An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Zhongshushu 種樹書

Mar 10, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Zhongshushu 種樹書 is a book on tree cultivation written during the early Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Yu Zhenmu 俞貞木 (1332-1401), original name Zhen 楨, courtesy name Zongben 宗本, from Suzhou 蘇州, Jiangsu. Yu had been a district magistrate and was, in high age, involved in the succession struggles at the Ming court, leading to his assassination. Yu's collected writings are called Li'an ji 立庵集.

His book was first circulating as having been written during the Tang period 唐 (618-907) by a certain Guo Nangtuo 郭橐駝, who is a metaphoric character of Liu Zongyuan's 柳宗元 (773-819) educational "biography" Zhongshu Guo Nangtuo zhuan 種樹郭橐駝傳, in which Liu compares the education of boys with the cultivation of trees. Even classical texts on agriculture and medicine like Bencao gangmu 本草綱目 and Nongzheng quanshu 農政全書 quote from the Zhongshushu as a Tang-period text. Only during the reign of Emperor Muzong 明穆宗 (r. 1567-1572), the real name of the author was revealed.

The book of 3 juan was finished around 1379. It mainly quotes from older texts on arboriculture. Even if Yu thus did not contribute himself to the field, his book is important because of these quotations of book that were lost in the late Ming period, namely Sishi zuanyao 四時纂要, Suosuilu 瑣碎錄 and Zhongyi biyong 種藝必用.

The text of the first fascicle is arranged according to the twelve months, and explains which measures were to be taken for the cultivation of shrubs and trees. The second and third part details matters of beans, grains, mulberry, bamboos, trees, flowers, fruit trees and legumes. The aspect of fruits is of particular interest because it includes information not found elsewhere, for instance the replanting of citrus and loquat trees (Eriobotrya japonica, pipa 枇杷) in the eighth lunar month which will help against pests. The methods of propagation and grafting described likewise deserve attention.

The book is included in the series Shuofu 説郛, Jujia bibei 居家必備, Gezhi congshu 格致叢書, Guang baichuan xuehai 百川學海, Yimen guangdu 夷門廣牘, Jianxi Cunche 漸西村舍 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編. In 1962, the Nongye Press 農業出版社 published a modern, annotated edition.

The series Shuibian linxia 水邊林下 and Jujia bibei separate two chapters of the Zhongshushu as individual texts, namely Zhongshushu 種蔬疏 on vegetables, and Zhongguoshu 種果疏 on fruit trees.

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. 2, 1646.
Luo Guoguang 羅國光, ed. (2007). Guoshu cidian 果樹詞典 (Beijing: Zhongguo nongye chubanshe), 466.
Wang Guozhong 王國忠 (1996). "Zhongshushu 種樹書", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Keji 科技卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 418.
Wang Yonghou 王永厚 (1984). "Yu Zhenmu ji qi Zhongshushu 俞貞木及其《種樹書》", Nongye tushuguan 農業圖書館, (2): 49-51.
Wang Yuhu 王毓瑚, ed. (1964). Zhongguo nongxue shulu 中國農學書錄 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 124.
Yang Baolin 楊寶霖 (1995). "Zhongshushu 種樹書", in Zhongguo nongye baike quanshu 中國農業百科全書, Vol. Nongye lishi 農業歷史卷 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 446.