Wei Yuan 1794-1857

Wei was a native of Shaoyang in Hunan province. Repeatedly failing the jinshi examination, he spent his career in the service of higher officials and in private academic study. In 1842, he completed the first edition of Haiguo tuzhi (An Illustrated World Geograhpy), a more comprehensive geography based on Sizhou zhi, translated from Huge Murray's Encyclopaedia of Geography (1843). Expanded versions followed in 1847 and 1852. Wei proposes study of Western technology in his famous call to 'control the barbarians by learning their skills', thus launching modern China's long project of 'learning from the West'. He had also written A Short Account of Britain, which is based on an interview during the Opium War with a British prisoner.