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Haiyu 海語

Mar 25, 2021 © Ulrich Theobald

Haiyu 海語 is a report on Southeast Asian countries written by Huang Zhong 黃衷 (1474-1553), courtesy name Zihe 子和, style Bingsou 病叟, from Nanhai 南海 (today part of Guangzhou 廣州, Guangdong). Huang first served as a recorder in the Ministry of Revenue (hubu zhushi 戶部主事) in the secondary capital Nanjing 南京, Jiangsu, and was then appointed prefect (zhifu 知府) of Chaozhou 湖州, Guangdong, transport commissioner (zhuanyunshi 轉運使) of Fujian, administration vice commissioner (canzheng 參政) of Guangxi, and administration commissioner (buzhengshi 布政使) of Yunnan. He finished his official career as Right Vice Minister of War (bingbu you shilang 兵部右侍郎) of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644).

After retirement, Huang used to inquire things about overseas trade and learnt a lot about foreign countries. His informants were skippers, merchants, and written sources, which made out a treasure of knowledge he brought together in a book of 3 juan, finished in 1536. It is divided into four chapters speaking of customs and habits (Fengshu 風俗), products (Wuchan 物產), perils on the sea routes (Weitu 畏途), and strange things (Wuguai 物怪) like ghost ships (guibo 鬼舶) or mermen (hai heshang 海和尚). Each of the 44 paragraphs of the book is enriched by a concise summary. The book was commented on by his nephew Huang Xuezun 黃學準. It is rated as quite reliable and is found in the series Baoyantang miji 寶顏堂秘笈, Xuejin taoyuan 學津討原, Lingnan yishu 嶺南遺書 and Lingnan congshu 嶺南叢書.

Sources:
Duan Lisheng 段立生 (1984). "Huang Zhong ji qi Haiyu 黄衷及其《海语》", Nanya dongnan yanjiu 南亞東南研究, 1984 (3): 48-52.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 1116.
Ni Nongshui 倪浓水 (2017). "Haiyu: Nanhai shu xie zhong Haiyang renwen sixiang de litixing goujian 《海语》: “南海”书写中海洋人文思想的立体性构建", Nanhai xuekan 南海学刊, 2017 (4): 52-58.
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, Vol. Dili 地理卷 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 297.