175 documents
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 Travels]
Topic4.1 Magistrates handbooks: General
Historical periodLate Qing (1797-1911)
AuthorGui Chaowan 桂超萬
CollectionGuanzhen shu jicheng 官箴書集成
Number of volume8
Publication typeWoodblock

The work is organized like a career autobiography and discusses the highlights of Gao’s administrative life in rough chronological order (with Anhui in j. 1, Guangxi and Guangdong in j. 2); it must have been composed sometime between Gao’s retirement in 1826 and his death in 1830. The emphasis is on the types of problems Gao had to deal with rather than on his own bureaucratic progress. His long incumbency in 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 (通判). 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 detailed discussions of (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 reported 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, very critical of the mores of officialdom, at places quite funny and almost satirical, and very harsh regarding some of the author’s colleagues. In all likelihood it was meant as a family document, not for publication. The author’s sons decided to prepare a printed version and requested prefaces from colleagues and relatives long after their father’s death. (The first mention of the project, dated 1844, is found in Xiao Rulan’s pref.) The text also provides a wealth of information on local life. The combination of advice and anecdote may recall Huang Liuhong or Wang Huizu. Indeed, Yan Xikang’s postface to the 1881 ed. states that the work is “very close” to Wang’s handbooks; it 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 ed., demonstrating a shared spirit in the approach to administrative problems. For his part, Mo Youzhi mentions Yu Chenglong’s Yu Qingduan gong zhengshu and Lan Dingyuan’s Luzhou gong’an [qq.v.] as parallels. In general, the preface authors insist that the work provides an ideal model for learning government. The publication history of the text is not entirely clear. According to Mo Youzhi’s and Wu Tingzhen’s prefs., Gao’s son Yizhuang was appointed as a magistrate in Sichuan in 1859 and planned to have the book, still in manuscript form, printed once he would be there; Shi Zanjing’s pref. suggests that the date of the first printing was 1862 or shortly thereafter. The texts in the 1883 and 1900 eds. appear to be identical, with only minor variants. Compared with them, the 1873 ed. reproduced in GZSJC features a quantity of variants, in many places amounting to actual rewriting, with details either omitted or added. Given that the text remained unpublished for more than thirty years, it is not impossible that copies were made by people to whom Gao’s sons had lent the manuscript (including several of the preface writers) and acquired a life of their own.

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