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When Western naturalists began writing about Hong Kong’s nature in the early 19th century, around the same time, the Qing dynasty published the second edition of Gazetteer of Xin’an County. Xin’an was a county that includes today’s Hong Kong and Shenzhen. This chronicle, published during the Jiaqing period, was a revised version of the first edition published centuries prior, during Kangxi Emperor’s reign in 1688. The two volumes of the Jiaqing edition feature descriptions of Xin'an’s crops and livestock, mountains and rivers, and meteorology, which are comparable to Western depictions.

Writing Between Cultures


Difference in Content

Narrative of a Journey in the Interior of China, and of a Voyage to and from that Country, in the Years 1816-1817

Country: Britain

Year of Publication: 1818

Nature of Publication: Naturalist travelogue

Author: Clarke Abel/Surgeon and amateur naturalist

Summary: A first-hand account of the author’s experiences based on his fieldwork

No. of species mentioned: ~180

Click images to view the excerpted version.

Gazetteer of Xin’an County

Country: Qing Dynasty

Year of Publication: 1819

Nature of Publication: Official chronicle

Compiler: Shu Maoguan / Governor of Xin'an County (the highest official at the county 


Chief Editor: Wang Chongxi / Editor of the Qing Dynasty (responsible for editing official books such as national history and factual records)

Summary: The 24-volume encyclopedic work covers the history of Xin'an County, 

distribution of villages and population, climate, coastal defense and administration, strange events, myths, poems, songs, and more. Wang travelled to Xin'an and received help from local scholars to interview and collect information from local communities.

No. of animals and crops mentioned: 285

Gazetteer of Xin’an County (2017)

Published by the Chung Hwa Book Company

Flora Hongkongensis: a description of the flowering plants and ferns of the island of Hong Kong

Country: Britain

Year of Publication: 1861

Nature of Publication: Official publication documenting the flora on British colonies

Author: George Bentham / botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew)

Summary: A record of Hong Kong’s flora, focusing on taxonomic features, account on the discovery and locations of the species. Bentham had never been to Hong Kong, and the 1,056 plant species described in the book were based on published research and specimens collected by other field naturalists.

Excerpt of Flora Hongkongensis (1861)

Difference in Map Drawings

Click to enlarge and view captions.

All stories in Chapter 1