

At first glance, written words seem to have gained more significance than maps for the Southern Song, and more writings were called gazetteers than were called map guides. The most telling example of this change is the intentional naming of the Siming gazetteer by Luo Jun 羅濬 (active 13th century). Luo originally titled his book The Map Guide of Siming (Siming tujing 四明圖經), but then modified it to Gazetteer of Siming in the Baoqing Era (Baoqing Siming zhi 寶慶四明誌). His reason for the change: "I have completed twenty-one fascicles from early summer to mid-autumn. Since there are only a few maps, but there are abundant written records, I decide[d] to simply title it zhi 志 and place the maps at the beginning" (Fang Wanli and Luo Jun [1227] 1990, 4989). Indeed, the production of map images, as cartographic historian Cordell Yee has observed, relied heavily on written and textual sources (Yee and Henderson 1987, 37–53). Both Hargett and Bol point out that geographical writings tended to be called gazetteers rather than map guides when local literati scholars were involved in their compilation (Bol 2001, 37–46). Scholars recorded their observations and voiced their opinions mainly through exceptional writing skills; thus, the images do not seem to bear any significance except to be used as front matter. However, front matter still deserves our attention. As literary theorist Gérard Genette points out, the presentation of the paratext carries spatial, temporal, substantive, pragmatic, and functional messages, and it also ensures the presence of the text and the ways in which it is received and consumed (Genette 1997, 1–2).

If a gazetteer was meant to provide comprehensive coverage of local political, economic, cultural, and religious institutions, one can assume that the meaning of a locality was wrapped in a conglomerate of information conveyed through maps and writings. In this sense, the maps that appear before the writings can serve as a visual index of the contents. Starting from the [End Page 344] Song, the relationship between topographic maps and their lengthy inscriptions became increasingly standardized. A map guide or gazetteer usually started with a few maps of the jurisdictions and sometimes the architectural plan of the jurisdictional building complex, followed by a detailed written explanation of all aspects of the local region. As a result, these images enjoyed a sense of visual superiority due to their placement in the monograph and as the signifier of its contents.

The reading experience would be oriented and framed by the selected content found in the maps. While discussing the ideological and symbolic dimensions of landscape in the Tang and Song dynasties, art historian Martin Powers argues that the supposedly "natural" landscape offered a site where court painters could "naturalize" hierarchical social order in order to project imperial claims as universal ideals (Powers 1998, 17–21). It is not a coincidence that mapmakers of this period also started to adopt texture strokes, signs, and other visual vocabulary from landscape paintings to represent the same components of mountains, rivers, and buildings in their maps (figure 2). Meanwhile, the seat of government in the map, usually located in the upper section and surrounded by mountains and rivers, also evokes a sense of centrality, security, and stability (figures 3 and 4). Such depiction of a self-contained, geomantically motivated space could easily be found in Song landscape paintings (figure 5).

The placement and arrangement of these components do not accurately reflect the topography, but they do highlight the power structure of the local jurisdiction. Take the map of Jiande 建德 County in Yan Prefecture as an example: it includes natural landmarks, government offices and academies, and local temples (figure 3). Inscriptions on the maps exhibit layers of geographical, administrative, and social information. Natural landmarks, such as mountains and rivers, provide a topographical framework, and government offices located right in the middle of the map are a visual manifestation of the centrality of state authority. Moreover, Buddhist and Daoist temples and other local shrines are also well documented. Most significant temples recorded in the writing appear in the maps, especially those temples that have been granted name plaques by the court—a proof of state recognition— and those that would have drawn scholars to appreciate their surrounding scenery. In this way, natural landscapes and social networks were connected to the imperial discourse through visual images and written words. The [End Page 345] marking of these locations on the maps was not only practical but also coded with political discourse.

Figure 2. You Shixiong 游師雄 (1037–1097), Topographic map for the Mausoleum of Emperor Taizong (r. 626-49) of the Tang dynasty, print, Northern Song. Source: ). 中華書局, Beijing, China.
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Figure 2.

You Shixiong 游師雄 (1037–1097), Topographic map for the Mausoleum of Emperor Taizong (r. 626-49) of the Tang dynasty, print, Northern Song. Source: Li Haowen ([1340s] 1990, 212–213).

Used with permission from Zhonghua shuju 中華書局, Beijing, China.

