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Shisanzhou ji 十三州記

Oct 19, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Shisanzhou ji 十三州記 or Shisanzhou zhi 十三州志 "Records of the Thirteen Provinces" is a geographical treatise written by the Northern Wei-period 北魏 (386-534) scholar Kan Yan 闞駰, courtesy name Xuanyin 玄陰. He hailed from Dunhuang 敦煌 (modern Dunhuang, Gansu) and was an erudite for the Confucian Classics under Juqu Mengxun 沮渠蒙遜 (r. 400-432), ruler of the Northern Liang empire 北涼 (398-439/460), before the latter was conquered by the Northern Wei.

Kan's geography book follows the Han-period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) designations of geography. It was originally 10-juan long, but the imperial bibliographies in the official dynastic histories Suishu 隋書 and Xintangshu 新唐書 speak of 14 juan. The geographical descriptions were based on the same source as that of the chapter on administrative geography (106 Dixing zhi 地形) in the official history Weishu 魏書.

The book covers the provinces (zhou 州), commanderies (jun 郡) and districts (xian 縣) of the Han and Jin 晉 (265-420) empires, which means that they surpass the borders of the Northern Wei empire and include the regions of southern China that were reigned by the Southern Dynasties 南朝 (420~589).

The book describes the rivers and mountains, the population, their culture and customs. The statements about southern China are based on older texts and do not correspond to contemporary facts, and information about the southern provinces is much shorter than that for the northern parts of China.

The original text was lost at an early point of time. The Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Zhang Shu 張澍 (1776-1847) collected 290 fragments quoted in the commentary to the history Houhanshu 後漢書, the geography Shuijingzhu 水經注, and the encyclopaedias Chuxueji 初學記 from the Tang period 唐 (618-907) and Taiping yulan 太平御覽 from the Song period 宋 (960-1279), the geography Taiping huanyu ji 太平寰宇記, and other books. Zhang's fragment collection is to be found in the series Eryoutang congshu 二酉堂叢書.

Another collection of 240 fragments is to be found in Wang Mo's 王謨 (c. 1731-1817) series Han-Tang dili shuchao 漢唐地理書鈔. Wang Mo found fragments in some of the above-quoted books, as well as in commentaries on the history books Shiji 史記, Hanshu 漢書, and Lushi 路史.

Sources:
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, Dili 地理卷 (Jilin: Changchun wenshi chubanshe), p. 1.
Yuan Mingren 袁明仁 et al, ed. (1992). Sanqin lishi wenhua cidian 三秦歷史文化辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 100.