Yang Shoujing

Yang Shoujing (Chinese: 楊守敬; pinyin: Yáng Shǒujìng; Wade–Giles: Yang Shou-ching; 1839 – 9 January 1915) was a late-Qing dynasty historical geographer, calligrapher, antiquarian, bibliophile, and diplomat. He is best known for the historical atlas of China Lidai yudi tu, commonly called the Yangtu ("Yang's atlas"), the most complete and scholarly historical atlas of China produced during the Qing dynasty. He devoted most of his life to the annotation of the 6th-century geographic work Shui jing zhu, which was completed by his disciple Xiong Huizhen and published as the Shui jing zhu shu.

As a Qing diplomat posted in Japan, Yang purchased tens of thousands of ancient Chinese books from Japanese libraries and archives, many of which had become rare or lost in China. After his death, the government of the Republic of China purchased his collection and preserved most of the books in the National Palace Museum.

Yang was an accomplished calligrapher of the Stele School and became highly influential in Japan. The introduction of his art was said to have "offered virtually an unprecedented aesthetic style" to Japan and "revolutionized" Japanese calligraphy. Yang's former residence and tomb in Yidu, Hubei are now protected as a Major National Historical and Cultural Site of China.

Yang Shoujing
Yang Shoujing at age 75
Native name
BornJune 2, 1839
Lucheng Town, Yidu, Hubei, Qing China
DiedJanuary 9, 1915 (aged 75)
OccupationHistorical geographer, calligrapher, antiquarian, bibliophile
Chinese name
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinYáng Shǒujìng
Wade–GilesYang Shou-ching
Yang Kaike
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinYáng Kāikē
Yang Kai
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinYáng Kǎi
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinXīngwú
Lingsu Laoren
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinLínsū Lǎorén


Yang Shoujing's portrait in Illustrated Biographies of Qing Dynasty Scholars (清代學者象傳, 1928)

Yang was born in 1839, during the Qing dynasty, in Lucheng Town, Yidu County, Hubei Province. His courtesy name was Xingwu (惺吾). After passing the provincial examination and earning the juren degree in 1862 (first year of the Tongzhi reign),[1] he lived for ten years in Beijing trying to pass the imperial examination for the highest jinshi degree, without success.[2] Although he failed the examinations, he became friends with the prominent officials Pan Zuyin and Zhang Zhidong, who shared his passion for antiques. He attended Pan's lavish parties and shopped for antiques in Beijing's Liulichang with Zhang.[2]

From a young age Yang was interested in geography, and spent much of his life annotating Li Daoyuan's 6th-century work Commentary on the Water Classic (Shui Jing Zhu).[3] His knowledge in geography earned him a diplomatic post to Japan, despite his repeated examination failure.[2] In Tokyo he worked under the career diplomat Li Shuchang, an abrasive superior who nevertheless appreciated Yang's knowledge in antiques.[3] As Japan was quickly westernizing during the Meiji Restoration, traditional Chinese publications fell out of fashion and were sold cheaply.[4] Working with Li as well as Japanese antiquarians, Yang purchased tens of thousands of old Chinese books preserved in Japanese collections, many of which had become rare or even lost in China.[3] They were later published as Guyi congshu (古逸丛书).[3] After Yang's death, the Republic of China government purchased his collection and preserved most of his books in the National Palace Museum.[5]

Yang was posted in Japan from 1880 to 1884. After returning to China, he taught at the Lianghu Academy in Wuchang and then became dean of the Qincheng School (勤成学堂), later renamed as Cungu School (存古学堂). In 1909 he served as an advisory official of the Ministry of Rites. He died in Beijing on 9 January 1915, and was buried in his hometown Yidu.[1]

Annotation of the Commentary on the Water Classic

Yang devoted most of his lifetime to the annotation of the Commentary on the Water Classic (Shui jing zhu). He wrote 40 volumes of annotation but died before completing the work. His disciple Xiong Huizhen carried on the project and wrote another 40 volumes of annotation. It was published in the 1950s as the Shui jing zhu shu (水經註疏).[6] The influential historian Gu Jiegang remarked that the work "brought to a point of culmination the textual research of The Classic of Waterways of the previous three centuries." He greatly admired the authors' "single-minded devotion" to the task, and Xiong's devotion to his master.[6]