Selected and highlighted via a set of written and visual languages, these maps were presented to readers for their administrative, cultural, or social significance. In other words, readers would read these maps through an imperial vision. By being collected in a monograph of a local map guide or gazetteer, these maps constituted a codified repertoire of the "local," which was embedded simultaneously in the visual politics and cultural dynamics of a complex imperial power structure. Hence, the map was transformed from an icon of a local place to an indexical feature of a geopolitical and social space.

As Hargett correctly observes, in the Southern Song, literati scholars and local officials started to get involved in gazetteer compilation projects. These projects were usually supervised (xiu 修) by local officials, but they were actually compiled (zuan 纂) by local scholars. Bol further argues that local officials were only nominal supervisors in most cases, and that local [End Page 346]

Figure 3. Map of Jiande County, woodblock print, Southern Song. Source: ). <br/><br/>Used with permission from Zhonghua shuju, Beijing, China.
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Figure 3.

Map of Jiande County, woodblock print, Southern Song. Source: Liu Wenfu ([1185] 1990, 4282).

Used with permission from Zhonghua shuju, Beijing, China.

Figure 4. Map of Jiande County, woodblock print, Southern Song. Source: ). <br/><br/>Used with permission from Zhonghua shuju, Beijing, China.
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Figure 4.

Map of Jiande County, woodblock print, Southern Song. Source: Liu Wenfu ([1185] 1990, 4282).

Used with permission from Zhonghua shuju, Beijing, China.

[End Page 347]

Figure 5. Follower of Li Gonglin (1049–1106), Dwelling in the Longmian 龍眠山莊圖, detail of handscroll mounted as an album leaf, ink and color on silk. Source: <br/><br/>Used with permission from the Cleveland Museum of Art.
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Figure 5.

Follower of Li Gonglin (1049–1106), Dwelling in the Longmian 龍眠山莊圖, detail of handscroll mounted as an album leaf, ink and color on silk. Source:

Used with permission from the Cleveland Museum of Art.

literati were the main group who undertook the task (Bol 2001, 46). Nonetheless, I believe we should pay due attention to the nature of this type of collaboration. Unlike in the first model, where the maps and map guides served administrative purposes, the compilation of gazetteers by individual scholars entailed semi-official procedures of gathering and dealing with their sources. Again, due to length limitations, this paper focuses primarily on the team effort involving scholars as compilers and officials as their overseers and supporters.

In a few cases, it was the local officials who initiated the projects and gathered relevant materials for their compilation. Qian Keze 錢可則 (ca. 13th century), for example, started assembling sources in his spare time after assuming a post as the prefect of Jiankang. He later forwarded his sources to the two academy teachers, Zheng Yao and Fang Renrong, who undertook the compilation (Zheng Yao and Fang Renrong [1262] 1990, 4349). The Gazetteer of Lin'an in the Chunyou Era (Chunyou lin'an zhi 淳祐临安志) was compiled more or less along the same lines. Prefect Zhao Yuchou 趙與籌 [End Page 348] (1179–1260) of Lin'an initially ordered Control General Wu Ge 吳革 (active 13th century) to compile it. After Wu was promoted to another position, the newly appointed control general, Wang Yafu 王亞夫 (active 13th century), and the scholar Chen Renyu 陳仁玉 (b. 1212) were appointed to compile the gazetteer. By the time Chen was given the task, though he did not have an official position, he had already gained a local reputation for his other works. His Traveling Records (Youzhi pian 遊志篇), written in 1243, and Picture Book of Mushrooms (Jun pu 菌谱), in 1245, show his profound interest in local scenery and plant life. From the 1249 preface to the Gazetteer of Lin'an in the Chunyou Era, we know that Wang and Chen took their materials with them to a quiet mountain retreat to compile the work.21 This means that their collaboration was made possible only through direct government provision of textual sources and financial support. Two years after the compilation, Chen Renyu was invited to the imperial court to give lectures to Emperor Lizong 理宗 (r. 1224–1264) and was soon promoted to the higher positions of prefect and vice minister of war. He retreated to the mountains after the Yuan conquest of the Southern Song in 1276, and was lost track of after that (Lai 1995, 61). Chen's life trajectory, like that of many others, illustrates well the lifestyle of a local scholar who was always ready to participate in state affairs when the opportunity arose.

