“The Most Detailed Descriptions” of Beijing

Yan du cong kao 燕都叢考 [Examinations of the Metropolis of Yan].

Several folding maps. Three vols. 8vo, orig. printed wrappers. Beijing: Zhonghua yin zi guan 中華印字館, 1930-31.

First edition of this uncommon book on the local history of Beijing. Chen Zongfan (1879-1954), after his studies, moved to Beijing where he worked in various agencies of the city administration. He bought a plot of land by Andingmen and erected a property (and rented rooms to professors at the nearby university, including the towering intellectual figure Fu Sinian 傅斯年 [1896-1950]). Chen took a great interest in his adopted city, which in this post-imperial period was undergoing radical change. In 1927, Chen even bought a part of the Beijing city wall to save it from demolition.

Chen’s care for the history of Beijing is on full display in our book, which “contains the most detailed descriptions of the sights and historical remains of the Beijing inner city of any book from the Republican period.” Chen used a great variety of historical sources, “of which quite a few are no longer extant,” giving his book important documentary value. However, “Chen was not content with using only written sources, but went himself to do fieldwork. Only after knowing the actual state of an area did he start writing.” The book traces “the changes of streets and alleys in the inner city of Beijing, including current and former names and locations, important buildings or historical sights along their route, associated historical events, legends and stories, as well as their current state” (Wu, Mingren, 92-96). The book contains a number of maps of sections of the city.

Some sources state that the book was finished in 1935, but our third volume has the imprint 1931. WorldCat 34648359 conforms to our book.

Fine set, preserved in a hantao. The paper is somewhat browned, and there is some worming, mostly marginal, in the third volume.


Wu Yashan 吴雅山. Mingren: yifan changcun 名人—遗范长存. Beijing: Beijing chubanshe, 2021.

Price: $1,250.00

Item ID: 9846