An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Daopin 稻品

Feb 23, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

The book Daopin 稻品 "Classes of rice", also called Lisheng yujing daopin 理生玉鏡稻品 "Classes of rice in the jade mirror of arranging for life", describes different types of China's most important staple food, with a focus on the region of Lake Taihu 太湖. It was written by Huang Shengzeng 黃省曾 (1490-1540) and is the most outstanding text of his collection Nongpu sishu 農圃四書.

Apart from the book Hepu 禾譜 (only preserved in fragments) from the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126). which focuses on the region of Jiangxi, Huang's Daopin is thus the only traditional text exclusively dedicated to rice.

Even if information on rice cultivation in the region can be collected from local gazetteers like (Baoyou) Qinchuan zhi 寶祐琴川志 (on Changshu 常熟), (Chunyou) Yufeng zhi 淳祐玉峰志 (Kunshan 昆山) or (Shaoxi) Wujun zhi 紹熙吳郡志 (Wuxian 吳縣, i.e. Suzhou 蘇州), Huang's Daopin approaches the matter much more systematically. The text presents names and alternative names, indicates the maturing period, describes the appearance of all parts of the plants, and characterizes the types according to the requirements for cultivation, like water- and heat resistance or the stability of the stalk. Huang also inform about the use of particular types, for instance, qualification for brewing or because of a particular fragrance or colour. The reader learns a lot about non-glutinous round grain rice (gengdao or jingdao 粳稻, Oryza sativa subsp. japonica), high-stalk long grain rice (xiandao 秈稻, Oryza sativa subsp. indica) and glutinous rice (nuodao 糯稻, Oryza sativa var. glutinosa).

Of the 35 types of rice described, 27 are mentioned in Song-period sources, while the others only became popular in later times. In addition, the book mentions a type of rice called zaisheng dao 再生稻 "revival rice" whose stubs (daozhuang 稻樁) can produce a second generation of crop. This kind, as well as 32 other types, were still used in the Taihu region during the 19th century (Wu 1995).

Apart from being a constituent of the book Nongpu sishu, the Daopin is found as a separate book in the series Jujia bibei 居家必備, Bailing xueshan 百陵學山, Yimen guangdu 夷門廣牘 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編.

Min Zongdian 閔宗殿 (1997). "Lisheng yujing daopin 理生玉鏡稻品", in Men Kui 門巋, Zhang Yanjin 張燕瑾, eds. Zhonghua guocui da cidian 中華國粹大辭典 (Xianggang: Guoji wenhua chuban gongsi), 341.
Wei Luling 魏露苓 (1998). "Daopin zuozhe Huang Shengzeng kao 《稻品》作者黃省曾考", Zhongguo nongshi 中國農史, 1998 (3): 105-111.
Wang Yonghou 王永厚 (1983). "Sibai nian qian de shuidao pinzhong zhi: Daopin 四百年前的水稻品種志——《稻品》", Zuowu pinzhong ziyuan 作物品種資源, 1983 (1): 46.
Wu Jianxin 吳建新 (1995). "Daopin 稻品", in Zhongugo nongye baike quanshu 中國農業百科全書, Vol. Nongye lishi 農業歷史卷 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 35.