In another example, Prefect Hu Ju 胡榘 (ca. 13th century), after finding that the last map guide had been made almost sixty years prior, called for its update and recruited thirteen local scholars to assist. Among them, the school teacher (jiaoguan 校官) Fang Wanli 方萬里 (jinshi 1211) was ordered to gather available sources, and later Luo Jun 羅濬 (ca. 12th–13th century) succeeded Fang in tending to this task (Fang and Luo [1227] 1990, 4989). Like Fang and Luo, the other eleven assistants who helped edit the materials were also from the prefectural school (Fang and Luo [1227] 1990, 4989).

Similarly, Prefect Ma Guangzu 馬光祖 (1200–1270) was also very hands-on in his role as the supervisor of the compilation of the Gazetteer of Jiankang in the Jingding Era (Jingding Jiankang zhi 景定建康志). In 1261, four months before his term would have ended, Ma assigned Zhou Yinghe 周應和 (ca. 13th century) to compile the gazetteer project, requestion that he complete it within the same amount of time, four months.22 Zhou thus established a "compilation board" (shuju 書局) in 1261. Located in the Zhongshan Pavilion (Zhongshan tang 中山堂) connecting the complex of governmental [End Page 349] offices and gardens (figure 6), the office of the board visually signified its close relationship with the prefectural authority. Prefect Ma was not just a nominal supervisor; he exchanged ideas with Zhou frequently, oversaw the work process, and also penned prefaces. In order to expedite the process, Ma transferred government staff to the project. The compilation board, as described in Zhou's preface, had at least sixteen other subofficials: two office clerks (juli 局吏) took charge of board affairs, ten copyist clerks (shuli 書吏) transcribed documents, and four inspectors from the prefectural reception office (kesi yuhou 客司虞侯) acquired administrative materials, such as maps, map guides, and registers, from the government (Zhou [1261] 1990, 1331). As a result, various chapters of this edition recorded Ma's good deeds extensively. Although local officials did not seem to be responsible for compiling gazetteers, they had practical reasons to support the compilation, which would have added to their reputation and helped to establish their legacy.

Figure 6. Exterior drawing of the prefectural building complex, woodblock print, reconstructed during the Qing dynasty. Source: ). <br/><br/>Used with permission from Zhuhua shuju, Beijing, China.
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Figure 6.

Exterior drawing of the prefectural building complex, woodblock print, reconstructed during the Qing dynasty. Source: Zhou ([1261] 1990, 1379).

Used with permission from Zhuhua shuju, Beijing, China.

[End Page 350]

the map of "four extremes and eight directions"

Two maps are listed in the Huaining files: The Map on Land Reclamation and The Map of "Four Extremes and Eight Directions." The former was probably a response to the land reclamation policy during the Southern Song, which aimed to verify the land holdings of large landowners. Therefore, this map was mainly a government document made for administrative purposes and was rarely included in a map guide or gazetteer compilation project (Ma Duanlin [1307] 1987, 7/75, 77–78).

In comparison, the map titled "Four Extremes and Eight Directions" appeared in both models of map guides. This notion—indicating distances in the cardinal and ordinal directions from the prefecture or county seat to its border—was not a new one to Song scholars. In the Records on the Maps of the Commanderies and Counties in the Yuanhe Era (Yuanhe junxian tuzhi 元和郡縣圖志), compiled by Li Jifu 李吉甫 (758–814) in the early ninth century, two terms—"the land area of prefecture" (zhoujing 州境) and "eight directions" (badao 八到)—were applied to measure parameters and mark the borders of a given jurisdiction, although sometimes only four or five of the eight directions were mentioned (Cao Jiaqi 2001).23 Except for the two capitals, these locations constitute a geographical area of no more than 500 li.

By the early Northern Song, when the Universal Realm in the Taiping Era (Taiping huanyu ji 太平寰宇記) was compiled, the notion of "Four Extremes and Eight Directions" had become solidly established (Yue [970s–980s] 2007, 1862). The land area of a jurisdiction, its distance to the capital, and routes to jurisdictional borders in all eight directions were completely recorded. In addition, distances to significant places were reckoned by land routes, water routes, and sometimes private routes.24 In fact, this locative concept continually appeared in map guides and gazetteers throughout the Song. Meanwhile, measurements offered to describe a given jurisdictional space were also increasingly elucidated and systemized. For example, The Map Guide of Yanzhou during the Chunxi Era thus defines the distance between Yan Prefecture and Hui Prefecture 徽州: under the category "Four Extremes and Eight Directions" are two direct distances of 370 li and 310 li from Yan to the west and northwest of Hui respectively; under the category "Land Routes" is the distance of 257 li to the border port, Shendu jin 深渡津, of Hui in the west; and under the category "River Routes" is the distance of [End Page 351] 250 li to the same port in the north (Liu Wenfu [1185] 1990, 4286–4287). These records offer two types of visual perspective and thus different experiences with space: first, the straight-line distances from one jurisdictional place to the capital and to its neighboring jurisdictions; second, the ground distances that land and water routes actually covered. The former offered a bird's-eye view of a homogeneous geophysical space, and the latter proposed an experience of moving through this space. Although gazetteers might not have offered sufficient information to guide travelers, they did provide readers with information to imagine the scope of the prefecture and also situate it in a larger geographic context.

