A Guide to Forbidden Places

[What I Heard in the Imperial Capital, Faithfully Recorded].

8vo, orig. wrappers & stitching. [China]: [1852-1925?]

An apparently unrecorded edition of this inventory of Beijing’s and the wider metropolitan region’s palaces and sights. Beijing was the capital of the Qing empire, and as such it attracted many visitors and sojourners. A literature on the city and its sights developed already in the 17th century. Yet the most alluring parts of the city—the imperial palaces and parks—were off-limits to outsiders. Our book provided readers with an insight into this closed world.

“The book primarily lists the names of palaces and imperial parks, and, in the form of a commentary, records the location, physical dimensions and changes over time, as well as anecdotes. In addition, famous sights, inscribed plaques, and couplets flanking doorways are recorded. The book pays particular attention to imperially authored prose and verse relative to each site described” (Zhang, Lao Beijing shuwen, 142). In addition to describing the palaces, some other locations in Beijing and its surrounding area are also covered, such as Zhenjue (Righteous Awakening) Temple in what was then the northwestern outskirts of the city. The entries are arranged by the rhyme of the last character in a place name.

This anonymous book was first published 1852, with subsequent editions in 1859, 1864 (both blockprints), 1891 (lithograph), and 1925 (in a collectanea), in addition to an undated late-19th century edition published by Shuye tang 書業堂 (blockprint). Our copy does not contain an imprint. We find no entry in WorldCat conforming to our copy.

Fine copy, preserved in a hantao.

Price: $500.00

Item ID: 10049