Our Notes & References
Important, early description of Mongolia: first edition of the first book of father Iakinf, called later “the father of Russian sinology”.
Bichurin (1777-1853), here writing under his monastic name Iakinf, was named in 1805 leader of the 9th Russian Mission to Peking and head of the Sretenskii monastery in this town. During his 14-year stay he learnt Chinese, compiled his own dictionary and prepared other scholar works for later publication. He returned to Saint Petersburg in 1821: the first part of these Zapiski contains a detailed travel account of Iakinf’s journey from Pekin to the Russian border town Kiakhta, including descriptions of the Great Wall, of the cities of Kalgan (Zhangjiakou) and Urga (Ulan Bator), the Gobi desert etc.
The three other parts are entirely devoted to Mongolia, then under Chinese rule: its geography, political system, climate, trade, population (its structure, fashion and customs). Bichurin gives a sketch of the history of Mongols, as well as of the legal system used by China to rule the region.
The work was highly appreciated by the Russian and European scientific communities and became an important reference for other sinologists and specialists on Central Asia, being translated into French and German in 1832. Bichurin became a member of the prestigious Russian Academy of Sciences shortly after the publication of these Notes, in 1828; in 1831 he also joined the Asiatic Society of Paris. He went on to publish several works on China and Mongolia. In 1837 he opened the first Chinese-language school in the Russian Empire.
A lovely, very finely bound example of this scarce book, illustrated with hand-coloured plates and a folding map showing the road from Beijing to Kiakhta, with Manchuria, Mongolia and the Eastern Turkestan. The plates show Chinese and Mongol costumes (including a Mongol woman riding a horse) and, as frontispiece, “a noble Chinese man in summer dress” by Orlovskii, the celebrated pioneer of lithography in Russia, and a master of the technique. Several sources, including a 1950s Soviet edition of the book, recognised in this “noble Chinese man” a portrait of Bichurin himself, indeed resembling a portrait sketched by Nikolai Bestuzhev, an artist and a Decembrist who was exiled to Siberia in 1827.
Skt. Peterb. Dukhovnaia Seminariia (ink stamps to both titles, number stamped to first title).
Obolianonov 1027; Solovev, kat. 105, 159 (also in one volume and in a half-binding, marking it 15 rub).