Thinking Outside the Walls

Illustrations of Cities and Extramural Space in Chinese Gazetteers


  • Daniel Knorr University of Cambridge



urban space, gazetteers, maps, chengtu, walls


Walls have long been understood as a distinguishing feature of premodern Chinese cities. Serving both practical and symbolic purposes, they set off urban space from the surrounding countryside. This article examines illustrations of cities (chengtu) in Qingera gazetteers to determine to what extent and in what ways our assumptions about the importance of walls correspond to a common genre of visually representing urban space. Some chengtu reflect these assumptions very directly, presenting walled cities as islands floating in the blank space of exurban space. However, most chengtu contain some amount of extra-mural detail, and there is considerable variety in how these illustrations treat the relationship between intramural and extramural space. No single factor, such as geography, the presence of topo-graphical features or religious structures, or the specific title attached to a given chengtu, can explain this variation. Instead, chengtu reflect tremendous fluidity in visual discourse around cities in the Qing period beyond what existing scholarship on gazetteers and repre-sentations of urban space would lead us to expect.




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Dantu xian zhi 丹徒縣志 (Dantu County Gazetteer). 1683. He Jie 何洯, Cheng Shimei 程世美, and Bao Tianzhong 鮑天鍾 (comp.).

Guangping fu zhi 廣平府志 (Guangping Prefectural Gazetteer). 1677. Shen Hanpan 申涵盼 and Shen Yichen 沈奕琛 (comp.).

Huzhou fu zhi 湖州府志 (Huzhou Prefectural Gazetteer). (1739) 1758. Hu Chengmou 胡承謀 and Li Tang 李堂 (comp.).

Jinan fu zhi 濟南府志 (Jinan Prefectural Gazetteer). 1840. Wang Zengfang 王贈芳 and Cheng Guan 成瓘 (comp.).

Jingzhou zhi 景州志 (Jingzhou Gazetteer). 1745. Zhao Yi 趙栘 and Qu Chenglin 屈成霖 (comp.).

Licheng xian zhi 歷城縣志 (Licheng County Gazetteer). 1640. Ye Chengzong 葉承宗 (comp.).

Licheng xian zhi 歷城縣志 (Licheng County Gazetteer). 1773. Hu Delin 胡德琳 and Li Wenzao 李文藻 (comp.).

Nanchang fu zhi 南昌府志 (Nanchang Prefectural Gazetteer). 1789. Xie Qikun謝啓昆 and Chen Lanlin 陳蘭森 (comp.).

Sanshui xian zhi 三水縣志 (Sanshui County Gazetteer). 1677. Lin Fengtai 林逢泰 and Wen Zhuotian 文倬天 (comp.).

Taiping xian zhi 太平縣志 (Taiping County Gazetteer). 1775. Zhang Zhongxiu 張鍾秀 (comp.).

Taizhou fu zhi 台州府志 (Taizhou Prefectural Gazetteer). (1691) 1722. Fang Jinglian 方景濂 and Zhang Lianyuan 張聯元 (comp.).

Tongzhou fu zhi 同州府志 (Tongzhou Prefectural Gazetteer). 1741. Li Zhilan 李之蘭 and Zhang Kuixiang 張奎祥 (comp.).

Tongzhou fu zhi 同州府志 (Tongzhou Prefectural Gazetteer). 1781. Wu Tailai 吳泰來 (comp.).

Weinan zhi 渭南志 (Weinan Gazetteer). 1778. Wang Yicheng 王以誠 (comp.).

Wuding fu zhi 武定府志 (Wuding Prefectural Gazetteer). (1758) 1759. Zhuang Zhaokui荘肇奎 and He Dase 赫達色 (comp.).

Qixia xian zhi 棲霞縣志 (Qixia County Gazetteer). 1754. Wei Chang衛萇 (comp.).

Xuxiu Jiashan xian zhi 續修嘉善縣志 (Revised Jiashan County Gazetteer). 1734. Ge Mingqi 戈鳴岐 and Qian Yuanyou 錢元佑 (comp.).

Yan’an fu zhi 延安府志 (Yan’an Prefectural Gazetteer). (1680) 1737. Chen Tianzhi 陳天植 and Liu Erju 劉爾舉 (comp.).

Yangchun xian zhi 陽春縣志 (Yangchun County Gazetteer). 1687. Kang Shanshu 康善述 and Liu Yikai 劉裔烗 (comp.).

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Knorr: Thinking Outside the Walls




How to Cite

Knorr, D. (2022). Thinking Outside the Walls: Illustrations of Cities and Extramural Space in Chinese Gazetteers. The Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies, 3, 123–148.



Visual Materials in Local Gazetteers