An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Hefang yilan 河防一覽

Dec 21, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Hefang yilan 河防一覽 "Instant Overview of River Management" is an overview of river conservancy work at the Yellow River written by the late Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Pan Jixun 潘季馴 (1521-1595), courtesy name Shiliang 時良, style Yinchuan 印川.

Pan hailed from Wucheng 烏程 (modern Huzhou 湖州), Zhejiang, and obtained his jinshi degree in 1550. He was judge (tuiguan 推官) of Jiujiang 九江, Jiangxi, and later rose to the office of regional inspector (xun'an 巡按御史) of Guangdong, where he implemented his famous "fair tax arrangment" for the community self-monitoring system (pinglijia fa 平里甲法). He was them promoted to assistant minister in the Court of Judicial Review (dalisi cheng 大理寺丞). In 1565 he was made Right Assistant Censor-in-chief (you jian duyushi 右僉都御史), and then Director-General of the Grand Canal (zongli hedao 總理河道), but he soon retired. In 1570 he returned to an official position but was soon demoted because of his unsuccessful management of the traffic on the Grand Canal, but was elevated to governor (xunfu 巡撫) of Jiangxi in 1576. Two years later, after the dams of the Yellow River had bursted, he was entrusted with the post of Minister of the Grand Canal (hecao shangshu 河漕尚書) and developed methods to prevent inundations.

Figure 1. Illustration from the Hefang yilan 河防一覽
The confluence of River Huai 淮河 and the Yellow River 大黃河 at Zuling 祖陵 (the mausoleum of the ancestor of the Ming dynasty) in today's Xuyi 盱眙, Jiangsu, with surrounding lakes and settlements, and sluices. Siku quanshu edition.

During that time he had the Gaojia Dyke 高家堰 construced that made sure that the silt of the Yellow River was cleared by the waters of River Huai 淮河. For his success in hydraulic works he was rewarded with the title of Grand Guardian of the Heir Apparent (taizi taibao 太子太保) and promoted to Minister of Works (gongbu shangshu 工部尚書), then Right Censor-in-Chief (you duyushi 右都御史) and Director of the Grand Canal (zongdu hedao 總督河道).

The 14-juan long book was finished in 1590. It was written as a result of Pan Jixun's long experience in controlling the waters of the Yellow River, the Grand Canal and River Huai. His tactics was to "regulate the River by the River, by attacking silt with water" (yi he zhi he, yi shui gong sha 以河治河,以水攻沙). A first draft to a book on water conservancy was the 4-juan long Zhenduan dagong lu 宸斷大工錄 that was published in 1580.

The first part of the Hefang yilan includes maps of the Yellow River and the Grand Canal, dams, dykes, sluices, and critical points. The second part (Hetu bianhuo 河圖辨惑) criticizes superstitious beliefs of the existence of a river deity (Heshen 河神) and the influence of Heaven on the "character" of a river. Yet the author also says that man is unable to control the forces of nature by himself, so that he has to rely on the nature of water itself to solve problems: splitting up river beds will lead to a reduction of the water's force and velocity, and eventually to silting up. Dykes alongside of a river (lüti 縷堤 will concentrate the water, parallel dams to these (yaoti 遥堤) will help in case the inner dams break, and transverse dams (geti 格堤) will enable silt to deposit. This chapter is written in a question-and-answer style.

The third part describes critical points in the waterways and how to solve problems at these places. The fourth chapter provides general rules (shiyi 事宜) for river conservancy and describes how dams, dykes and sluices have to be constructed. It explains the four defences of the flanks of dams (sifang 四防, namely daylight 晝防 and night attendance 夜防, and the vigilance against wind 風防 and rain 雨防) and the "two types of maintenance" (ershou 二守, by the authorities and by the people). The chapters Heyuankao 河源考 and Hejuekao 河决考 include ancient texts about the origin and source(s) of the Yellow River, the sixth part later writings, like Ouyang Xiu's 歐陽修 (1007-1072) Sizhou xianchunting ji 泗州先春亭記 and Zhizheng hefang ji 至正河防記 from the Song period 宋 (960-1279), memorials on river conservancy from the Longqing 隆慶 (1567-1572) and Wanli 萬曆 (1573-1619) reign-periods, and Xu Kai's 徐階 (1503-1583) treatise Shuzao Lü Lianghong jilüe 疏鑿呂梁洪記略. The last part includes documents from Pan Jixun himself that he collected during his long time as manager of the transport system of the Grand Canal.

The Hefang yilan is a very important book that proves how successfully energetic officials were able to manage the problems of inundations and obstructed river courses. The author's son Pan Dafu 潘大復 published a critical edition of this book, Hefang yilan que 河防一覽榷. Pan's book was reprinted in 1740 and 1748. In 1936 the China Water Engineering Society (Zhongguo Shuili Gongcheng Xuehui 中國水利工程學會) published the series Zhongguo shuili zhenben congshu 中國水利珍本叢書, in which the Hefang yilan is also included.

Cheng Pengju 程鵬舉 (1994). "Hefang yilan 河防一覽", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Voo. Jingji 經濟 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 299.
Guo Tao 郭濤 (1987). "Shiliu shiji de zhihe gongchengxue: Hefang yilan 16世紀的治河工程學——《河防一覽》", Zhongguo shuili 中國水利, 1987 (1).
Sun Guoqing 孫果清 (2007). "Pan Jixun yu Hefang yilan tu 潘季馴與《河防一覽圖》", Ditu 地圖, 2007 (9).
Wang Yi 王藝, Zhang Xiaosi 張小思 (2017). "Qianxi Pan Jixun Hefang yilan zhi zoushu 淺析潘季馴《河防一覽》之奏疏", Zhongguo shineng ji dianqihua 中國水能及電氣化, 2017 (12).
Yin Chunmin 殷春敏 (2002). "Mingdai zhi Huang zhuanjia Pan Jixun yu Hefang yilan tu 明代治黃專家潘季馴與《河防一覽圖》", Ditu 地圖, 2002 (11).
Zhou Zheng 周錚 (1992). "Pan Xixun Hefang yilan tu kao 潘季馴《河防一覽圖》考", Zhongguo lishi bowuguan guankan 中國歷史博物館館刊, 1992 (6).