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Nongsangjing 農桑經

Feb 14, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Nongsangjing 農桑經, also called Nongcanjing 農蠶經 "The book on agri- and sericulture", is a relatively short text compiled by the famous story writer Pu Songling 蒲松齡 (1640-1715). The 2-juan-long book was finished about 1705 and is included in editions of Pu's collected writings like Pu Songling ji 蒲松齡集 (Zhonghua Shuju 1962) or Liaozhai yiwen jizhu 聊齋佚文輯注 (Qi-Lu Shushe Press, 1968).

The book focuses on agricultural customs as prevalent in the region of Zibo 淄博 in northern Shandong. There exist two different versions of the text with deviating contents. One version in introduced by a preface dated 1705. The preface explains that idea of the book is based on Master Han's "Instructions on farming" (Hanshi nongxun 韓氏農訓, perhaps identical with the book Hanshi zhishuo 韓氏直説). The agriculture part of this version (Nongjing 農經) consists of the descriptions of monthly duties, but only until the ninth lunar month. There are two appended chapters, one on "Miscellaneous prognostication" (Zazhan 雜占), and "Precautions for natural disasters" (Yuzai 御災). The sericulture part is constituted by the parts Canjing 蠶經 "Silkworm book", Bu canjing 補蠶經 "Supplement to the silkworm book", Cansuishu 蠶歲書 "Silkworm breeding through the year" (with regard to auspicious or non-auspicious days), and Zhongsangfa 種桑法 "Methods of mulberry cultivation".

The second version of the original book is called Nongcanjing cangao 農蠶經殘稿 "Fragmentary draft". Apart from the enumeration of monthly duties, the first part provides information on ploughing (Gengtian 耕田), disaster relief (Jiuhuang 救荒), animal husbandry (Chuyang 畜養), fish breeding (Yangyu 養魚), bee apiculture (Yangla 養蠟), and flower cultivation (Zhuhuapu 諸花譜). The text quotes from numerous interesting books on animal husbandry, like Ning Qi fanniu jing 寧戚飯牛經 (bovines), Bo Le xiangma jing 伯樂相馬經 (horse inspection), Gongsun Hong yangzhu fa 公孫弘養豬法 (pigs), Bu Shi yangyang fa 卜式牧羊法 (sheep), Guafu Qing yangji fa 寡婦清養鷄法 (chicken) or Wang Zhongxuan yanglü fa 王仲宣養驢法 (donkeys).

Yet the second part (Shuzhai yazhi 書齋雅制) of the version is dedicated to objects and activities of the study, like calligraphy and painting, mounting pictures (zhuanghuang 裝潢), jewelry, toys, stones, or other collectibles. All this has nothing to do with agriculture. The part on disaster relief gives numerous examples of various measures in old times, like Liu Jingxian's 劉景先 "prescriptions to read by the sovereign" (yulanfang 御覽方), hints at which wild herbs could be eaten, hot to replace staple grain, or how to walk without loosing to much energy.

Sources:
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