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Unless otherwise specified, the descriptions of sources in this section are extracted from Pierre-Etienne Will and collaborators,Official Handbooks and Anthologies of Imperial China: A Descriptive and Critical Bibliography (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming).
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TitleHuanyou jilüe 宦游紀略[A Brief Account of an Official’s Voyages]
Topic4.1 Magistrates handbooks: General
Historical periodLate Qing (1797-1911)
AuthorGao Tingyao 高廷瑤
CollectionGuanzhen shu jicheng 官箴書集成
Number of volume6
Publication typeWoodblock
CommentRem.: The author had positions of assistant prefect and acting magistrate in Anhui (where he was assigned a number of ad hoc missions by several governors) for a decade beginning in 1802, then of prefect in Guangxi and especially in Canton for about another decade. The work is organized like a professional autobiography and discusses the highlights of Gao’s administrative career in rough chronological order (with Anhui in j. 1, Guangxi and Guangdong in j. 2); the emphasis is on the types of problems Gao had to deal with rather than on his own bureaucratic progress, however. His long incumbency at Canton is the occasion for interesting comments on the peculiarities and special duties of the position of prefect, and he also has considerations on the difficulties of the position of assistant prefect (tongpan). The successive entries offer a combination of extremely concrete narratives and of personal reflections concerning local government and official life (these are found in particular at the end of the text); they include interesting discussions of such questions as, prominently, judicial investigations and the administration of justice, the officials’ private finances, corruption and the problem of gift-giving, and the advisability of a cautious approach in the face of rebellious activities. A number of the more interesting judicial cases Gao had to investigate are recounted along the way, with an emphasis on the ingenious techniques he used to solve them. Gao Tingyao, who claims to have always been of impeccable integrity, advocates a hands-on and at the same time prudent approach to local government. The text is vividly written, quite critical of the mores of officialdom, at places almost satirical, and very harsh regarding some of the author’s colleagues. It is in fact likely that it was not intended for publication, the author’s sons deciding to prepare a printed version long after their father’s death. It provides a wealth of information on local life along the way. The combination of advice and anecdote may recall Huang Liuhong or Wang Huizu: indeed, Yan Yikang’s postface to the 1881 ed. states that the work is “very close” to Wang’s handbooks; the same postface also claims that Gao Tingyao had been a model for Lin Zexu, Hu Linyi and Zeng Guofan, which justifies the inclusion of texts by the first two in that edition, demonstrating a shared spirit in the approach of administrative problems. For his part, Mo Youzhi mentions Yu Chenglong’s Yu Qingduan gong zhengshu and Lan Dingyuan’s Luzhou gong’an [qq.vv.] as parallels. In general, the authors of the various prefaces insist that the work provides an ideal model for learning government. [n.p., phtc. en entier l’éd. 1900. phtc. préf. et postf. éd. 1908] [j’ai le reprint]
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