Stamps of China

Topical Stamp Collecting: Famous People; Geography

400th Anniversary of the Birth of Xu Xiake Geographer and Tourist of the Ming Dynasty

Xu Xiake (1587—1641) was a traveler and geographer known best for his extensive journals. After his death his voluminous notes were compiled into a book called The Travel Diaries Xu Xiake. The diaries contain detailed observations of geography, hydrology, geology and botany. Additionally Xu Xiake made notes on the people he met, documenting their lifestyles and local customs.

This series of three stamps, issued February 20, 1987 by the People's Republic of China, illustrates moments from Xu Xiake’s life:

8 fen - "Refusing an official career and determining to conduct investigation."
As a child, Xu Xiake studied the ancient classics and learned to write the eight-part essay required for the imperial civil service examination. However, he developed a love of history books and determined to pursue a life of travel.

20 fen - "Taking records of investigation in mountain cave."
One of Xu Xiake's most significant contributions to science was his detailed study of karst landforms, which are features created by the drainage of water into the ground such as sinkholes, caves, and natural bridges. He visited over 270 caves and kept records of their height, depth, and the cause of the formation.

40 fen - "Reaching the summit while climbing a mountain and not being depressed over hopeless situation."
Xu Xiake traveled throughout China for more than 30 years, often on foot, and suffered many hardships. His travels brought him to many climates where he would be at the mercy of the elements. He frequently was dependant on the kindness of strangers such as the local scholars and monks in the villages he would visit.

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