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Chinese Literature
Qunfangpu 群芳譜 "Notes on All Various Herbs"

The Qunfangpu 群芳譜 "Notes on all various herbs", full title Erruting Qunfangpu 二如亭群芳譜, is a compendium on plants compiled by the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Wang Xiangjin 王象晉 (1561-1653), courtesy name Wang Jinchen 王盡臣 or Wang Zijin 王子進, style Wang Kangyu 王康宇, Mingnong yinshi 明農隱士 or Haosheng jushi 好生居士. He came from Xincheng 新城 (modern Hengtai 桓臺, Shandong) and obtained the jinshi degree in 1604. The highest office he occupied was that of provincial administration commissioner (buzhengshi 布政使) of Zhejiang. Between 1607 and 1627 he stayed at home and took over the management of the family possessions that included large tracts of cultivated land. During that time he was able to gain experience in agricultural matters part of which he noted down over a long period of time. Except the Qunfangpu he has also authored the books Qingwuzhai xinshang bian 清悟齋欣賞編, Jiantong zaibi 翦桐載筆 and Qin Zhang shiyu hebi 秦張詩余合璧.
The 30 juan "scrolls" long Qunfangpu assembles important knowledge about the most useful plants that can be grown in everyone's garden. It is the result of both studies of older literature on that topic as well as private experience. The book is divided into 12 chapters covering the themes weather and seasons, grain, vegetables, fruits, tea and bamboo, mulberry and hemp, cotton and ramie, medical plants, trees, flowers, grasses, as well as useful zoological information of cranes and fishes. For each of the 400 described objects Wang Xiangjin notes down its appearance and the conditions under which they grow, as well as how they can be consumed, and in the case of medical plants, how they are applied. For some of them, stories and literary statements are also provided. Very interesting is the large collection of different names for various plants, which helps to identify them in a confusing nomenclature. Some scholars criticized the book for its focus on the medical use of plants and the negligence of concrete cultivation methods. Wang Xiangjin has quoted from a lot of ancient books fragments of which are only preserved in the Qunfangpu.
The was first printed in 1621, and there is a another print from the late Ming period preserved in a revised Qing period 清 (1644-1911) edition, as well as a Ming period print in 29 chapters produced by the Shacun caotang Studio 沙村草堂. Wang Xiangjin's book is quite probably based on a Song period 宋 (960-1279) writing, the Quanfang beizu 全芳備祖 by Chen Yong 陳詠. In 1708 an imperially commissioned enlarged version of the book was published, Wang Hao's 汪灝 Guang qunfangpu 廣群芳譜 (also known as Peiwenzhai guang qunfangpu 佩文齋廣群芳譜).
The Qunfangfu has not been included in the imperial collectaneum Siku quanshu 四庫全書 because the quotations are of a very short and unreliable style.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1869. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.
Sun Zhaoliang 孫兆亮, Xu Weitong 徐維統 (1996). "Qunfangpu 群芳譜", in: Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Keji 科技, Shanghai. Fudan daxue chubanshe, p. 713.
Yao Kunde 姚昆德 (1992). "Qunfangpu 群芳譜", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Nongye 農業, Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu, vol. 1, p. 889.

1.-3. 天 Tian Heaven
4.-7. 歲 Sui The seasons
8. 榖 Gu Grains
9.-10. 蔬 Shu Vegetables
11.-14. 果 Guo Fruits
15.-17. 茶竹 Cha zhu Tea and bamboo
18. 桑麻葛苧 Sang ma ge zhu Mulberry and various kinds of hemp
19.-21. 藥 Yao Medical herbs
22.-24. 木 Mu Trees
25.-27. 花 Hua Flowers
28.-29. 卉 Hui Grasses
30. 鶴魚 He yu Birds and fishes
Chinese literature according to the four-category system

June 17, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail