An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Rucaobian 茹草編

Mar 10, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Rucaobian 茹草編 is a book on eatable herbs written during the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Zhou Lüjing 周履靖 (1549-1640), courtesy name Yizhi 逸之, style Meixu 梅墟 or Meidian Daoren 梅癲道人, from Jiahe 嘉禾 close to Jiaxing 嘉興, Zhejiang.

Zhou had a weak physical constitution which forbade the pursuit of a career as a public servant. Instead, he became interested in poetry, medicine, and horticulture. He also compiled the series Yimeng guangdu 夷門廣牘 and wrote the book Xu Yi Ya yiyi 續易牙遺意, a continuation of Han Yi's 韓奕 (mid-14th cent.) book on diet, Yi Ya yiyi 易牙遺意.

The Rucaobian with a length of 4 juan was finished in 1597. The first part quotes from contemporary texts on consumable herbs, namely Li Rihua's 李日華 (1565-1635) Rucaojie 茹草解 and Zhang Zhixiang's 張之象 (1496-1577) Sunying ge 飧英歌, and explains 50 different plants. In the second part, Zhou quotes from texts describing methods of food preparation with 52 herbs, namely Zhang Fucai's 張服采 Caizhi ge 采芝歌 and Huangfu Fang's 皇甫汸 (1505-1584) Pengkui ge 烹葵歌. All 102 plants which Zhou describes, are shown in illustrations, accompanied by a poem and annotations concerning preparation. Fascicle 3 (Rucao jiyan 茹草紀言) discusses paragraphs on edible herbs in the Confucian Classics and other classical literature. The last part (Rucao jishi 茹草紀事) records stories of Daoist masters and their consumption of edible herbs.

The book was first printed in 1644 by the Jingshan Shulin Studio 荊山書林.

Yu Ying’ao 余瀛鰲, Fu Jinghua 傅景華, ed. (1992). Zhongyi guji zhenben tiyao 中醫古籍珍本提要 (Beijing: Zhongguo guji chubanshe), 114.
Yu Ying’ao 余瀛鰲, Li Jingwei 李經緯, eds. (2000). Zhongyi wenxian cidian 中醫文獻辭典 (Beijing: Beijing kexue jishu chubanshe), 492.
Zhuang Shufan 莊樹藩, ed. (1990). Zhonghua gu wenxian da cidian 中華古文獻大辭典, Vol. Yiyao 醫藥卷 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 199.