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Zhaoren benye 兆人本業

Jan 17, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Zhaoren benye 兆人本業, also called Zhaoren benye ji 兆人本業記 "Records of the basic mission of bringing fortune to the people", is an agricultural treatise compiled by Empress Wu Zetian 武則天 (ruler 690-704) of the Tang period 唐 (618-907) and finished in 686, but a record of the reign of Emperor Dezong 唐德宗 (r. 779-804) says that the book was presented to the throne by some state officials, and by Li Jiang 李絳 (? 764-830) in particular. Yet according to the annals of Emperor Wenzong 唐文宗 (r. 826-840), Li only seems to have revised the original text which had indeed been written by the Empress herself. Other, more reliable, sources mention the officials Zhou Enmao 周恩茂, Fan Lübing 范履冰 (d. 690) and Wei Jingye 衛敬業 (Xue 1998).

The finalized text had a length of 3 juan and was ordered to be distributed in all districts in order to enhance farming. In the series Guyi congshu 古逸叢書, the book is erroneously listed as Zhaomin benye 兆民本葉.

The text is still listed in the book catalogue Zhongxing guange shumu 中興館閣書目 from the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279), as well as in the Wenyuange shumu 文淵閣書目 from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644). It was lost thereafter.

The encyclopaedia Yuhai 玉海 from the very late Southern Song period quotes a memorial of Lü Wen 呂溫 (772-811) that says the text was arranged in 12 chapters. The book Kunxue jiwen 困學紀聞 (ch. 5) speaks of 80 paragraphs. The book was a comprehensive treatise on various aspects of agriculture. It is totally lost.

Sources:
Du Chenghui 杜成輝, Hu Yuping 胡玉平 (2021). "Wu Zetian shanding nongshu Zhaoren benye tanxi 武則天删定農書《兆人本業》探析", Sichuan Wenli Xueyuan xuebao 四川文理學院學報, 2021 (6): 100-106.
Hou Jianghong 侯江紅 (2011). "Tangchao zhengfu nongye jingji zhineng de yanjin tezheng 唐朝政府農業經濟職能的演進特徵", Xibei Nonglin Keji Daxue xuebao (Shehui kexue ban) 西北農林科技大學學報(社會科學版), 2011 (6): 155-161.
Wang Yuhu 王毓瑚, ed. (1964). Zhongguo nongxue shulu 中國農學書錄 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 37.
Xue Hong 薛虹 et al., eds. (1998). Zhongguo huangshi gongting cidian 中國皇室宮廷辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 548.
Yan Xiaoyu 閻孝玉 (2003). "Zui zao de guanxiu nongshu 最早的官修農書", Zhongguo liangshi jingji 中國糧食經濟, 2003 (6): 51-52.
Zhao Yali 趙亞麗 (2001). "Lüelun Wu Zetian de zhongnong sixiang 略論武則天的重農思想", Jining Xueyuan xuebao 濟寧學院學報, 2001 (5): 42-43.