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Wuzhong shuili quanshu 吳中水利全書

Mar 28, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Wuzhong shuili quanshu 吳中水利全書 "Complete Book on Water Conservancy of Wu", also called Wuzhong shuili shu 吳中水利書 (do not confuse this book with Shan E's 單鍔 text Wuzhong shuili shu from the Song period 宋, 960-1279), is a book on water conservancy written by the late Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Zhang Guowei 張國維 (1594-1646), courtesy name Jiuyi 九一, style Yusi 玉笥.

Zhang hailed from Dongyang 東陽, Zhejiang, and obtained his jinshi degree in 1622 and was appointed magistrate (zhixian 知縣) of Fanyu 番禺, Guangdong. During the Chongzhen reign 崇禎 (1627-1644) he was promoted to supervising censor of law (xingke jishizhong 刑科給事中) and took part in the purge of the clique around the eunuch "dictator" Wei Zhongxian 魏忠賢. For this contribution to the restabilization of the dynasty he was made chief supervising censor of rituals (like du jishizhong 禮科都給事中) and then given the title of Vice Minister of the Court of Imperial Sacrifices (taichang shaoqing 太常少卿). Later on he was made Right Assistant Censor-in-Chief (you qiandu yushi 右僉都御史) and became Grand Coordinator (xunfu 巡撫) of ten prefectures in southeast China.

During that time he took care fort he construction of dykes and dams like the Nine-miles Stone Dam 九里石塘 and the Pingwang Dam 平望塘 near Suzhou 蘇州 or the Zhihe Dam 至和塘 at Changzhou 長洲. He had also the Hanhai Dam 捍海堤 at Songjiang 松江 repaired, as well as dams near Zhenjiang 鎮江 and the Jiangyin Canal 江陰漕渠. For these successes in local administration he was promoted to Right Vice Minister of Works (gongbu you shilang 工部右侍郎) with the duty to manage the Grand Canal, in 1641 he was made Right Vice Minister of War (bingbu you shilang 兵部右侍郎) and concurrently supervisor of the garrisons in the Huai-Xu area 淮徐. Not long thereafter he rose to the post of Minister of War (bingbu shangshu 兵部尚書), but was thrown into prison for the continuing defeats by the Jurchens in the northeast. Yet the emperor soon pardoned him ans sent him to southeast China, where he supervised the recruitment of troops against the Manchus (the former Jurchens) and the financing of the war against them.

After the conquest of Beijing by the Manchus Zhang Guowei served the Prince of Fu 福王 (r. 1644-1645) as a military advisor, but he soon retired because of differences with his collegue Ma Shiying 馬士英 (c. 1591-1646). The Prince of Lu 魯王 (r. 1646) made him Minister of War and Grand Academician (daxueshi 大學士) of the Hall of Military Glory 武英殿. In 1646 Zhang committed suicide in loyalty to the vanished Ming dynasty. His collected writings are called Zhang Zhongmingong yiwen 張忠敏公遺文. A collection of his memorials to the throne are called Fu Wu shucao 撫吳疏草.

The book Wuzhong shuili quanshu was finished in 1636. According to Zhang's memorial with which he submitted the book to the throne, the text was 30-juan long, but the transmitted version is only divided into 28 juan. It is a concise report of Zhang's experience in water conservancy in southern Jiangsu and his attempts to retain the wealth of the lower Yangtze region. The compilers of the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 praised his book for its practical background which contrasts with the "vain talks" of many Confucian scholars.

Figures 1-2. Maps of the Wuzhong shuili quanshu 吳中水利全書
Overview of the river and canal system in seven prefectures of Southeast China. The dimensions of the waterways are strongly exaggerated, so that the landscape looks like an achipelago. in the centre left Lake Taihu can be seen.
The canal system of the prefectural city of Suzhou, Jiangsu.

In his preface Zhang explains that he was shocked by the failure of the local administrators to manage hydraulic problems in the past half century before, and decided to ameliorate the situation as a prefect. The book begins with a large number of maps of the region between Lake Taihu 太湖 and the rivers that channel out of this reservoir towards the north, northeast and east and therefore are important for the economy of the prefectures of Suzhou 蘇州, Changzhou 常州, Zhenjiang 鎮江, Huzhou 湖州, Hangzhou 杭州, Jiaxing 嘉興 and Songjiang 松江. The maps are drawn very precisely, with all ports, creeks and sidearms clearly shown. Quite surprising from the viewpoint of modern maps is the exaggerated scale of the waters in relation to the land surface. The scrolls 3 through 10 explain the course of the rivers and canals, their names and dimensions, the history of inundations and draughts in the regions, and the mangement of waterways by the local administration.

The second part of the book includes a vast amount of documents about water conservancy in the southeastern region, from imperial edicts, memorials to intra-official communication, private letters, treatises and disputes to poems and sacrificial texts. The collection includes important texts like Fan Zhongyan's 范仲淹 (989-1052) Shang zai zhi lun shuili shu 上宰執論水利書 from the Song period or Toqtoγa's (Ch. Tuotuo 脫脫, 1314-1355) treatise on rivers and canals, Hequ zhi 河渠志, from the official dynastic history Songshi 宋史.

Zhang Guowei's book is the most precise text on water conservancy in the region around Lake Taihu. It bases on a wide range of older texts, like Shan E's 單鍔 Wuzhong shuili shu 吳中水利書 from the Song period, Gui Youguang's 歸有光 (1506-1571) Sanwu shuili lu 三吳水利錄 and Zhang Neiyun's 張内蘊 Sanwu shuikao 三吳水考 from the Ming period, but is much more accurate than these, and no older text includes so much detailed maps. This demonstrates that Zhang Guowei himself had personally inspected many locations or had at least excellent maps at hand and quoted from a vast treasury of expertise from all ages.

Table 1. Contents of the Wuzhong shuili quanshu 吳中水利全書
1-2 Tu Maps
3 水源 Shuiyuan Origins of the rivers
4 水脈 Shuimai Branches of the rivers
5-6 水名 Shuiming Names of the waters
7 河形 Hexing Dimensions of the rivers
8 水年 Shuinian Chronology of the rivers
9 水官 Shuiguan Official institutions
10 水治 Shuizhi Management of waterworks
11 詔命 Zhaoming Imperial edicts
12 敕書 Chishu Imperial instructions
13 奏狀 Zouzhuang Memorials to the throne
14 章疏 Zhangshu Exposés
15-16 公移 Gongyi Vertical communication
17 Shu Letters
18 Zhi Treatises
19 Kao Investigations
20 Shuo Explanations
21 Lun Discussions
22 Yi Discourses
23 Xu Annotations
24-25 Ji Records
26 策對 Cedui Measures
27 祀文 Jiwen Sacrificial texts
28 詩歌 Shige Poems and songs
Cheng Pengju 程鵬舉 (1992). "Wuzhong shuili quanshu 吳中水利全書", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Jingji 經濟 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 326.
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, Vol. Dili 地理卷 (Jilin: Changchun wenshi chubanshe), 171.