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Ri Zhi Lu 日知录 – Top 100 Books in China

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The cornerstone of China’s modern ideological enlightenment


Chinese Name: 日知录

English Name: Ri Zhi Lu, Rizhilu

Author: Gu Yanwu 顾炎武

Originally Published: 1670 A.D(Late Ming and Early Qing Dynasty)

Genre: Philosophy

Brief Introduction of Ri Zhi Lu

Ri Zhi Lu is the representative work of Gu Yanwu, a famous scholar and great thinker in the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties, which has a great impact on future generations. The book is a large-scale academic note written by the author through years and years.

Ri Zhi Lu 日知录
Ri Zhi Lu 日知录

This book aims to explain the truth and save the world. It contains all the author’s academic and political thoughts, and has the connotation of governing the world and warning the world.

Ri Zhi Lu is rich in content, 32 volumes, with 1019 entries. The content is roughly divided into eight categories, namely, Confucian classics, historiography, official, official administration, finance and taxation, ceremony, geography, art and culture.

The philosophical thoughts in Ri Zhi Lu are rich. Gu put forward the view that the quality of social atmosphere determines the rise and fall of society, saying: “only by witnessing the trend of the world can we know that the key to controlling chaos must lie in the customs of the people”. He believed that the “decline of Customs” was the source of chaos, and cited a large number of examples to illustrate that the extravagant and flashy social atmosphere was an important reason for the decline of the country.


In Ri Zhi Lu, Gu Yanwu emphasized the role of “Shi势” in the development of things, advocated social reform, and proposed to follow the trend.

Gu Yanwu also made a new interpretation of the status of the monarch and the relationship between the monarch and his subjects. The emperor is not born noble. They manage the affairs of the country. Like the common people, they also rely on labor to eat. Therefore, the monarch should not exploit the people in order to show his dignity and expand his income.

The book lists a large number of historical examples to dilute the supreme monarchy, provide historical basis for the establishment of a new relationship between monarchs and officials, and show preliminary democratic thought.

Author of Ri Zhi Lu

Gu Yanwu (July 15, 1613 – February 15, 1682), whose real name is Gu Jiang顾绛, also known as Gu Ningren顾宁人, is known as Mr. Ting Lin亭林先生, from Kunshan City, Jiangsu Province. The outstanding thinkers, Confucian classics scholars, historians, geographers and phonologists in the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties, together with Wang Fuzhi王夫之, Huang Zongxi黄宗羲 and Tang Zhen唐甄, are known as the “Four Enlightenment Thinkers四大启蒙思想家” in the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties.

顾炎武Gu Yanwu
顾炎武Gu Yanwu

Gu Yanwu is knowledgeable and has deep attainments in classics, history, phonology, archaeology, geography and poetry. He has made achievements in connecting the past and opening up the future. He has become an outstanding master who has opened a generation of academic pioneers.


Gu Yanwu’s distinctive purport of being practical to the world, the textual research method of simple induction, the exploration spirit of creating a path, and his achievements in many academic fields ended the empty style of study in the late Ming Dynasty, opened the way for a generation of simple style of study, and had a very beneficial impact on scholars in the Qing Dynasty.

Gu Yanwu also advocated “benefiting the country and enriching the people”, and believed that “those who do good for the country hide it from the people”. He boldly doubted the monarchy and put forward the idea of “public governance” with the color of early democratic enlightenment.

Gu Yanwu has extensive experience, profound knowledge and rich works. There are more than 50 kinds of works preserved so far, and his representative works include Ri Zhi Lu and so on.

Excerpts of Ri Zhi Lu


Articles prosper because they are few and decline because they are many


Everyone has an unshirkable responsibility for the rise and fall of major events in the world.


Wise monarchs work hard when they seek talents, but they are relaxed when they appoint talents.


If a person is not honest, he will be greedy for everything; If a person has no shame, he will do everything.

Evaluation of Ri Zhi Lu

There was no one but Gu Yanwu, the academic founder of the Qing Dynasty

Liang Qichao梁启超

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