Hou Renzhi (Chinese: 侯仁之; December 6, 1911[1] – October 22, 2013) was a Chinese geographer and a pioneer of modern historical geography in China. He made outstanding contributions to the development of historical geography both in theory and in practice.[2]

Hou Renzhi
Hou Renzhi.jpg
Hou Renzhi in 1946
Born(1911-12-06)December 6, 1911
DiedOctober 22, 2013(2013-10-22) (aged 101)
Scientific career
FieldsHistorical geography
InstitutionsYenching University
Peking University


Hou was born in Zaoqiang County, Zhili Province, on December 6, 1911. He grew in Encheng, Pingyuan Counnty, Shandong Province.

At the age of 21, he was inspired by Gu Jiegang to start learning history at the Yenching University, Beijing. He studied history with Gu Jiegang and from William Hung. He graduated with both a B.A (in 1936) and later an M.A. in history and continued to teach at the university, where he met and later married Zhang Weiying.[1]

Hou Renzhi with his wife Zhang Weiying, 1938

Hou planned to study in England, but in 1941 he was imprisoned after the Japanese captured Yenching University, and, as one of the leaders of the student body, he was sentenced for 1 year, and was limited in his movements upon his release. He and his wife settled in Tianjin until the end of Second Sino-Japanese War.[3]

In 1946, after the war, Hou started studying his Ph.D. at Liverpool University, and he graduated in 1949, writing his thesis on the historical geography of Beijing. Hou returned to China and worked as associate professor at the history department in Yenching University. and later held several positions at Peking University, including the deputy provost of the university, dean of the department of geology and geography, and dean of the department of geography.[1]

In 1950, Hou was appointed part of the "Beijing Urban Planning Committee” to advise on Beijing's urban planning. In addition, he advanced historical geography research in Chengde, Handan, Zibo and other historically significant cities. Hou also studied the deserts in Ningxia, Inner Mongolia and Gansu, to provide advice and information concerning the planting of sheltering forests.[3]

During the Culture Revolution (1966–1976) Hou was criticized for his work and he was transferred to the countryside, to a May Seventh Cadre School in Jiangxi for physical labor and reform.

In 1972, Hou returned to academic studies and research, and published his first collection of academic papers in 1979. In 1980, Hou was elected a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In 1984, Hou became a visiting researcher at Cornell University. During his time, he learned about the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Hou, appealed to the Lianghui to have China part of the convention, and he wrote a proposal to convince the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. On December 12, 1985, China ratified the convention. In 1987, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, and the Zhoukoudian became the first Chinese sites to be listed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO. Hou is sometimes considered as "the first person to apply for the Chinese heritage".

Hou died at the age of 102, in October 2013.

In addition to his historical geography research, and the new approaches he developed, Hou wrote many books and works for the general public.

Selected worksEdit

  • The Principles and Practice of Historical Geography.
  • Four Treatises on Historical Geography
  • A Brief History of Ancient Chinese Geography
  • Beijing Urban Historical Geography
  • Hou, Renzhi (2014). An Historical Geography of Peiping. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-55321-9. ISBN 978-3-662-51537-2.
  • Hou, Renzhi (2015). Symposium on Chinese Historical Geography. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. doi:10.1007/978-3-662-45272-1. ISBN 978-3-662-52614-9.

Honors and awardsEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Li Xiaomeng (December 6, 2010). "Hou Renzhi: Lifelong Devotion to Historical Geography". Peking University News.
  2. ^ a b "(309295) Hourenzhi". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "Historical Geographer: Hou Renzhi". chinaculture.org. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  4. ^ "Hou Renzhi 侯仁之, Senior Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences". ChinaVitae.
  5. ^ "GEORGE DAVIDSON MEDAL". American Geographical Society.
  6. ^ "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved November 21, 2019.