Miyun’s Prosperous Annals
Miyun Xianzhi (“annals of Miyun County”) compiled in 1914 became a bestseller among handed down local annals, becoming indispensable for readers interested in Miyun's history.
One day in 1578, a book known as the Miyun Xianzhi (“annals of Miyun County”) was published in Beijing, and became a hot topic for people in the city. Previously, they only knew there had been a city lauded by historians as the “land of abundance in Beijing” northeast of where they lived. However, the tortuous and impassable route denied them the chance of viewing it, so the prosperous city existed only in fantasies.
For the Annals of Miyun Xianzhi, compilers gave a realistic description of the district's history. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, the earliest annals in the history of Miyun disappeared without a trace, along with its compilers. Now, only its title of Wanli Miyun Xianzhi (“annals of Miyun County compiled in the reign of Emperor Wanli”) can be found as an entry in historical archives (Emperor Wanli [1573–1620] in a period of the Ming Dynasty [1368–1644]).
Although the Wanli Miyun Xianzhi (compiled in 1578, now missing) appeared only briefly in China's vast historical records, the name “Miyun County” had since stuck in the annals compiled in Beijing. With more than 400 years, the county which had earned great popularity for a book once more sparkled heated discussions in the capital city from a small piece of news.
The news stated that with approval from the State Council, Miyun and Yanqing counties would be transformed from county areas into urban districts in November 2015, and that the thousand-year name “Miyun County” was history.
Located northeast of Beijing, Miyun is one of China's ancient counties. According to historical records, it was made a county in 397, with the county seat originally located in the vicinity of Nanguan Village, more than five kilometres to the south of present-day Fengning Manchu Autonomous County Seat in Hebei Province. Northeast of the city was a mountain at an altitude of 2,047 metres.
Because of its high altitude and high rainfall, the mountain was often shrouded in mist and rolling clouds. Gradually, it came to be known as Yunwu Mountain (“the mountain of clouds and mist”) or Miyun Mountain (“the mountain of thick clouds”). Correspondingly, the nearby county seat was called Miyun County. For over more than a thousand
years, Miyun County replaced other names to become the officially established name for the region of Miyun since the Ming and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties.
In Beijing's history, Miyun had always been a strategic post for defending the capital. It was especially so since the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, when it became an inevitable path for communication between the capital and regions beyond Shanhaiguan Pass, together with its natural defence barriers.
Its political and military significance made it imperative for later officials to compile local annals. A tradition of compiling annals was then formed. According to literary sources, nine local annals had been compiled with five left in existence.
Kangxi Miyun Xianzhi (“annals of Miyun County compiled in the reign of Emperor Kangxi”) is the oldest existing county annals for Miyun. In 1673, during the reign of Emperor Kangxi (reign: 1661–1722) in the Qing Dynasty, Magistrate of Miyun County Zhao Honghua added 18 volumes to the previous annals and named the title Kangxi Miyun Xianzhi.
It marked a renewal of Wanli Miyun Xianzhi 90 years after its completion. In the beginning, there was a preface to Wanli Miyun Xianzhi, the preface for renewal, legends in twelve entries and a table of contents. The complete map of the city, maps of the ancient city, new city and county were also appended, together with its list of compilers.
The table of contents of Kangxi Miyun Xianzhi is divided into three sections: astronomical records, geography and celebrities, for documenting astronomical phenomena, disasters and auspicious signs, geography, mountains and rivers, produce, town gods, deployment, shops, altars and temple, town names, local gentry, legendary immortals, arts and literature. New materials were added, with valuable data retained, constituting a prototype for subsequent local county annals.
The six-volume Yongzheng Miyun Xianzhi (“annals of Miyun County compiled in the reign of emperor Yongzheng”) compiled by Xue Tianpei, magistrate and Chen Hongmo, a native of Zhejiang Qiantang in 1723, also won high acclaim.
Xue Tianpei, as a successful imperial candidate during the reign of Emperor Kangxi, was appointed discipline master of Miyun County in 1718. He was later appointed magistrate of the county by Emperor Yongzheng (reign: 1722–1735) in 1723, in recognition of his meritorious governance. He was deeply touched by its “imperial grace, and decided to take it down.”
He then explored all the mountains and rivers within his jurisdiction, studied its history, drew on various publications and sought elderly advice. With Chen Hongmo's assistance, his country fellow, “checked the references and made amendments and collations,” and he eventually finished Yongzheng Miyun Xianzhi.
Today, the woodblock edition of Yongzheng Miyun Xianzhi is still kept in the National Library of China, the Library of the Forbidden City, and the Library of Minzu University of China. Featuring a smooth narrative, it is a reference for learning and studying historical facts of Miyun district in the Ming and Qing dynasties.
The two editions of Miyun Xianzhi compiled during the reigns of emperors Kangxi and Yongzheng pooled together volumes for subsequent compilations of county annals, and made it possible for the excellent tradition to be sustained throughout the Qing Dynasty. In 1882, Guangxu Chongxiu Miyun Xianzhi (“annals of Miyun County
revised in the reign of Emperor Guangxu”) compiled by the magistrate Ding Fujiu and Zhao Wencui was printed. The book of six volumes consisted of “three records, two maps, four illustrated accounts, six figures without annotation, three tables, three corroborations, one volume of governance strategies and one volume of poems.”
The three local annals of the Qing Dynasty not only laid the basis for writing about the history of Miyun, but also furnished instrumental data for the emergence of local annals compiled in the third year of the Republic of China (1912– 1949). Known to subsequent generations as Miyun Xianzhi, the book highlighted the historical status of Miyun County among other areas in Beijing, and became unique in the history of Beijing's local annals.
In 1910, Ning Quan, a member of local gentry proposed to revise the county annals and his proposition won the support of the local authorities. In 1912, Ning established the compilation Bureau in the county council, invited his fellow friend Zong Qingxu to preside over the compilation, “invited enthusiasts of public affairs in the county to join the investigation,” which officially launched the project.
In the spring of 1913, Zong Qingxu “discussed with his colleagues day and night and formulated the principles for collating the previous local annals and making adjustments with deletions and additions.”
In May this year, when Zang Lichen was made magistrate of Miyun County, Zong Qingxu “proposed that Magistrate Zang be appointed chief editor.” In May 1914, when the magistrate Zhu Yi took office, the compilation was nearing the end. However, Zhu Yi “meticulously collated the manuscripts.” In July 1914, the voluminous local annals were eventually completed. It was named Minguo Sannian Miyun Xianzhi (“annals of Miyun County compiled in the third year of the Republic of China”), differing from its counterparts prepared in the Qing Dynasty.
Minguo Sannian Miyun Xianzhi consists of one preface and eight volumes. The preface volume includes three preambles, official posts and names of compilers, a table of contents and legends in 17 entries, as well as 15 maps. Its eight volumes of text are divided into four classes, namely geography, political affairs, people, arts and literature, which harbour 24 categories under 13 varieties.
As the first local annals prepared in Beijing during the Republic of China, it inevitably took on distinct content and style, reflecting turbulent conditions and transformed awareness in the time of fundamental revolution in the late Qing Dynasty and the early Republic of China. Those characteristics made it a prominent new generation of local annals among the over 100 old annals in existence. Teeming with the spirit of a new era, its timely emergence and bold innovation in content and style have been instrumental for subsequent compilations of local annals in Beijing, for inheriting the past and ushering in the future.
The map has always been an important part of traditional local annals, as testified by the saying that one map outperforms thousands of words. The importance of maps was not lost on the part of the editors of Minguo Sannian Miyun Xianzhi. They arranged field surveys and drew upon professional surveying and cartography in preparing the 15 maps, which included a volume of the preface. The resulting maps marked the highest level among all maps in local annals compiled in the Beijing region and the whole country. They were very different from their predecessors, which resembled paintings as they featured three-dimensional composition and had a striking resemblance. New maps were based on the latest Western expertise in cartography.
Through field investigations, compilers first determined the eastern boundary of Miyun County, and clarified the jurisdiction of the eastern part of the county. In the Preface Volume, a full map of the frontiers beyond Qiangzilu Road marks details of mountains and rivers, villages and forts with their names. The eastern territory of Miyun County was clarified for the first time.
