An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Shi Xiyu ji 使西域記

Aug 8, 2019 © Ulrich Theobald

Shi Xiyu ji 使西域記 "Record of a journey to the Western Regions", also known as Xiyu xingcheng ji 西域行程記 or Xiyu fanguo zhi 西域番國志, is a brief report of a travel to Inner Asia written by the early Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) official Chen Cheng 陳誠 (1365-1458), courtesy name Zishi 子實, from Jishui 吉水, Jiangxi. Chen's highest office was Chief Minister of the Court of Imperial Entertainments (guanglusi qing 光祿寺卿). His collected writings are called Chen Zhushan wenji 陳竹山文集.

He was one of the first ambassadors of the Ming dynasty sent to Annam (today's Vietnam), and also inspected during this travel some counties in the province of Guangxi. During the Yongle reign-period 永樂 (1403-1424) he accompanied Li Xian 李暹 (error for Li Da 李達?) to establish diplomatic relations with countries in Inner Asia. The group was sent out in response to a visit from Herat, Afghanistan, and was ordered to bring back the diplomats from Herat. The Chinese visited seventeen countries over a period of eight years in three travels, and covered a way of "60,000 li".

The envoys visited Herat 哈烈 in Afghanistan, Samarkand (Sama'erhan 撒馬兒罕), Andijon (Andouzhun 俺都淮), Termez (Dielimi 迭里迷), Shahrokia (Shaluhaiya 沙鹿海牙), the residence of Muhammad Khan (Mahama 馬哈麻, r. 1408-1415) of the Eastern Čaɣatai Ulus (Moghulistan), Qoco (Huozhou 火洲), Turfan (Tulufan 土魯番), Lop Nur (Yanze 鹽澤), Hami 哈密, Toshkent (Dashigan 達失干), and Bokhara (Buhua'er 卜花兒). They returned in 1413.

The book is of particular interest not only because of the ethnographical descriptions, but also because Chen quotes many local words. Yet many of them are not rendered exactly enough in Chinese characters. Moreover, the range of the descriptions is quite narrow.

The book is found in the series Xuehai leibian 學海類編 and Congchu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編. In 1934 the Beiping Library 北平圖書館 in Beijing printed a joint version of the texts Xiyu xingcheng ji and Xiyu fanguo zhi 西域番國志 in the first part of the series Shanben congshu 善本叢書. The Xiyu fanguo zhi might have been part of the original Shi Xiyu ji and was later extracted as a separate manuscript.

There is a translation of the text by Sally K. Church, "Xiyu xingcheng ji 西域行程記 (Record of the Journey to the Western Regions) by Chen Cheng 陳誠 and Li Xian 李暹", and a French one by Michel Didier (2012), Chen Cheng (1365-1457), ambassadeur des premiers empéreurs Ming (Paris: Peeters).

Chen Gaohua 陳高華 (1992). "Xiyu xingcheng ji 西域行程記", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 3, 1282.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 1007.
Ma Junqi 马駿騏 (2000). "Chen Cheng he Xiyu xingcheng ji 陳誠和《西域行程記》", Guizhou shehui kexue 貴州社會科學, 2000 (10).
Wang Jiguang 王繼光 (2007). "Xiyu xingcheng ji yu Bieshibali xiqian kao 《西域行程記》與別失八里西遷考", Xiyu yanjiu 西域研究, 2007 (4).
Wang Zhaoming 王兆明, Fu Langyun 傅朗云, ed. (1991). Zhonghua gu wenxian da cidian 中華古文獻大辭典, Vol. Dili 地理卷 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 207.
Zhang Wende 張文德 (2004). "Zhou Liankuan xiansheng jiaozhu ben Xiyu xingcheng ji, Xiyu fanguo zhi shiyi 周連寬先生校注本《西域行程記》《西域番國志》拾遺", Xiyu yanjiu 西域研究, 2004 (9).
Zhao Nan 趙楠 (2012). "Xiyu xingcheng ji he Xiyu fanguo zhi 《西域行程記》和《西域番國志》", Xiyu tushuguan luntan 西域圖書館論壇, 2012 (11).