Huiguan Project Maps and Charts

Elena Valussi

The maps and charts below are part of my study of huiguan 會館 (native place associations) in Sichuan in the Qing dynasty. The information displayed in these images is based on processing and analyzing data on huiguan gathered only on historical gazetteers (difangzhi 地方誌). The original gazetteers were digitized and are available through the Chinese local gazetteers 中國方志庫 database (by Airusheng 愛如生/ Erudition), a large collection of more than 4000 gazetteers (not exhaustive of all extant gazetteers), dating from the Han dynasty until the Republican era. I had access to these gazetteers and was able to work with them thanks to the Logart project based at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, which allows the user to process and visualize the information on gazetteers in many different ways.

 I want to thank Gail Chen and Calvin Yeh for their help in learning and utilizing this amazing platform. 

To the right is an example of my work in progress at the Logart website. I tagged the huiguan names as well as dates of building, provenance of the migrant community, narratives describing the huiguan or the community, and the specific location in the county or prefecture. I tried to visualize this information in the maps and charts below. However, not all narratives provided all these kinds of information.

The information gathered was processed by myself and visualized on the maps and charts below by Yuwei Zhou


The date range of gazetteers I used is from the Song dynasty (very few) to 1911, with most of them dating to the mid-Qing. I decided not to extend my search to the Republican period for now, because much of the information on Republican period gazetteers repeats that found in Qing dynasty gazetteers, and eliminating duplicates would have been very time-consuming.

Dating: As seen from the charts below, most of the huiguan were built in Sichuan between 1730 and 1880, with two peaks, between 1730-1830 and between 1860-1880.
Number: According to my initial count and based on mention in different sections of the available gazetteers, the total number of huiguan in Sichuan is 1123. This is not an exhaustive number and will need to be cross-referenced with other historical sources. 

It is important to point out that the vast majority of these huiguan are no longer extant. The huiguan I did visit in Sichuan are discussed here.

Huiguan generally have two names, they can be referred to with the name of the divinity to whom they are consecrated, or they can be referred to with the name of the area from which the migrant population that built them came. In the maps, we chose the first name. Below I provide a simplified list connecting the temple name to the population of origin: 

Yuwanggong 禹王宮 = Huguang Huiguan 湖廣會館 

Wanshougong 萬壽宮 = Jiangxi Huiguan 江西會館

Nanhuagong 南華宮 = Guangdong Huiguan 廣東會館

Tianhougong 天后宮 = Fujian Huiguan 福建會館

Dizhugong 帝主宮 = Huangzhou Huiguan 黃州會館

Guandimiao 關帝廟 = Shaanxi Huiguan 陝西會館

The above list and the maps and charts below focus mainly on the most common huiguan that appear in Sichuan gazetteers, but there are many more kinds that were not included, mainly because they do not appear enough times across Sichuan to make them statistically representative; they also sometimes have several different names and associations that still need to be worked out. However, these ‘minor’  huiguan are historically important, they represent smaller groups of migrants who often come from smaller areas of origin, and worship different divinities. The fact that they do not appear in these maps has nothing to do with their intrinsic value, but it is a decision based on resources and clarity. 

Distribution of Huiguan in Sichuan

The interactive maps below indicate the distribution of seven major huiguan in Sichuan province, divided by prefecture. Users can click corresponding buttons to view their individual distibution.

Each huiguan has a different color. Because of the large number of huiguan that were built, the first map only indicates the largest number of huiguan in each prefecture. The other maps represent the distribution of the most common huiguan, individually, in each prefecture. These maps are created with ArcGIS. The base map was created on the basis of China Historical GIS (CHGIS) at Harvard.

Provenance of Huiguan

These maps indicate the provenance of the community of migrants who built the huiguan. Users can click the arrow on each side of the frame to view different maps.

The colored area is the area of provenance, while the dots indicate where in Sichuan these huiguan were built. This helps us to visualize the origins of the communities of migrants and where they decided to settle.

The Chuanzhu miao 川主廟 does not have a corresponding area of origin outside Sichuan, because these temples hosted internal migrants from other parts of Sichuan.

Mentions of Huiguan in Gazetteers

This chart indicates how huiguan are classified in gazetteers. Gazetteers are divided into many different sections, describing the geography, buildings (including religious ones), customs, food, notable people, as well as notable writings and steles. This chart is important because it  indicates that around 70% of the time huiguan are classified in gazetteers as religious sites (using terms like cimiao 祠廟, siguan 寺觀, tanmiao 壇廟, sidian 祀典).  18% of the times they are classified as schools (xuexiao 學校), and another 18% as buildings (jianzhu 建築). They are also sometimes part of historical narratives or appear on steles. This fact corroborates one of the most important directions of my research project, that it is essential to look at huiguan’s religious nature, not only at their role as a business meeting place, or a political and trading hub for migrants from the same area. I will be developing this direction further. 

Temporal Distribution of Huiguan in Qing

These two charts show the period of the highest buildings of huiguan in the Qing, based on the information on the date of building found in gazetteers. Most of the huiguan were built in Sichuan between 1730 and 1880, with two peaks, between 1730-1830 and between 1860-1880. This coincides with historical records of migration patterns affecting Sichuan. 


Visualizing huiguan distribution is important first and foremost in order to understand what the situation of huiguan was in Sichuan in the Qing dynasty. While huiguan in Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan have received dedicated studies, huiguan in Sichuan in general and in specific areas like Chengdu and Chongqing have not yet received in depth attention. I am interested in the nature of migration to Sichuan and the activities that were present in these locations, both quite different from those of other areas. I am further specifically interested in the religious practices present there, and on how these activities complemented and intersected with other business and philanthropic activities. I plan to continue my research both on historical documents like gazetteers and conducting fieldwork on the ground in Sichuan. 

For more on my project on huiguan in Sichuan, see my research page on this site.

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