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Simin yueling 四民月令

Jul 17, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Simin yueling 四民月令 "Monthly decretes to the four [groups of] people" is an agricultural treatise from the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220) . It was written by Cui Shi 崔寔 (d. 170 CE), alternative name Cui Tai 崔臺, courtesy name Zizhen 子真 or Yuanshi 元始.

Cui Shi's father Cui Yuan 崔瑗 had been an expert in astronomy and astrology. He hailed from Anping 安平 in the commandery of Zhuojun 涿郡 (near modern Beijing) and is known as the author of the political treatise Zhenglun 政論 that he lectured to Emperor Huan 漢桓帝 (r. 146-167). Cui is praised as one of the eminent scholars of the late Han period, together with Cai Yong 蔡邕. He socially rose from the job as a wine merchant to the office of court gentleman for consultation (yilang 議郎), commander (sima 司馬), governor (taishou 太守) of the commandery of Wuyuan 五原, and then of Liaodong 遼東, and finally minister (shangshu 尚書). During the time as governor of Wuyuan, Cui purchased a large amount of looms and admonished the local peasantry to cultivate flax to gain some surplus revenue.

The Simin yueling is recorded in the imperial bibliographies of the official dynastic histories Suishu 隋書 (Suishu jingji zhi 隋書經籍志) and Xintangshu 新唐書 (ch. 57-60 Yiwen zhi 藝文志), but not in the Song-period 宋 (960-1279) bibliography Chongwen zongmu 崇文總目. It can be concluded that the original text was lost in the tenth century.

The book is arranged according to the twelve months of the year in imitation to the chapter Yueling 月令 in the ritual Classic Liji 禮記, and it is noted down which agricultural activities the landowner ordered to be fulfilled in each of the months and the three ten-day weeks (xun 旬) of each month. The book names and describes numerous agricultural plants and planting methods, methods to cultivate and process field crops, how to raise cattle, and how to organize a farm in all respects, including ritual sacrifices (jisi 祭祀), family rituals (jiali 家禮) and education (jiaoyu 教育). It thus shows that the large estates of the Han period were able to act as economic entities which were totally self-sufficient. The peasants could furthermore be recruited to defend the estate against robbers and bandits. This was of great importance in a time when the central government more and more lost its grip on the provinces.

The Simin yueling teaches not only how to live a life of self-subsistence, but also how to produce so much goods that they can be sold on the market. Cui Shi stressed that it was also quite clever to use price changes over time to yield higher profits. Larger farms would also profit by hiring out labour force in times of high activities. The book also speaks of aspects of medicine, and the use of wild vegetables to enrich the varieties marketed by an individual farm.

Information about spinning and weaving, food processing and wine production, as well as the construction of buildings and canals. Describes methods of storage. The Simin yueling is the first Chinese text in which the monoicous character of hemp is described and the sequence of male and female florescences mentioned.

Part of the text could be reconstructed from fragments preserved in other agricultural books or in encyclopaedias, a work which was done by the Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholars Yan Kejun 嚴可均 (Silutang leiji 四錄堂類集), Wang Mo 王謨 (included in the collection Han-Wei yishu chao 漢魏遺書抄), Ren Zhaolin 任兆麟 (Xinzhai shizhong 心齋十種), Tao Junxuan 陶浚宣 (Jishanguan ji bushu 稷山館輯補書), Wang Renjun 王仁俊 (Yuhanshanfang jiyi shu xubian 玉函山房輯佚書續編), and Tang Hongxue 唐鴻學 (Yilantang congshu 怡蘭堂叢書).

Part of the text is also included in the series Shuofu 說郛 (Wanwei shantang edition 宛委山堂). All these collections of fragments differ somewhat. Some fragments even escaped the notice of these scholars, like a paragraph quoted in the Yuzhu baodian 玉燭寶典, or a quotation in Xiao Zhihan's 蕭智漢 (fl. 1792) rare book Yueri jigu 月日紀古.

Bao Yanjie 包艳杰 (2016). "Handai yinshi gengzuo yanjiu: Yi Simin yueling wei zhongxin de kaocha 汉代因时耕作研究——以《四民月令》为中心的考察", Nongye kaogu 农业考古, 2016 (1): 153-158.
Fan Chuyu 范楚玉 (1994). "Simin yueling tiyao 《四民月令》提要", in Ren Jiyu 任繼愈, ed. Zhongguo kexue jishu dianji tonghui 中國科學技術典籍通彙, part Nongxue 農學 (Zhengzhou: Henan jiaoyu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 11-12.
Gao Liushui 高流水 (1996). "Simin yueling 四民月令", in Feng Kezheng 馮克正, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升, eds. Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 449.
Huo Yaozong 霍耀宗 (2017). "Simin yueling zhi simin xinjie 《四民月令》之“四民”新解", Shixue yuekan 史学月刊, 2017 (6): 131-133.
Huo Yaozong 霍耀宗 (2019). "Nongjia yueling de faduan: Cong Liji Yueling dao Simin yueling 农家“月令”的发端:从《礼记·月令》到《四民月令》", Taiyuan Shifan Xueyuan xuebao (Renwen kexue ban) 太原师范学院学报(人文科学版), 2019 (6): 7-11.
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Li Chenggui 李成贵 (1993). “Simin yuelin xinlun 《四民月令》新论", Gujin nongye 古今农业, 1993 (1): 48-51.
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Wang Yonghou 王永厚 (1982). "Cui Shi yu Simin yueling 崔寔与“四民月令”", Hebei nongye keji 河北农业科技, 1982 (1): 15-16.
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Wu Tianjun 吴天钧 (2014). "Simin yueling de jingji sixiang ji qi dangdai jiazhi 《四民月令》的经济思想及其当代价值", Heilongjiang shizhi 黑龙江史志, 2014 (3): 178+180.
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Zhang Julan 张居兰 (2015). "Cong Simin yueling kan gudai nongshu bianzuan de xin zouxiang 从《四民月令》看古代农书编纂的新走向", Lantai shijie 兰台世界, 2015 (17): 173-174.
Zhang Nan 张楠 (2019) "Simin yueling zhong nongye shangpin jiaoyi yanjiu san ti 《四民月令》中农业商品交易研究三题", Nongye kaogu 农业考古, 2019 (4): 51-58.
Zhang Rui 张睿 (2012). "Cong Simin yueling kann Handai zongzu de richang shenghuo 从《四民月令》看汉代宗族的日常生活", Zhongguo chengshi jingji 中国城市经济, 2012 (2): 354-355.
Zhao Wanying 赵婉莹, Fan Zhimin 樊志民 (2008). "Simin yueling de Zhongyi yaoxue jiazhi tanxi 《四民月令》的中医药学价值探析", Shaanxi Zhongyi 陕西中医, 2008 (1): 66-68.
Zhu Lükuan 朱履寬 (1986). "Simin yueling 四民月令", in Zhongguo nongye baike quanshu 中國農業百科全書, Vol. Nongye qixiang 農業氣象卷 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 283.