The notion of "border" (jie 界) was crucial in reckoning distances and defining land area in both maps and writing. The land area of Jiande County in Yan Prefecture, for example, was given such a description: 130 li from east to west and 80 li from south to north, 50 li to the border of Tonglu County (Tonglu xian 桐廬縣) with Anren Pavilion (Anren pai 安仁牌) as the border mark, and 35 li to Tonglu from the border (Liu Wenfu [1185] 1990, 4287). Following this description, one would draw the boundary of the county into an irregular shape. However, the gazetteer map of Jiande outlines the county in a fairly rectangular shape, more or less decided by the size of the print, echoing the overarching ideal of Chinese cosmology's round heaven and square earth.

The borders between counties are not always delineated on these maps; only some border marks of mountains, lakes, and sizable bridges are defined. In the above case, the Anren Pavilion, demarcating Jiande and Tonglu Counties, is not indicated on the map, but we learn that it is located in Zhichuan 芝川 Town, which is on the route to Tonglu in the east of Jiande County (figure 3) (Liu Wenfu [1185] 1990, 4287, 4326). On the same topographic map, Jiaotang Village (Jiaotang cun 茭塘村), demarcating Jiande and Shouchang, is marked (figure 3). However, what is made visibly distinct to readers are the inscriptions framed in small rectangular shapes on the margins of the map. On one hand, these inscriptions indicate the boundaries of all eight cardinal and ordinal directions, but on the other hand, they also provide semiotic signs extending the viewers' imagination to the outside space. Therefore, these topographic maps should not be seen simply as the visual interpretations of the general geographic convention; they also offer a glimpse into the geophysical space with cosmological dimensions and alternative viewing strategies. [End Page 352]

By the Southern Song, map guides and gazetteers were being widely circulated among scholars. Chen Zhensun 陳振孫 (1183–1262), the most renowned bibliophile of the Song, recorded more than eighty entries (Chen Zhensun [13th c.] 1987, 237–268). In the "Bibliography" of Song History (Song shi 宋史), more than half of the 170 book entries are map guides and gazetteers (Tuotuo et al. [1345] 1985, 240/5152–5166). The wide circulation of map guides and gazetteers among lettered men provided rich cultural capital for the further transmission and transformation of geographic and cartographic knowledge.

In addition to geographic information, notions of space and their vocabularies were widely spread and permeated everyday Song life. A brief passage from a Song vernacular story, "Wan Xiuniang Takes Revenge through Miniature Pavilions" (Wan Xiuniang choubao shanting'er 萬秀娘仇報山亭兒) explains how geographical knowledge in gazetteers was adopted into tea trade jargon:

So the jargon of tea masters is called "a walk to the prefectures" (zou zhoufu 走州府). If someone says, "Today, I have walked to Yuhang 餘杭 County," then he earns only 45 qian 錢 that day; if he says that "I have walked to Pingjiang 平江 Prefecture," then he makes at least 360 qian that day; if one easily walks to Chengdu 成都 Prefecture of Xichuan 西川 circuit, then he must have made a fortune within that single day!25

The distances to Yuhang and Pingjiang in the above passage match those between the capital, Li'an, and these two places, as defined in the Xianchun Lin'an zhi 咸淳臨安志, composed in 1268: 45 li from Lin'an to Yuhang County and 370 li to Pingjiang. Chengdu, too far from Lin'an, is not mentioned in the gazetteer.26 Thus, although unaddressed in the text, the putative departure point for all the "walks" is supposed to be Lin'an, the capital of the Southern Song. Interestingly, however, this story took place in Xiangyang 襄陽 (in Hubei Province), not Lin'an. Rather, the Southern Song capital in this story was a psychological topos, a given frame of reference, and the axis mundi of the underlying geopolitical configuration. The language used in vernacular stories must have been familiar to their readers—the literate general public—and this means that the knowledge in the Southern Song gazetteers had found its way into people's everyday lives and commercial discourse. This transdiscursive exchange offers us a perspective on the circulation of geographical writing. [End Page 353]

