An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yugong tushuo 禹貢圖說

Dec 21, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Yugong tushuo 禹貢圖說 "Illustrated maps on the Tribute of Yu" is the title of several books commenting on the chapter Yugong 禹貢 "The Tribute of Yu" in the Confucian Classic Shangshu 尚書.

The oldest book with this title was written by Zheng Xiao 鄭曉 (1499-1566), courtesy name Zhifu 窒甫. Zheng left a rich treasury of writings, including commentaries on Confucian books, poems, and reports about his military campaigns. His collected writings are called Zheng Duanjian wenji 鄭端簡文集.

The short Yugong tushuo is divided into two parts, namely the maps and texts commenting on them. There is a general map providing an overview of rivers, and 30 detailed maps. The commenting text includes the original text of the chapter Yugong. The Qing period scholar Hu Wei 胡渭 (1633-1714) later wrote an additional commentary, Yugong zhuizhi 禹貢錐指, in order to amend some errors in Zheng Xiao's text printed in 1594. Today the Shanghai Library 上海圖書館 owns an original copy.

The next book of this title was written by Ma Junliang 馬俊良 (jinshi degree 1761), courtesy name Qianshan 嵰山, during the mid-Qing period. In his preface Ma explains that he collected all available commentaries on the chapter Yugong and, with his "small knowledge" decided to draw maps. Ma announces that he would use a number of historiographical writings and the so-called "Masters and philosophers" as his sources and finds out additional information about the geography of the Shangshu chapter Yugong, yet the book itself does in fact not offer much information on the maps. It might be that it was never really finished, and the maps drafted, but not fully commented on.

Another explanation for the discrepancy between the announcement in the preface and what the text shows might be that the transmitted version is only part of Ma's work, while the commentaries were to be found in his book Yugong zhu jiedu 禹貢注節讀.

Ma mainly quotes from the commentaries of the Han-period master Ma Rong 馬融 (79-176) and explains that Emperor Shun 舜 once separated the province of Bingzhou 并州 (approx. modern Shanxi) from that of the large northern province of Jizhou 冀州 (approx. Hebei), but also says that Bingzhou was separated from the country of Yan 燕 (Hebei) because the government seat was too far away from that of Qi 齊 (Shandong). At the same time Qi was divided into Qi proper and the province of Yingzhou 營州.

Ma Junliang thus comes to a total number of twelve provinces, as in the Shangshu chapter Shundian 舜典 "The Canon of Shun", while the text of the Yugong only knows nine. Such contradictions prevail throughout the book.

Ma Junliang's Yugong tushuo was printed in 1789.

Tan Yun 譚澐 (fl. 1784) wrote a paragraph-and-sentence commentary (zhangju 章句) of 4 juan called Yugong zhangju 禹貢章句. This commentary served as an explanation of his short book Yugong tushuo. The commentary begins with a general map of the mountains and rivers of the nine provinces (Jiuzhou shanchuan zongtu 九州山川總圖) as described in the Yugong, a map of the "twelve provinces" (Yaodian shi'erzhou tu 舜典十二州圖) as described in the chapter Yaodian, a map of the nine great rivers (Jiuhe tu 九河圖) and the rivers and canals that existed during the Han period (Liang-Han hequ tu 兩漢河渠圖). All maps are described in detail in the following part of the book.

Tan Yun quotes extensively from older writings, particularly Hu Wei's Yugong zhuizhi, and also adds his own findings or interpretations. Unfortunately he relies too much on Hu's statements that are often not quite correct. Tan Yun's two books were published in 1859.

A further book of the title was written by Zhou Zhihan 周之翰 (1826-1887), also called Chailiang 儕亮, courtesy name Xiping 西屏. Unlike its predecessors Zhou's 4-juan long Yugong tushuo was not based on older books, but is the result of his own research. At least, he discusses contradictions in geographical statements of the book Mengzi 孟子 to the Yugong. Each of the four fascicles is headed by a preface, written by important scholars of the time, like He Shaoji 何紹基 (1799-1873), Xu Congshu 徐從樞, Tang Jie 唐傑, Mao Guorui 毛國瑞 or Yuan Zhang 袁章.

Each "province" is described in a dozen paragraphs or more, with a focus on mountains and rivers. The book demonstrates that most other researchers on the chapter Yugong had left out many places that were to be found in China during the nineteenth century and treated the geography of the Yugong according to the situation as it was believed to have been during the Zhou period 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE). Unfortunately Zhou's book includes no maps. His Yugong tushuo was printed in 1865.

Yang Maojian 楊懋建 (juren degree 1832), courtesy name Zhangsheng 掌生, wrote a 2-juan long book with the title Yugong xin tushuo 禹貢新圖說. It begins with a preface by Chen Li 陳澧 (1810-1882), who explains that it was written to enable all students to comprehend both the past and the present from the chapter Yugong. Chen also criticizes Cheng Taizhi 程泰之, who included reports in his book Yugong tu 禹貢圖 (or Yugong shanchuan tu 禹貢山川圖) about foreign countries into his interpretation of the Yugong. In fact, Yang's book is not really concerned with present matters and does not fulfill the promise made in the preface. It even deals with topics that have nothing to do with the Yugong chapter at all. The text appeared in Guangzhou in 1867.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 125, 159, 161, 162.
Wang Zhaoming 王兆明, Fu Langyun 傅朗雲, ed. (1991). Zhonghua gu wenxian da cidian 中華古文獻大辭典, Dili 地理卷 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 264, 266.