An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Leisijing 耒耜經

May 31, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Leisijing 耒耜經 "Book of the plough" is an agricultural treatise from the Tang period 唐 (618-907) written by Lu Guimeng 陸龜蒙 (died c. 881) courtesy name Luwang 魯望, style Jianghu Sanren 江湖散人, Fuli Xiansheng 甫里先生 or Tiansuizi 天隨子.

Lu hailed from Changzhou 長州 (modern Wuxian 吳縣, Jiangsu) and is known as a famous writer. His official career brought him only lower posts in the local government in the lower Yangtze region, for instance, as an aide to regional inspector (cishi 刺史) Zhang Tuan 張摶. After his early retirement he lived in Fuli 甫里 near Songjiang 松江 (modern Jiaozhi 角直鎮 close to Wuxian) where he owned large tracts of land and lived the life of a peasant, sharing the sufferings of the commoners' lifes. As a result of these experiences he wrote the brief text Leisijing. Lu Guimeng was befriended to scholars like Pi Rixiu 皮日休 (834-883), Luo Yin 羅隱 (833-910) and Wu Rong 吳融 (850-903), in letters to whom he complained about the hardship of a farmer's life. His most important writing is the text Yemiaobei 野廟碑, and he also wrote the book Wuxing shilu 吳興實録. His works are assembled in the collections Songling ji 松陵集 and Fuli ji 甫里集.

The Leisijing focuses on five different agrarian tools, but mainly on the plough (leisi 耒耜) and its handling, and is therefore China's oldest book specializing on agrarian tools exclusively. Except various types of ploughs (gengli 耕犂), the Leisijing also describes drags (ba 爬 or 耙), harrows (lize 礪礋) and the stone roller (ludu 磟碡). For the plough, eleven parts and their functions are described in detail, from the iron share (lichan 犂鑱) and mouldboard (libi 犁壁) to the wooden sole (lidi 犁底), the mouldboard holder (yachan 壓鑱), slade (ce'e 策額), strut (lijian 犁箭), beam (liyuan 犁轅), handle or stilt (lishao 犁梢), adjustable cleat ( 犁評), adjustment plug (lijian 犁建), and the whipplechase (lipan 犁盤).

The plough described in Lu Guimeng's book is the so-called southern Jiangsu-type plough (Jiangdong li 江東犂) that was drawn by one animal and used for both deep-ploughing and shallow-ploughing and was easy to handle. During that time the curved beam (quyuan 曲轅) had already replaced the straight beam (changyuan 長轅).

The original book was not illustrated, but from the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) on one some editions are enriched by drawings. The book Nongshu 農書 by Wang Zhen 王禎 (1271-1333) from the Yuan period and Xu Guangqi's 徐光啟 (1562-1633) Nongzheng quanshu 農政全書 from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) include drawings of this type of plough, but those are both not quite correct.

The short book Leisijing was originally included in Lu Guimeng's collection Lize congshu 笠澤叢書. During the Song period 宋 (960-1279) it was incorporated into the collection Fuli ji, the collected writings of Lu Guimeng. The Song-period bibliographer Chen Zhensun 陳振孫 (1179-1262, compiler of the catalogue Zhizhai shulu jieti 直齋書錄解題) lists it as a separate book. The Leisijing is to be found in the series Baichuan xuehai 百川學海, Jujia bibei 居家必備, Yimen guangdu 夷門廣牘, Jindai mishu 津逮秘書, Shuofu 説郛, Xuejin taoyuan 學津討源, Tangren shuohui 唐人說薈, Xiao shixanjing 小十三經 and Congshu jicheng 叢書集成.

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