‪An excerpt from Li Daoyuan's Shui Jing Zhu, in Yang Shoujing's calligraphy (1899)‬
An excerpt from Li Daoyuan's Shui Jing Zhu, in Yang Shoujing's calligraphy (1899)

Historical atlas of China

Another of Yang's important works is the Lidai yudi tu (歷代輿地圖), his historical atlas of China which is often simply called the Yangtu (Yang's atlas). Yang began the work in 1866 with the assistance of Deng Yongxiu, and was joined by Rao Dunzhi in the late 1870s. They plotted historical geographical data on a Qing dynasty map, but left out non-Han Chinese kingdoms such as Nanzhao and Dali. Published between 1906 and 1911, it was the most complete and scholarly historical atlas of China produced during the Qing dynasty.[7] Based on Yang's atlas, historian Tan Qixiang compiled The Historical Atlas of China, which was published in the 1980s and is considered the most authoritative atlas of Chinese history ever published.[8]


Yang Shoujing calligraphy 鎸勒
Yang Shoujing's calligraphy (1903)

With the encouragement of Pan Zuyin, Yang became an accomplished calligrapher of the Stele School of Chinese calligraphy.[9] When he went to Japan, he introduced the style to Japanese calligraphers, offering them "virtually an unprecedented aesthetic style" and revolutionizing Japanese calligraphy.[9] He was considered a talented artist by famous Japanese calligraphers such as Miyajima Seiichiro, Kusakabe Meikaku, Iwaya Osamu, and Matsuda Sekka. Iwaya Osamu and others bought hundreds of sheets of Yang's works.[10] Yang wrote many essays on the Stele School of calligraphy, which were published by Japanese scholars in two volumes, Ping bei ji (評碑記, "Record of stelae criticism") and Ping tie ji (評帖記, "Record of model-letters criticism").[9]


In September 1986, the government of Yidu city repaired Yang Shoujing's tomb and former residence, which was turned into the Yang Shoujing Museum. His residence and tomb are now protected as a Major National Historical and Cultural Site of China (designation 6-995).[11]


  1. ^ a b "Yang Shoujing". Guoxue (in Chinese). 19 November 2005.
  2. ^ a b c Brown (2012), p. 72.
  3. ^ a b c d Brown (2012), p. 73.
  4. ^ Brown (2012), p. 74–75.
  5. ^ National Palace Museum (1966), p. 98.
  6. ^ a b Yeh (2000), p. 35.
  7. ^ Wilkinson (2015), p. 246.
  8. ^ Wilkinson (2015), p. 245.
  9. ^ a b c Brown (2012), p. 82.
  10. ^ Brown (2012), p. 81.
  11. ^ "在宜都追忆学者杨守敬". Hubei Daily (in Chinese). 14 March 2002.


External links


1915 (MCMXV)

was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Thursday of the Julian calendar, the 1915th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 915th year of the 2nd millennium, the 15th year of the 20th century, and the 6th year of the 1910s decade. As of the start of 1915, the Gregorian calendar was

13 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.

Chinese calligraphy

Chinese calligraphy is a form of aesthetically pleasing writing (calligraphy), or, the artistic expression of human language in a tangible form. This type of expression has been widely practiced in China and has been generally held in high esteem across East Asia. Calligraphy is considered as one of the four best friends of ancient Chinese literati, along with playing stringed musical instrument, the board game “go”, and painting. There are some general standardizations of the various styles of calligraphy in this tradition. Chinese calligraphy and ink and wash painting are closely related: they are accomplished using similar tools and techniques, and have a long history of shared artistry. Distinguishing features of Chinese painting and calligraphy include an emphasis on motion charged with dynamic life. According to Stanley-Baker, "Calligraphy is sheer life experienced through energy in motion that is registered as traces on silk or paper, with time and rhythm in shifting space its main ingredients." Calligraphy has also led to the development of many forms of art in China, including seal carving, ornate paperweights, and inkstones.

Commentary on the Water Classic

The Commentary on the Water Classic (Chinese: 水經注; pinyin: Shuǐ Jīng Zhù) is a work on the ancient geography of China, describing the traditional understanding of its waterways and ancient canals, compiled by Li Daoyuan during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 AD). The book is divided into sections by river, each described with its source, course, and major tributaries, including cultural and historical notes.

