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Shigu 釋穀

Feb 10, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Shigu 釋穀 "Explanations on grain" is a book on various types of grain written by Liu Baonan 劉寶楠 (1791-1855), courtesy name Chuzhen 楚楨, from Baoying 寶應 Jiangsu. Liu was district magistrate (zhixian 知縣) of Wen'an 文安 and Sanhe 三河. He left quite a wide range of writings, mostly of Classical scholarship like Lunyu zhengyi 論語正義.

The idea to the book goes back to the chapter Jiugukao 九穀考 in Cheng Yaotian's 程瑤田 (1725-1814) Tongyilu 通藝錄, where the author lays stress on the distinct requirements for the cultivation of different types of grain, mainly rice (he 禾), foxtail millet (shu 黍), and panicled millet (ji 稷), but errs in substantial aspects (爵麥 instead of 穱麥, or confounding 穭豆 with 𧰉豆). Liu Baonan's aim was to supplement information missing in old sources and their commentaries, like Shao Jinbao's 邵晉涵 (1743-1796) Erya zhengyi 爾雅正義, a commentary on the ancient glossary Erya 爾雅.

As pulses are traditionally included into the concept of "grains", beans, lentils, peas etc. are also dealt with in Liu's book. The first chapter is dedicated to dry-land rice, while the second one covers other types of cereals, like various kinds of millet, wet rice, and wheat. Fascicle 3 covers pulse, hemp, and melons, while the last part discusses "grains" (gu 穀) as a whole. Liu quotes from a wide range of ancient sources of various types, from agricultural books to medical treatises to writings of educational character.

The preface of the 4-juan-long book dates from 1840. It was first printed in 1855, and again in 1888 by the Nanqian Academy 南菁書院 as part of the series Huang-Qing jingshi xubian 皇清經解續編. A third printed edition was published by the Guangya Press 廣雅書局 in 1888 in the series Guangya shuju congshu 廣雅書局叢書.

Sources:
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 644.
Zhou Zhaoji 周肇基 (1995). "Shigu 釋谷", in Zhongguo nongye baike quanshu 中國農業百科全書, Vol. Nongye lishi 農業歷史卷 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 291.