Meanwhile, route maps were recorded as being sold in the Southern Song for itinerant travelers. Scholar Li You 李有 (ca. 13th century) reported that the Route Map of Making Pilgrimage to the Capital (Chaojing licheng tu 朝京里程圖) was sold at the bridge of the White Tower on the post road close to the Imperial Palace. This map was supposed to provide the route connecting the capital, Lin'an, to other places (Tao Zongyi [14th c.] 1988, 5/2192a). Unfortunately, none of these maps survived, but through written records, we learn that these maps still followed the governing logic in the conception of "Four Extremes and Eight Directions": each place is defined through its distance to the central capital.


Throughout the Song, maps and map guides were produced regularly by prefectural and county offices for administrative purposes. In this way, cartographic practice conducted by the local government was the projection of an increasingly perfected and standardized bureaucratic system over the local regions.

The active involvement of local scholars in gazetteer compilation projects, especially during the Southern Song, was another side of the story. This can be understood in line with the "localist turn" mentioned at the beginning of this paper. Admitting that it was "not wrong but too simple," Robert Hymes modifies this framework in his recent studies and offers a more accommodating model for the coexistence of a "court-oriented culture" revolving around high-level officials and a "shih-oriented culture" focusing on local affairs by low-rank officials and scholars without official ranks (Hymes 2015, 537, 631–632). Local map guides and gazetteers constituted a shared platform to define the local identity in the context of an imagined imperial whole, and this relatively new research trajectory is also manifested in recent scholarship by Hilde De Weerdt, Jeffrey Moser, and Benjamin Ridgway (De Weerdt 2015, 107–166; Moser 2012; Ridgway 2014). In their study of the geographical writings of either the whole empire or local regions, the notions of "local" and "central" were apparent but not necessarily conflicting. The empire provided an effective venue and framework within which regional spaces could be ranked and local identities defined. By the same token, the map guides and gazetteers compiled by local scholars did not just derive from [End Page 354] the rising local consciousness but also received various forms of support from government offices, a manifestation of the deep-seated dynamic relationship between local scholars and the central state. Local scholars involved in gazetteer projects were also willing to participate in state affairs. In doing so, they created a shared identity connecting local communities and the state. This "localist turn" in the Southern Song, therefore, should be understood as a pattern and trajectory ultimately different from that of the Ming period, when self-governing communities without state intervention were on the rise.

The information found in the maps and map guides of the first model was translated and redacted into languages and images suitable for appearing in the second model of map guides and gazetteers. The making of maps, map guides, and gazetteers began long before the Song, but their production and circulation accelerated after the twelfth century. Geographic information proved to be extremely useful for itinerant travelers, including government officials, merchants, and scholars. The expanding literacy produced a pool of readers, and their appropriation and transformation of the information in map guides and gazetteers into route maps and vernacular literature not only spurred the imagining of the state versus local, but also shaped intraregional traveling experiences in the daily life of society.

Fan Lin
Leiden University
Fan Lin

fan lin is a university lecturer in the Institute of Area Studies at Leiden University. The author would like to express her gratitude to Jeffrey Moser, Robin D. S. Yates, Cecily Hilsdale, Martin Hofmann, Li Geng, Talia Andrei, Jonas Rüegg, Robert Goree, and the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions.


1. Aoyama Sadao 青山定雄 first made this observation (1963, 481–482). Also see Hargett (1996, esp. p. 427) and Bol (2001). For a brief review, see De Weerdt (2003, 124, 127) and Dennis (2015, 23).

2. The term "localist turn," as applied to the changes in the Southern Song, is in line with "retreat of the state" in the Northern Song, and both concepts were coined by Robert Hymes (1986) in the 1980s. His modification of this framework will be discussed at the end of this paper.

3. Commanderies and counties (xian 縣) were two primary administrative levels under the central government for most of the time between the Qin (221–206 [End Page 355] BCE) and the Tang (618–907). The level of commandery was abolished during Wendi's 文帝 reign (581–604) but was reinstalled after Emperor Yangdi assumed the throne. See Bodde (1986, 54–55) and Hucker (1985, 201). It should be noted that, between the Han and Sui, zhou 州 referred to a region, a jurisdiction of intermediate coordination between the central government and a cluster of neighboring commanderies, whereas between the Tang and Yuan dynasties, it referred to a prefecture, equivalent to a "commandery" between the Qin and Tang. See Hucker (1985, 178).

4. The earliest recorded works with tujing in their titles include Ba jun tujing 巴郡圖經 (The map guide of Ba Commandery Bajun tujing) and Guangling jun tujing 廣陵郡圖經 (The map guide of Guangling Commandery). Both map guides date back to the Eastern Han (25–220). The Ba jun tujing is recorded in Huayang guozhi 華陽國志 (2000). Guangling jun tujing is quoted in Li Shan's 李善 (630–689) annotation to Wen Xuan 文選; see Xiao Tong 蕭統 (1987) and Hua Linfu 華林甫 (2007, 167–168). Furthermore, an entry from the Bajun tujing quoted by Dan Wang (2nd c.), governor of the Ba commandery, apparently exaggerates its land area by claiming it is "4000 li from south to north, 5000 li from east to west." As this is quoted in Dan Wang's memorial proposing to divide the Ba commandery into two due to its large size and the inconvenience of administering it, it is unclear if the inaccuracy is a twist of Dan's for his own purposes or if it originally existed in the text.

5. All of the three texts are lost, but based on their contemporary records, we have a rough idea of their contents: Records on Local Products and Customs of All Commanderies was a textual collection of local products and customs; the Maps and Treatises of All Domains was a comprehensive collection including textual description and maps of the whole empire; and The Collections of Maps Guides of All Regions was a collection of geographical writing and maps of all the regions.

7. A few sources record this practice, with variations. Xin Tang shu 新唐書 documents that the map guides (tujing) were submitted to the Bureau of Operations every five years; see Ouyang Xiu ([1060] 1975, 46/1198). According to Tang huiyao 唐會要, prefectural maps (zhoutu 州圖) were submitted to the Bureau of Operations every two years in general, although around 780 this practice was changed to every five years; see Wang Pu ([961] 1955, 59/1032–1033). According to Da Tang liu dian 大唐六典, prefectural maps alongside registers (banji 板籍) were to be submitted every three years; see Li Longji 李隆基 and Li Linfu 李林甫 ([739] 1995, 5/30b). It is worth noting that Xin Deyong 辛德勇 has doubts about such a high frequency of map guide production. [End Page 356] On the basis of the discrepancy of the use of maps and map guides listed in the above three sources, Xin concludes that the word tujing only appearing in the Xin Tang shu could be an error that was made during the process of careless transcription from the other two, earlier sources. Therefore, Xin claims that only maps (tu 圖) but not the written guides (jing 經) were submitted during the Tang dynasty (Xin Deyong 2003, 443–444).

8. Fragments of Suizhou jun tujing 隋州郡圖經 by Lang Mao 郎茂 (ca. 6th c.) and Jizhou tujing 冀州圖經 are preserved in Wang Mo 王謨 (1961, 207–224, 299–303).

9. Circuits were installed in 997 as the largest territorial administrative jurisdictions to establish a coordination link between prefectures and the central government. See Hucker (1985, 322).

10. It was common practice during the Song and Yuan dynasties to print books with recycled paper, including discarded governmental documents and personal letters. The Shuzhou documents, including governmental archives related to Shu Prefecture and letters exchanged between the prefect Xiang Jun and his colleagues and friends, were used to print Wang Wengong wenji, the anthology of Wang Anshi 王安石 (1021–1086). See Sun and Wei (2011, 1–2) and Ma and Hu (2005).

11. According to Chen Jing 陳靜, Shu Prefecture was renamed Anqing 安慶 Military Prefecture in 1147, but both names coexisted in administrative circles until the end of the Southern Song. Chen (2001, 242–248) also examines the locations and administrative nature of Longshu and Shuzhou. In addition to Huaining, there were four other counties in the prefecture. Huaining County was where the prefectural office was located. See Wang Xiangzhi ([early 13th c.] 1995, 469).