The work is much expanded from its source text, the older (and now lost) Water Classic (Shuijing 水經). The original text described 137 different rivers in China and was traditionally credited to Sang Qin during the Han dynasty. Qing dynasty scholars gave it a later date (during the Three Kingdoms period) because of the names of the counties and commanderies. Its authorship was then attributed to Jin dynasty scholar Guo Pu. Li Daoyuan's 40-volume, 300,000-character version includes 1252 rivers.

Although very thorough for its time, it did repeat the earlier mistake of the "Tribute of Yu" in viewing the Min as the headwaters of the Yangtze. It was not until the Ming dynasty that Xu Xiake correctly listed the Jinsha as the principal source.

Du Ji

Du Ji (early 160s – 224), courtesy name Bohou, was an official who lived in the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. He later served as a high-ranking official in the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. He had the reputation of being a model governor, valiant, loyal and wise. He was the grandfather of Du Yu, the author of the most influential Zuo Zhuan commentary, who gave the work its modern form.

Historical geography

Historical geography is the branch of geography that studies the ways in which geographic phenomena have changed over time. It is a synthesizing discipline which shares both topical and methodological similarities with history, anthropology, ecology, geology, environmental studies, literary studies, and other fields. Although the majority of work in historical geography is considered human geography, the field also encompasses studies of geographic change which are not primarily anthropogenic. Historical geography is often a major component of school and university curricula in geography and social studies. Current research in historical geography is being performed by scholars in more than forty countries.

Jurchen language

Jurchen language (Chinese: 女真語; pinyin: Nǚzhēn Yǔ) is the Tungusic language of the Jurchen people of eastern Manchuria, the founders of the Jin Empire in northeastern China of the 12th–13th centuries. It is ancestral to Manchu. In 1635 Hong Taiji renamed the Jurchen people and Jurchen language, "Manchu".


Juren (simplified Chinese: 举人; traditional Chinese: 舉人; pinyin: jǔrén) was a rank achieved by people who passed the national exam in the imperial examination system of Imperial China. It was higher than the shengyuan, but lower than jinshi, the highest degree. It is also known in English as the provincial examination.

List of Major National Historical and Cultural Sites in Hubei

This list is of Major Sites Protected for their Historical and Cultural Value at the National Level in Hubei Province, China.


The Lunheng, also known by numerous English translations, is a wide-ranging Chinese classic text by Wang Chong (27- c. 100 CE). First published in 80 CE, it contains critical essays on natural science and Chinese mythology, philosophy, and literature.

Tan Qixiang

Tan Qixiang (Chinese: 谭其骧; 25 February 1911 − 28 August 1992) was a historian and is considered a founder of the field of historical geography in Modern China. His magnum opus, the eight-volume The Historical Atlas of China, was published between 1982 and 1988. He was elected to the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1981.

Xiong Huizhen

Xiong Huizhen (Chinese: 熊會貞; Wade–Giles: Hsiung Hui-chen; died 1936) was a Chinese historical geographer and a disciple of the late-Qing dynasty scholar Yang Shoujing. He is known for completing the Shui jing zhu shu, a monumental annotation of the 6th-century geographic classic Shui jing zhu.

Yiqiejing Yinyi (Huilin)

The (c. 807) Yiqiejing yinyi 一切經音義 "Pronunciation and Meaning in the Complete Buddhist Canon" was compiled by the Tang dynasty lexicographer monk Huilin 慧琳 as an expanded revision of the original (c. 649) Yiqiejing yinyi compiled by Xuanying 玄應. Collectively, Xuanying's 25-chapter and Huilin's 100-chapter versions constitute the oldest surviving Chinese dictionary of Buddhist technical terminology (for instance, Púsà 菩薩 or Pútísàtuo 菩提薩埵 for Bodhisattva). A recent history of Chinese lexicography (Yong and Peng 2008: 371) call Huilin's Yiqiejing yinyi "a composite collection of all the glossaries of scripture words and expressions compiled in and before the Tang Dynasty" and "the archetype of the Chinese bilingual dictionary".

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