Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Ku Tsu-yü

KU Tsu-yü 顧祖禹 (T. 景范, H. 宛溪), 1631–1692, geographer, was a native of Wu-hsi, Kiangsu. Because he spent much of his life in Ch'ang-shu (a district in the same province) he occasionally designated himself a native of that place. His father, Ku Jou-ch'ien 顧柔謙 (T. 剛中, H. 耕石, 1605–1666), was a scholar whose special interest was history and geography. Recognizing the short-comings of the officially-compiled Comprehensive Geography of the Empire (大明一統志 Ta-Ming i-t'ung chih, 90 chüan, completed in 1461), and grieving at the passing of the old dynasty, his father had expressed a wish to produce before he died a good geographical work which would especially emphasize military strategy. Ku Tsu-yü was an ardent student who, inspired by his father's wishes, produced a highly significant work, entitled 讀史方輿紀要 Tu-shih fang-yü chi-yao ("Essentials of Historical Geography"), which identifies more accurately than any preceding geographical work changes of place-names in various periods of Chinese history. The first printed edition of this work, which comprised only 5 chüan, was published by Hua Ch'ang-fa 華長發 (T. 商原) shortly after Ku Jou-ch'ien's death.

It seems that Ku Tsu-yü was then teaching in the Hua family, a position he held until 1673. By dint of unremitting labor his work was expanded to 130 chüan, and after being edited by P'êng Yüan-jui (see under Chiang Shih-ch'üan) was printed in Chengtu, Szechwan, sometime during the Chia-ch'ing reign-period (1796–1821) in a uniform edition with the T'ien-hsia chün-kuo li-ping shu by Ku Yen-wu [q. v.]. This rather mediocre impression is the one most commonly seen. According to one account, Ku Tsu-yü preserved in his home another draft of the same work, in 500 chüan. The sixth Year Book (1933) of the Kiangsu Kuo-hsüeh Library, Nanking, lists among its new accessions a work by Ku Tsu-yü, entitled Tu-shih fang-yü chi-yao hsü (序), with annotations and notes by Li Shih-k'uei 李式揆. The extent of the T'u-shih fang-yü chi-yao may be judged from the index, entitled 支那歷代地名要覽 Shina rekidai chimei yōran, prepared by Aoyama Sadao 青山定男 and published in 1933 with more than 30,000 entries. In the compilation of this magnum opus Ku Tsu-yü utilized as literary sources more than a hundred geographical works in addition to the geographical sections of the Twenty-one Dynastic Histories, gleaning at the same time much information by inquiry and travel. According to his preface, he also prepared a bibliography of geographical works in 2 chüan which contained about one thousand titles.

After the outbreak of the San-fan 三藩 rebellion Ku Tsu-yü went to Fukien (1674) to join Kêng Ching-chung [q. v.] in the capacity of secretary. In doing so he was obviously motivated by a feeling of resentment against the Manchu dynasty and possibly envisaged a restoration of the old regime. His younger brother, Ku An-shih 顧安世 (T. 宛湄), was with him, but when Kêng Ching-chung reaffirmed his allegiance to the Manchus in 1676 Ku Tsu-yü returned to his own home. About the year 1689 he went to Peking and there assisted in the compilation of the Ta-Ch'ing i-t'ung chih (Comprehensive Geography of the Empire) in the home of the editor-in-chief, Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh [q. v.]. When the latter retired and left Peking in 1690 to carry on the project near Soochow Ku Tsu-yü joined him there. According to one account his son, Ku Shih-hsing 顧士行, also assisted in this task.


[1/505/50a; 3/415/33a; 4/131/19a; Wu-hsi-hsien chih (1751); 禹貢 Yü-kung (Chinese Historical Geography) vol. IV, nos. 3, 9.]

Tu Lien-chê