This constitutes one of the important achievements of this edition of local annals. The spirit demonstrated in field survey was worth learning for subsequent compilers. From maps, changes to the way life was lived in Miyun County can also be seen. For example, in Miyunxian Quantu (“full map of Miyun County”), legend and symbols were used to indicate the direction of several electric wires. Although no description of electric supply can be found in the text, symbols clearly show that electric wire coverage had been extended to the county proper, testifying to Miyun's early power supply.
Annals Reflecting the New Era
Minguo Sannian Miyun Xianzhi is also the earliest annals in Beijing to document the system of democratic republics. At that time, feudal imperial power that had lasted for thousands of years was finally done away with and a democratic republic system was established. Editors were consciously aware of documenting this historical change. This meant that the local annals would be different from its predecessors, and that major adjustments would be made to its style and content. The timeliness of the local annals also proved it as the first of its kind in documenting this epoch-marking change.
As is commonly known to all, documenting
the itinerary, favours and recitations of feudal emperors was a major stylistic feature of traditional local annals. Compilation of the Miyun Xianzhi in the early years of the Republic of China concurred with a fundamental change to the national system. The monarch had become a thing of the past, giving way to democracy, autonomy and the republic.
Deliberate avoidance of materials related to the feudal emperors became a prominent feature of this edition of local annals, which was the political attitude of compilers. Subsequently, local annals made reference to it. As a result, getting rid of the old and bringing in the new and detailing the present while sketching the past became important features of compiling local annals in the Beijing area.
While renouncing materials related to the monarch and the feudal era, compilers added new contents and created new styles. For example, Chapter 1 Xian Yishihui (“county council”), Chapter 2 Jingwu (“police work”) and Chapter 3 Shanghui (“chamber of commerce”) in Volume 5 described the reasons and time for establishing the three institutions, as well as their organisation, charters, personal quota and location.
Despite a relatively shorter length, those chapters include materials not found in any previous local annals compiled in Beijing and constitute the earliest embodiment of a democratic system in a concentrated manner. In addition, their style is a unique innovation and a major change to older styles. Its fruitful attempt in stylistic innovation played an exemplary role for later generations, becoming a blueprint.
Among the various local annals of Beijing, Minguo Sannian Miyun Xianzhi was the earliest to record the abolition of imperial examination and other educational reforms. Abolishing the imperial examination and setting up schools were the focus of reform at the end of the Qing Dynasty and the beginning of the Republic of China. Minguo Sannian Miyun Xianzhi should be considered lucky to become the earliest local annals to document the measures and results of educational reform during the period. In Chapter 1 of Volume 4, Xuexiao Kao (“origin of schools”) not only describes an academic method prior to the Qing Dynasty and its various academies, but also records the abolition of imperial examination and reform of the educational system in the late Qing Dynasty and the early Republic of China.
The volume is preceded by Miyun Gaodeng Xiaoxuexiao Tu (“the map of advanced primary schools in Miyun”), which clarifies understanding of school distribution at a glance. It can be seen that despite its location in the remote barren land in areas adjacent to the capital, Miyun County was lucky enough to boast officials who considered education extremely important. Its efforts to reform education and establish schools were comparable to those of the capital.
These local annals took the lead to put minerals under one separate genus in documenting Beijing's economic development. Of all prefectural and county local annals in Beijing, produce have always been an important component. Contrary to its predecessors, this edition of local annals added the genus of minerals to varieties of animals and plants. The newly added minerals was furthered divided into gold, silver, asbestos, iron ore, coal, crystals and other minerals.
As the first local annals of the Beijing area compiled during the period of the Republic of China, Minguo Sannian Miyun Xianzhi is only housed in the National Library of China, Peking University Library, Beijing Normal University Library and Capital Library, with considerable value as an inheritance. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary for its compilation, Cathay Bookshop reprinted the magna opus after its collation in 2013, marking a major event in the circle of annals studies of Miyun.
In 2016, the Local Annals Office Miyun District reprinted 3,000 copies of the book, and distributed them to offices and bureaus of various ministries, and communities, village committees and primary and secondary schools. Annals compiled in 1914 once again became a bestseller among all local annals handed down with its rich contents, becoming indispensable for readers interested in Miyun's history.
A copy of Miyunxianzhi (“annals of Miyun County”)