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A Comparative Study between "Geographical Section of the History of the Han Dynasty" and Strabo's "Geography"

Zhang Jiuchen (CAS, Beijing)

From about 300 B.C. to A.D. 300, the unified empires were established both in the East and the West. People's knowledge toward the world was greater than ever in depth and scope. Against this historical background, two epoch-making works on geography appeared almost simultaneously in the East and the West: "Geographical Section of the History of the Han Dynasty" (its abbreviation was "Geographical Section") written by Chinese Historian Ban Gu (傝固, 32 - 92) between A.D. 54 and A.D. 83 and "Geography" written by Roman geographer Strabo (64 B.C. - A.D. 23) in the first century.

Geographic sections in "official histories" were the most basic and important sections in Chinese ancient geographic books. "Geographical Section" was not only the first geographic section in official histories, but also the best and the first geographic book named with "geography" in China. It was the model of Chinese geographical books over the past 2000 years. "Geography" was the model of the descriptive geography in the West. Its wealthy contents were uncomparable by any ancient western geographical books. Most of the geography before ancient Rome, which we know nowadays, was gained come from this book. And the most important value of the "Geography" was its unique composition and style. A comparison of the two books can help us find out the traditions and the similarities and differences in geography between the East and the West in early times.

Although "Geographical Section" was only a part of "The History Book of the Han Dynasty" while "Geography" was a monumental work with 17 volumes, they were the milestones in geographical history because of their contributions to the perfection of ancient descriptive geography. The style which they created was well-organized and easy to learn. They laid the foundation for the real descriptive geography. They have wealthy contents and contain valuable historical data. They are the important sources for the research of ancient geographical changes.

This paper analyses the similarities and differences between "Geographical Section" and "Geography" in six aspects: Firstly, "Geographical Section" overlooked the research on the laws of the nature while "Geography" studied the laws of the nature in theory. Secondly, the style of "Geographical Section" is succinct and easy to consult while some contents of "Geography" are not coordinated and some part of the book is too long and not comprehensive. Thirdly, the data of the two books are reliable. Fourthly, the data cited in the two books came from different dynasties. Fifthly, these two books didn't break away from the subordinate status to the History. Sixthly, they had the similar writing purposes.

At the end of this paper, it analyses the influence of the two books and the reasons. Han Dynasty"

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