Before compiling the present work Xu Lian had made himself known as a legal specialist with the publication of Xingbu bizhao jiajian cheng’an and its sequel (qq.v.); he also was involved in the 1837 Lailu tang ed. of Zheyu guijian (q.v.). According to his pref. (written at the Shishi qiushi studio at Suzhou 蘇城實事求是齋), “The Xiyuan lu is to forensics what the Code is to judicial sentences”; he stresses that, whereas a faulty judicial sentence can be corrected during the review and appeal processes, an autopsy is made once and for all since the decomposition of the corpse prevents a later examination; he also insists that scholars selected to become magistrates on their proficiency in eight-legged essays are easy preys to coroners’ false reports, either because of their lack of experience or because they stay away from the filthiness of corpse examination. The aim of this new Xiyuan lu ed. was to establish a critical edition of a text long corrupted by transmission and emendation. All the versions and relevant texts available to the author have been repeatedly consulted. The layout of the printed page uses three levels: the bottom register (層) gives the Xiyuan lu text in the official Qing version (see Lüli guan jiaozheng xiyuan lu), with punctuation; the middle register is the xiangyi proper, adducing the author’s comments and critiques of problematic passages in Xiyuan lu, discussions, quotes from some 30 other works (including the original Xiyuan jilu), from provincial and national precedents, and from commentaries to the Code, as well as some relevant cases Xu gathered as a local official in different places; the upper margin features the rubric headings listed in the 21-folio mulu to help the reader find his way in the main text. Besides providing a carefully established Xiyuan lu text, Xu Lian’s main contribution lies in the xiangyi section. He claims that he is so concerned about making any unfounded comments that every word he utters there is based on undisputable evidence (自一字一句非確有依據不輒下懼妄作也). He made four rounds of revision of his text before publishing it. Finally, we note that, following Yao Deyu, the author of Xiyuan lu jie (q.v.), Xu Lian criticized the officially sanctioned figures of the corpse and skeleton and proposed his own versions. To the Chinese-style plates representing the body and the skeleton he added sets of actualized plates (lit. “modern likenesses,” xianni 現擬) of the skeleton and bones, which may have been taken from Western representations, though Xu claims they were drawn by artists who attended autopsies with him. This part of Xu’s research was published separately in 1886, with comments (see Jiangu buyi kaozheng). The work appears to have had a relatively wide circulation.