Shui Jing Zhu - Commentary on the Waterways Classic
Shui Jing Zhu (水经注, Commentary on the Waterways Classic) is a work on the ancient geography of China, it is the annotated text of an older text, Shui Jing. It is the first general geographical work mainly recording watercourses and water systems in China, and has a profound influence on the history of China.
The annotated version was compiled by Li Daoyuan (郦道元) during the Northern Wei Dynasty. The original version is believed to have been compiled in the Three Kingdoms period because of the names of the counties and commanderies; its authorship is attributed to Jin Dynasty scholar Guo Pu.
The work describes the waterways of ancient China. Additionally, it presents many aspects of the localities without becoming fictionalized.
Waterways, on which Shui Jing Zhu made notes, is a geographical work focusing on rivers and watercourses, but the contents of the work are very simple. Li Daoyuan, the author of Shui Jing Zhu, lived in the Northern Wei Dynasty and liked to travel since his childhood. Taking advantage of his official position, he traveled a wide area of the Yellow River and the Huaihe River. In order to record his geographical knowledge and create more geographic books which were short at that time, he made a series of notes by taking Waterways as the outline.
Shui Jing Zhu, including 40 volumes with notes of 300 thousand words, can be regarded as an encyclopedia of China in the 6th century, since it covers more than one thousand rivers lying in the border areas of the Western Han Dynasty and the surrounding areas in terms of not only physical geography, human geography, customs and conventions, anecdotes, and fairy tales, but also of history, archaeology, religion and art; and it covers a history of over 2000 years from the Pre-Qin period to the Southern and Northern Dynasties of the Wei and Jin periods. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, a school focusing on the research of Shui Jing Zhu was formed among scholars. Uncommonly, Li Daoyuan did not simply list the contents in the book, but describe them by the technique of literary art instead. Shui Jing Zhu, therefore, is also a treasure of literary art.
Shui Jing Zhu, which summarizes the ancient geography of China before the Northern Wei Dynasty, is an important literature on historical geography, hydrology, economic geography, archaeology, and water conservancy, and is of significant importance to the study on the changes of ancient watercourses, seashores and climate in ancient times.