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Quxian shenyin shu 臞仙神隱書

Feb 14, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Quxian shenyin shu 臞仙神隱書 "The book of hidden spirituality by the Meager Immortal" a biji-style book written by Zhu Quan 朱權 (d. 1448), the seventeenth son of Emperor Taizu 明太祖 (r. 1368-1398), founder of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644). Zhu Quan was prince of Nanchang 南昌 and bore the title of Prince Ning 寧王, posthumous title Prince Xian of Nanchang 南昌獻王. Quxian 臞仙 "Meagre yet Hail Immortal" was his style. Zhu also wrote a book on the zither, Shenqi mipu 神奇秘譜, and quite a few studies on poetry and cultural issues.

The treatise has a length of 4 juan and can be divided into two parts, the first of which is a kind of diary describing Daoist practices and progress. It is interesting from the aspect of agriculture because the texts includes a lot of information on agricultural implements, flower cultivation, bird breeding, storage and processing of agricultural produce as well as cooking and diet. The latter part of the book is titled "Plans for going to the countryside" (Guitian zhi ji 歸田之計), and is therefore exclusively dedicated to matters of farming, like farming duties through the year, prognostication of weather and months, festivities, prognostication of auspicious days, the planting and replanting of various economic plants, flower cultivation, medical herbs, diet, silkworm breeding, animal husbandry, nutrition, abstinence, etc. The part on farming with the seasons and months (yueling 月令) is to a great part copied from Lu Mingshan's 魯明善 (1271-1368) Nongsang yishi cuoyao 農桑衣食撮要 from the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368).

Zhu Quan's book was not very widespread in China but is preserved in the series Gezhi congshu 格致叢書. A fragment of a Ming-period manuscript copy is owned by the Huanan Nongye University 華南農業大學. In Korea, Hong Mansŏn 洪萬選 1643-1715) quoted nearly 300 phrases from the book for his own agricultural encyclopaedia, Sallim kyǒngje 山林經濟.

Sources:
Peng Shijiang 彭世獎 (1995). "Quxian shenyin shu 臞仙神隱書", in Zhongguo nongye baike quanshu 中國農業百科全書, Vol. Nongye lishi 農業歷史卷 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 273.
Wang Yuhu 王毓瑚, ed. (1964). Zhongguo nongxue shulu 中國農學書錄 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 128.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 954.