An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Sunpu 筍譜

Nov 11, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Sunpu 筍譜, also written 笋譜, is a description of different kinds of bamboo written by the monk Zanning 贊寧 (919-1001) during the early Song period 宋 (960-1279).

Zanning, personal family name Gao 高, honorific religious name Yuanming Dashi 圓明大師, hailed from Deqing 德清 (modern Deqing, Zhejiang) and was one of the nine great Buddhist monks of his time. He is known as a poet, painter and a scholar of phonetics. He had made himself a name under the rulers of the Wu-Yue empire 吳越 (907-978) and, at the beginning of the Song, was appointed secretary in the imperial Hanlin Academy 翰林院, where he compiled the Da-Song gaozeng zhuan 大宋高僧傳, a collection of biographies of eminent monks. He also wrote commentaries on the Confucian treatises Chunqiu fanlu 春秋繁露 and Lunheng 論衡.

It is not clear when the book Sunpu was finished, probably earlier than 960. It is also known with the title Zhupu 竹譜 and has a length of 10 juan. There was a contempory called Qian Yu 錢昱 who had also compiled a book with the same title and a length of 3 juan. It is lost.

The structure of Zanning's Sunpu imitated that of the famous tea classic Chajing 茶經 from the Tang period 唐 (618-907) and is divided into five parts, starting with names (Ming 名) and the place of origin (Chu 出), before going to the use of bamboo products in the kitchen (Shi 食) and the topic of bamboo shoots and its use in literature (Shi 事), and closing with miscellanea (Zashuo 雜說). Zanning describes 58 kinds of bamboo, mostly growing south of the Yangtze River, and especially in the region of modern Zhejiang province and southern Jiangsu. The economic use of bamboo is a very important aspect in his book. He quotes from a lot of historical sources, valuable today because they are otherwise lost. Some paragraphs of the short text have been added by later persons when supplementing additional information.

Some bibliographical sources state that the Sunpu is only one-juan-long. The ensuing question whether some chapters were lost or the original 10-juan-book was not identical to the received text, cannot be answered.

There is a print from the Song period preserved as a facsimile in the series Baichuan xuehai 百川學海. The Sunpu is included in many other series like Shuofu 說郛, Han-Wei congshu 漢魏叢書, Tang-Song congshu 唐宋叢書, Xunmintang congshu 遜敏堂叢書 and also the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

Gou Cuihua 茍萃華 (1993). "Sunpu tiyao 《筍譜》提要", in Ren Jiyu 任繼愈, Gou Cuihua 茍萃華, eds. Zhongguo kexue jishu dianji tonghui 中國科學技術典籍通彙, part Shengwu juan 生物卷 (Zhengzhou: Henan jiaoyu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 113-114.
Jin Jianfeng 金建锋 (2016). "Lun Song chu Shi Zanning Sunpu de jiazhi 論宋初釋贊寧《筍谱》的價值", Yichun Xueyuan xuebao 宜春學院學報, 2016 (8): 1-4.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1866.
Wang Yuhan 王毓瑚, ed. (1964). Zhongguo nongxue shulu 中國農學書錄 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 55.
Zhou Zhaoji 周肇基 (1995). "Sunpu 筍譜", in Zhongguo nongye baike quanshu 中國農業百科全書, Vol. Nongye lishi 農業歷史卷 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 308.