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Li Daoyuan

Styled Shan Chang, Li Daoyuan was born in today's Suizhou County of North China's Hebei Province into an official family. No certainty has yet been reached on the exact time of his birth, either in 469 or 427 during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534).

As a small boy, Li set his heart on geological research. He loved traveling to the rivers and mountain, and especially took to the research on the hydrology and geology of various places.

Later, taking advantage of being an official of different places, Li carried out field investigations, leaving footsteps in today's Henan (Central China), Shandong (East), Shanxi (North), and Jiangsu (East) provinces, and so on.

Whenever he went to a place, Li would visit the local places of interest and the rivers and mountains, conducting painstaking reconnaissance on the water flow and topography and visiting the elders for knowledge on the changes and the sources of the rivers. Through investigations on the local geography, history, and customs, he got large amounts of firsthand materials.

Besides, he read a great many ancient geological books, such as Shan Hai Jing (Mountain and Sea Classics) and Shui Jing (River Classic), accumulating rich geographical knowledge, which laid a solid foundation for his geographical research and writing.

In comparing the geographical phenomena that he saw and what was written in geographical works, Li found many geographical conditions had changed over time. If the changes were not recorded in time, it would be even harder for the later generations to figure out the changes in history.

Li strongly felt it necessary to carry out a detailed inspection of the geographical conditions and write down the historical changes in respect to the ancient geographical literature. Therefore, Li decided to write a complete geographical book on the basis of Shui Jing in a commentary form.

A geographical book by Sang Qin of the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), Shui Jing briefed on the watercourses of the country's 137 rivers. With a total of only 10,000 characters, the records of rivers were rather concise and non-systematic, providing no specific information on the geographical conditions of the areas where the rivers passed by.

With the rich firsthand materials he had got and on the basis of Shui Jing, Li finally finished a famous geographical book - Shui Jing Zhu (Commentary to the River Classic).

Author: Jessie