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Shoushi tongkao 授時通考

May 31, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Shoushi tongkao 授時通考 "Comprehensive treatises to instruct (the people) during all seasons" is a comprehensive agricultural treatise compiled on imperial order during the Qianlong reign-period 乾隆 (1736-1795) of the Qing era 清 (1644-1911). The compilation extended over a period of five years (finished in 1742) and was supervised by the Grand Ministers Ortai (E'ertai 鄂爾泰, 1677-1745) and Zhang Tingyu 張廷玉 (1672-1755).

The aim of the book was to regularize basic methods of agriculture to ensure a higher productivity throughout the empire. The 78-juan-long book is divided into eight parts (men 門 "disciplines").

The recommendations of the Shoushi tongkao are most suitable for large tracts of land, and less for small farmers. This corresponds to the aim to raise the production of such field crops that contributed to a higher output of grain and raw material for textile products. The largest part of the book is dedicated to the production, storage and processing of the staple food rice. The seventh chapter then describes the cultivation of vegetables and fruits as well as the economical use of various trees. The last chapter explains the production of textile fibers like cotton, hemp and banana (Musa textilis), and the use of trees for the production of silk (mulberry leaves) and tung oil.

Figure 1. Chart for seasonal work
Shoushi zhi tu 授時之圖, a kind of farming compass. The inner circles are a kind of calendar indicating the solar terms (jieqi 節氣), enriched by information on the seasonal phaenology, and (on the outer circle) farming activities. These are as detailed as periods of five days (hou 候) and fifteen days (qi 氣). 1742 moveable-type print edition from the Hall of Military Glory (Wuyingdian juzhen ben 武英殿聚珍本).

The text is enriched with numerous illustrations and drawings that are in their greatest part taken from the Nongzheng quanshu 農政全書 by Xu Guangqi 徐光啟 (1562-1633) and Weng Zheng's 王禎 (1271-1333) Nongshu 農書. Although the general arrangement of the Shoushi tongkao follows older texts, there are also some differences to be seen, like the inclusion of the chapter on irrigation into the part on land management, while the topic of "hydromethods of the West" (Taixi shuifa 泰西水法) is appended to the chapter Gongzuo 功作. The categorization of agrarian tools shows a more coherent system than in older books. The chapter Quanke 勸課 with a length of 12 juan is a central text on agricultural politics and the status of agriculture in state philosophy and religion. It includes the brief famous text (Yuzhi) Gengzhitu (御製)耕織圖.

Figure 2a-d. Types of millet
Left: foxtail millet (liangSetaria italica), right: the type ji 稷. It can be seen that ji is basically the same as liang, even if some books identify it as proso or broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum). There were obvious regional differences and such over time concerning the use of the word (Wei & Liu 1991).
Left: Sichuan broomcorn millet (Shushu 蜀黍, Sorghum bicolor), right: wild broomcorn millet or cupgrass (yeshu 野黍, Eriochloa villosa).

Although the Shoushi tongkao does not provide new materials it can be seen as the last great traditional text on agriculture. It quotes extensively from older texts on agriculture (553 sources) and so served as a general reference book for many aspects of traditional agriculture.

As an official compilation it is included in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書. In 1956 the Zhonghua Shuju Press 中華書局 published a modern edition in two volumes.

Table 1. Contents of the Shoushi tongkao 授時通考
1.-6. 天時門 Tianshi Agricultural activities during the four seasons
1-2 總論 General treatise
3 Spring
4 Summer
5 Autumn
6 Winter
7.-18. 土宜門 Tuyi Treatment of the soil
7 彙考 Collected analysis
8 方輿圖說 Illustrations and explanations to the regions
9 辨方 Methods of soil qualification
10 物土 Products of the soil
11-12 田制 Field allotment systems
13-14 田制圖說 Illustrations and explanations to the field system
15-18 水利 Hydraulic works
19.-30. 穀種門 Guzhong Crops
19 彙考 Collected analysis
嘉禾瑞穀瑞麥 Miracles of various grains
20-22 Rice
23 粱稷 Panicled millet
24 Glutinous millet
25 Foxtail millet
26 Wheat
27-29 Pulse varieties
30 Hemp varieties
31.-41. 功作門 Gongzuo Production, processing and storage
31 彙考 Collected analysis
32 墾耕 Cultivation and ploughing
33 耙勞 Weeding
34 播種 Sowing
35 淤蔭
36 耘耔 Field work during the growth period
37 灌溉 Irrigation
38 泰西水法 Taixi shuifa Hydrological methods of the west
39 收穫 Harvest
40 攻治 Treatment of problems
41 牧師(附) app. Herding
42.-53. 勸課門 Quanke Official regulations and taxation
42 彙考 Collected analysis
43 詔令 Imperial edicts
44 章奏 Memorials to the throne
45 官司 Official institutions
46 祈報 Harvest reports to the spirits
47-48 敕諭 Imperial decrees
49 祈穀 Prayers for grain
耕耤 The imperial ploughing ceremony
50-51 御製詩文 Yuzhi shiwen Poems and literary prose written by emperors
52-53 耕織圖 Gengzhitu Images of tilling and weaving
54.-57. 蓄聚門 Chuju Preparations to encounter famine
54 彙考 Collected analysis
55 常平倉 Ever-normal granaries
56 社倉 Community granaries
義倉 Charity granaries
57 圖式 Commented illustrations
58.-71. 農餘門 Nongyu Non-industrial agriculture (fruits, vegetables, trees, economically useful products)
58 彙考 Collected analysis
59-62 Vegetables
63-66 Fruits
67-68 Trees
69 雜植 Various trees
70-71 畜牧 Domestic animals
72.-78. 蠶餘門 Canyu Silk and other products for textiles
72 彙考 Collected analysis
制居 Arrangement of implements
浴種 Watering silkworm eggs
73 飼養 Feeding of silkworms
74 分箔 Separation by mats
入簇 Bringing in bell-shaped spinning frames
擇繭 Selection cocoons during the damping process
75 繰絲 Boiling and reeling
織染 Weaving and dyeing
76 桑政 State-management of mulberry trees
77-78 桑餘 Other information on mulberry
Guo Yueshan 郭躍山 (2020). "Daozang yu nong: Shoushi tongkao suo jian Qingdai huangdi de nongxue sixiang 道藏於農:《授時通考》所見清代皇帝的農學思想", Nongye kaogu 農業考古, 2020 (4): 125-131.
Han Guopan 韓國磐 (1983). "Mantan Shoushi tongkao 漫談《授時通考》", Zhongguo shehui jingji shi yanjiu 中國社會經濟史研究, 1983 (1): 117-120.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1649.
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Yi Qinheng 伊欽恒 (1990). "Shoushi tongkao 授時通考", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Nongye 農業 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 1055.
Wang Guozhong 王國忠 (1996). "Shoushi tongako 授時通考", in Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Keji 科技卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 456.
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Wang Zhiben 王至本 (1981). "Shoushi tongkao li de zhitu 《授時通考》裡的織圖", Lishi jiaoxue 歷史教學, 1981 (5): 52-53.
Wei Yihao 魏仰浩, Liu Fuzai 劉福在 (1991). "Shu 黍", in Zhongguo nongye baike quanshu 中國農業百科全書, Vol. Nongzuowu 農作物卷 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), part 2, 489.