An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Hainei shizhou ji 海內十洲記

Dec 10, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Hainei shizhou ji 海內十洲記 "Ten islands in the inner seas", shortly called Shizhouji 十洲記, is a collection of phantastic stories traditionally attributed to the Former Han period 前漢 (206 BC- 8 AD) Daoist master Dongfang Shuo 東方朔. The book is also known under the titles Shizhou sandao ji 十洲三島記 "The ten islands and three cliffs" or Shizhou xianji 十洲仙記 "The immortals from the ten islands". The short book was originally classified as a geographic book, but later put into the Daoists category because of the many stories of Daoist immortals it contains. Later on, it became part of the biographic category (jizhuan 記傳), and finally of the novella category (xiaoshuo 小説). From other types of literature it can be known that the book was already in circulation at the beginning of the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220). In the Shizhouji there is talk of Emperor Wu's hunting in the Hualin Park 華林園, but this name was only given to it by Emperor Cao Fang 曹芳 (r. 239-254) of the Wei dynasty 曹魏 (220-265). The must thus must have been compiled at least during the 3rd century CE. It is often quoted in Li Shan's 李善 commentary to the anthology Wenxuan 文選, which was compiled during the early 6th century.
The stories center around the mystic travel of Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141-87 BC) of the Han dynasty to the Queen Mother of the West (Xiwangmu 西王母), and the many fairies and immortals he heard of. The ten islands (Zuzhou 祖洲, Yingzhou 瀛洲, Xuanzhou 玄洲, Yanzhou 炎洲, Changzhou 長洲, Yuanzhou 元洲, Liuzhou 流洲, Shengzhou 生洲, Fenglinzhou 鳳麟洲 and Jukuzhou 聚窟洲) are places where immortals crowd together and live a life of joy and insouciance. It is also described where the islands theoretically are located, and what plants and animals are to be found. Such passages are similar to the famous Shanhaijing 山海經, which has indeed a more geographical character, as it also speaks of really existing places. At the end of the description of the ten island, some further places are appended, namely the islands Canghaidao 滄海島, Fangzhangzhou 方丈洲 and the mountains Fusang 扶桑, Pengqiu 蓬丘 and Kunlun 昆侖. Very important in the Shizhouji is the herb of immortality, growing on the island of Zuzhou 祖洲.
The Shizhouji is included in the Daoist encylopedia Yunji qiqian 雲笈七籤, and separately in the Daoist Canon Daozang 道藏, as well as in the reprint series Gushi wenfang xiaoshuo 顧氏文房小說, Gujin yishi 古今逸史, Han-Wei congshu 漢魏叢書, Baoyantang miji 寶顏堂秘笈, Shuofu 說郛, Longwei mishu 龍威秘書, Yiyuan junhua 藝苑捃華, Zishu baijia 子書百家, Gujin shuobu congshu 古今說部叢書, Shuoku 說庫, Han-Wei xiaoshuo caizhen 漢魏小說采珍, Yueyatang congshu 粵雅堂叢書 and Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

Creutz, J. (1986). "Shih-chou ji 十州記", in William H. Nienhauser, ed. The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature (Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press), 694-695.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe, vol. 2, p. 2165.
Liu Zhaoyun 劉兆雲 (1991). "Hainei shizhou ji 海內十洲記", in: Zhongguo wenxue da cidian 中國文學大辭典, vol. 2, pp. 70-71. Ed. Ma Liangchun 馬良春, Li Futian 李福田. Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe.