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Print from Hangzhou

The oldest Chinese print in the University Library dates back to 1579, and was received by Leipzig University in the second half of the nineteenth century. Consisting of many volumes, it contains encyclopedic, statistical and biographical information about Hangzhou Prefecture.

(Wanli) Hangzhou fuzhi (萬暦)杭州府志 [Gazetteer of Hangzhou Prefecture] (compiled in the Wanli Period), directed by Liu Bojin 劉伯縉 (fl. 1568); compiled by Chen Shan 陳善 (1514–1589) et al., Hangzhou (Zhejiang Province) 1579 [UBL: Sin.388]

Divided into 100 volumes, this gazetteer provides an extensive description of Hangzhou Prefecture in Zhejiang Province. Its last known collector was the scholar-official Zha Rihua 查日華, who had the thread binding replaced in 1843 (which had to be renewed again in 2021.

In the Chinese Ming and Qing dynasties, most of the geographical publications served administrative purposes. The main genre, “zhi,” usually translated as “gazetteer,” refers to compendia on administrative areas—from districts and prefectures to provinces—that were compiled at irregular intervals by officials and local literati. They contained descriptions of physical and human geography in maps and texts, including treatises on administration and taxation, lists of officials and dignitaries, literary works by local authors, and descriptions of local customs, religions, and events.

A page from the 25th volume of the general biographical section. It contains a biographical entry printed in black ink about a doctor famous for his acupuncture skills named Xu Qiufu 徐秋夫 from the Chinese Middle Ages (fifth to sixth centuries). One day, it says, he was visited by the spirit of a dead man who even in death was plagued by back pain. Doctor Xu practiced his acupuncture on a straw doll—and the spirit was cured.

This anecdote is referred to in the note in red ink above the justified text, where an unknown reader has written “spirit healing.” All the many marks in red ink in this edition were added by an unknown reader. Commas and squiggles denote the ends of sentences, while long vertical strokes indicate personal names.

This photo shows the first page of the preface by Xu Shi 徐栻 (1519–1581) from 1579 in the first volume along with stamps indicating the book’s collectors. These stamps name previous owners, including at the top the large stamp of the last known owner in China, Zha Rihua 查日華 (b. 1806). Hangzhou was the capital in China during the Southern Song dynasty in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when it was already a center of trade. The preface states: “Nowadays, Zhejiang is the first province of the empire, and Hangzhou is the most important prefecture of Zhejiang as well as the biggest in the southeast.” Sixteenth-century Hangzhou, known to Marco Polo 300 years earlier as Quinsai, was one of China’s most prosperous urban centers.

The map of the walled city of Hangzhou is presented as a double-page spread from the first volume. The north-up map shows the famous West Lake and the Qiantang River in the east. Cities in China did not have independent legal status, and the city of Hangzhou was divided between two counties, Renhe 仁和and Qiantang 錢塘 (the same name as the river). The walled city itself housed the residences of four levels of administration: the headquarters of the two county governments, the prefecture, several major counties, and the provincial government of Zhejiang. The residences are represented by squares, with other squares showing military establishments, schools and examination yards, granaries, and a charity organization.

Although proportional map projections using longitude and latitude were already known from the Song Dynasty (960–1279) and were later used at court (partly due to Jesuit missionaries), such map projections rarely appeared in gazetteers.

When the Chinese say “Paradise in heaven, Suzhou and Hangzhou on earth,” they are referring above all to West Lake. Once the Song dynasty had moved its capital to Hangzhou (after losing the north to the Jurchen in 1127), West Lake became a destination for scholars and writers. The Hangzhou gazetteer devotes an entire chapter to West Lake in volume 22. It includes excerpts from the famous travelogue by Tian Rucheng 田汝成 (1503–1557) as well as 182 lyrical poems about the sights of West Lake, including seven by Bo Juyi 白居易 (772–846), one of the most important Chinese poets ever, who was governor of Hangzhou from 822 to 825. Visible on the map (from the first volume) are the city wall in the east and the lake with the principal sights. The dike running from south to north in the middle of the lake still exists to this day. At its south end, Leifeng Pagoda can be seen see, which was built in 975 (and rebuilt in 2002 after collapsing in 1924), while at the north end (in the fold) is Yue Fei Temple, erected in the fifteenth century to commemorate the Song general Yue Fei 岳飛 (1103–1142), who defended the Song against the Jurchen.

One important element of gazetteers comprises details of the officials who had held leading positions in the area described. This information is presented in tabular form in volume 14. The last local officials of the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) are listed on the right-hand side, while the first incumbents of the Ming period (1368–1644) appear on the left. The columns are divided from top to bottom into the following categories: 1) year; 2) prefect; 3) vice-prefect; 4) sub-prefect; 5) judge; 6) rector; 7) lecturer (the latter two offices denote senior positions in local academies). Whenever information concerning these offices is missing, the box is left blank. For example, for the first year of the Ming dynasty (1368), only the names of the prefect (Wang Xingfu 王興福) and a lecturer (Ling Yunhan 凌雲翰) are recorded. The next column tells us that in the third year of the Ming dynasty (1370), these two functions were taken over by Liu Wen 劉文 (prefect) and Mo Weixian 莫維賢 (lecturer). The last column names the incumbents in the fifth year (1372) as Wang Dexuan 王德宣 (prefect) and Zhao Yunwen 趙允文 (vice-prefect). Those appointed to leading offices were frequently changed.

Administrative information makes up a large part of Chinese gazetteers. In addition to lists of officials, they also include population figures and tax rates. The picture shows a list of historical population figures for the entire prefecture (not just the city) of Hangzhou, including its eight districts, from volume 28. The populations of towns and cities were not listed individually because they were not relevant for the main taxes (land tax and poll tax). The list shows that the prefecture grew rapidly after the influx of refugees prompted by the Jurchen campaigns in the twelfth century, doubling (compared to the eleventh century) to reach 391,259 tax households shortly before the Mongol conquest in 1276. Although this figure barely changed under the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1279–1368), despite the relocation of the capital to the north, and Marco Polo still experienced Hangzhou in its heyday, civil wars at the end of the dynasty reduced the population to 193,485 households, which later stabilized again at eleventh-century levels. The numbers of registered citizens are less reliable than those of households. While 1.8 million people were recorded for 1290, by 1368 this number had plummeted to 720,567. It should be noted, however, that whereas in 1290, 5 people were still counted per household, in 1368 only 3.72 individuals were counted—a figure which continued to shrink over the course of the Ming dynasty.

Having acquired Chinese prints and manuscripts for over 150 years, Leipzig University Library now owns a significant Sinica collection. The Chinese prints are classified in three shelf mark groups: the Grube Library, the Sinica consisting of acquisitions from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and Chinese prints added from around 1960 onwards using the “numerus currens” principle (i.e. numbered consecutively upon arrival). The third group consists of acquisitions from booksellers as well as Chinese literature from the library of Bochum sinologist Alfred Hoffmann (1911–1997) donated to Leipzig University Library in the year of his death. Between 2011 and 2015, these holdings were reclassified in the catalogue of the SWB Southwest German Library Network in a project funded by the DFG German Research Foundation.

In addition, Leipzig University Library owns Chinese documents that are not prints: five Chinese and Manchu manuscripts whose provenance is uncertain, with the exception of one from the Grube Library. They were probably acquired from Friedrich Weller, who possessed a number of manuscripts. In 1942, Leipzig University Library purchased from him “a unique collection of covers of Kangyurs in the Manchu language (in the imperial edition bound in yellow silk) with extremely precious hand paintings.”  (Slider, Fig. 8).

The Sinica holdings stored in Leipzig University Library and in the library of the East Asian Seminar suffered badly during the Second World War. The library containing all the documents owned by the East Asian Seminar was completely destroyed in an air raid on the night of December 3/4, 1943 (Moritz 2009). Moreover, the Sinica items in Leipzig University Library were depleted. In summer 1943, 38 boxes of Sinica and Manchurica were moved to Mutzschen Castle for safekeeping, although little is known about their contents. On November 14 and 15, 1945, much of the holdings in Mutzschen were transported to the USSR, since when Sinica holdings have disappeared without trace. Unlike the majority of the books taken to the Soviet Union after the war, they were not returned to Leipzig in the 1950s.

Buchkultur aus China. Leipziger Spuren, hg. v. Philip Clart, Elisabeth Kaske, Ulrich Johannes Schneider, Leipzig 2021 (Schriften der Universitätsbibliothek 46)

Book Culture from China. Traces in Leipzig, ed. by Philip Clart, Elisabeth Kaske, Ulrich Johannes Schneider, Leipzig 2021 (Schriften der Universitätsbibliothek 47)

Hofmüller, Markus: Ostasiatische Literatur in der Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig, in: Leipziger Jahrbuch zur Buchgeschichte 22 (2014), S. 213–228

Jansen, Thomas: China-Literatur in der Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig 1500 – 1939. Eine systematische Biographie, 2 Bände, Leipzig 2003

Moll-Murata, Christine: Die chinesische Regionalbeschreibung. Entwicklung und Funktion einer Quellengattung, dargestellt am Beispiel der Präfekturbeschreibungen von Hangzhou, Wiesbaden 2001

Moritz, Ralf: Sinologie, in: Geschichte der Universität Leipzig 1409–2009, Bd. 4, Halbbd. I: Fakultäten, Institute, zentrale Einrichtungen, hg. von Ulrich von Hehl, Uwe John, Manfred Rudersdorf, Leipzig 2009, S. 449–457