12. Xuzhi literally means "what [you] need to know." See De Weerdt (2015, 223–232, esp. p. 228).

13. Although texts on essential knowledge are not commonly seen in Song historical sources, compiling manuals on essential knowledge had been in practice even in the early Song. For example, Liu Chenggui 劉承珪, supervisor of Palace Storehouse, filed a volume of essential knowledge that listed relevant statutes and responsibilities in 1012; see Xu Song ([ca. 1809] 2008, 51/2). In addition, the genre of "essential knowledge" was also distributed as instructions to military officials; see Zeng and Ding ([1040s] 1988, 3:2233–2236).

14. During the Qing (1644–1911), the essential knowledge brochures were usually submitted before the new appointee arrived, but it is unclear if this was the case here, as the text does not mention the accurate dates of Xiang's term. See Sun Jimin and Wei Lin (2011, 190–191). [End Page 357]

15. This book, traditionally attributed to the Northern Song writer Chen Xiang 陳襄 (1017–1080), mentions a Southern Song date in 1158 and a few people living after Chen, so it is commonly accepted that it was penned by a Southern Song writer after 1158. See Ji Yun ([1781] 1983, 1/1b–2a).

16. Among the extant twenty-seven geographical writings in the Southern Song, except for two named tujing, two lu 錄 ("record"), and one sheng 乘 ("historical record"), all the rest are named zhi. My count of the figures is based on the Collection of Song and Yuan Gazetteers (Song Yuan fangzhi congkan 宋元方志 叢刊). It is difficult to count the now-lost works solely based on their quoted titles, because they were often loosely recorded as "old map guides" (jiu tuji 舊圖經) or "old guides" (jiu zhi 舊經); see Zhang Guogan (1962, 2–4).

17. Although the 1139 edition did not survive, its preface by Dong was preserved in the Map Guide of Yan Prefecture in the Chunxi Era (Chunxi Yanzhou tujing 淳熙嚴州圖經), compiled by Liu Wenfu ([1185] 1990, 4280).

18. The original edition of this gazetteer should have had seven fascicles, but only three survive today; the other four fascicles were lost (Liu Wenfu [1185] 1990, 4275).

19. The Academy of Fishing Terrace was named after the historical figure Yan Ziling 嚴子陵 (ca. 1st c.), who chose to live as an erudite recluse rather than to serve Emperor Guangwu 光武 (r. 25–57). Yan Ziling once lived in Tonglu County in Yanzhou.

20. This practice was also followed by the Supplemented Gazetteer of Yan Prefecture during the Jingding Era. It collected the edicts that assigned the prince Zhao Qi 趙禥 (r. 1265–1274), the later Emperor Duzong 度宗 (1264–1274), to be the military commissioner, which elevated Yanzhou from a normal prefecture to a "superior prefecture." See Zheng and Fang ([1262] 1990, 4351–4354).

21. This gazetteer was traditionally attributed to Shi E 施諤 (active 13th c.), but its preface by Chen Renyu preserved in the Yongle Encyclopedia (Yongle dadian 永樂大典) reveals that Chen was the actual compiler. See Xie Jin, Yao Guangxiao, et al (1408, 7630/21–22); Lai Xinxia (1995, 61); and Hong Huanchun (1984, 41–42).

22. Zhou requested an extension but was rejected. It was said that Ma's term was also approaching its end because of the time limitation. In The Gazetteer of Jiankang in the Jingding Era, Zhou Yinghe ([1261] 1990, 1328–1332) also collected edicts related to Jiankang that had been issued since the beginning of the Song.

23. According to the observation made by Cao, apart from Hangzhou and a few other places, most places mapped distance in only five or six directions (Li Jifu [813] 1983). [End Page 358]

24. For the difference between different types of roads, see Cao Jiaqi (2012).

25. Yuhang is located in present-day Zhejiang Province, Pingjiang in Jiansu, and Xichuan in Sicuhan (Feng [17th c.] 1990, 375). Although collected in Jingshi tongyan and compiled during the Ming (1368–1644), this story must have appeared during the Song. One of the protagonists in this story, Tao Tieseng 陶鐵僧, is also recorded as the title of a Song vernacular story, which means that the archetype of this story already existed in the Song dynasty. See Luo (1995, 1266/408) and Hanan (1973, 242).

26. "Yuhang County, ranked wang 望, is located forty-five li west of the prefectural jurisdiction [Lin'an], with the same distance via water route" (see Qian Shuoyou 潛説友 ([1268] 1990, 3530). The distance from Lin'an to Pingjiang varies from 369 li to 390 li depending on sources and routes (see Qian 1990, 17/2a–b, 3528).


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