An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Zhupu 竹譜 (Dai Kaizhi 戴凱之)

Nov 11, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

There are several books with the title Zhupu 竹譜 "Book of bamboo". The first is a book from attributed to the Southern-dynasties-period 南朝 (420~589) author Dai Kaizhi 戴凱之 (5th cent.), of whom not much is known. A second one is a book on calligraphy written during the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) by Li Kan 李衎 (1244-1320, see Li Kan's book Zhupu). A third book with the title Zhupu was written during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) by Chen Ding 陳鼎 (b. 1650). The book Sunpu 筍譜 by the Song-period 宋 (960-1279) monk Zanning 贊寧 (919-1001) is sometimes also referred to with the title Zhupu. Two less well-known texts titled Zhupu were authored by Wu Fu 吳輔 (jinshi degree 1030, erroneously called Wu Liangfu 吳良輔) and the monk Huichong 惠崇 (965-1017).

Table 1. Ancient Chinese books on bamboos
竹譜 一卷Zhupu (Jin) 戴凱之 Dai Kaizhi (?)
竹譜Zhupu (lost) (Song) 釋惠崇 Monk Huichong
竹譜Zhupu (lost) (Song) 吳輔
筍譜 一卷Sunpu (Song) 贊寧 Zanning
竹譜ZhupuTreatises on art (Yuan) 李衎 Li Kan
續竹譜Xu zhupu (Yuan) 劉美之 Liu Meizhi
竹譜 一卷 (續修)Zhupu (Qing) 陳鼎 Chen Ding

Dai Kaizhi (exact dates of life unknown) hailed from Wuchang 武昌 (modern Ezhou 鄂州, Hubei). The book Zhupu is listed in the imperial bibliography Jingji zhi 經籍志 in the official dynastic history Suishu 隋書, but no author is mentioned there. It is categorized as "genealogy" (puxi lei 譜系類) text, but the bibliographical chapter in the history Jiutangshu 舊唐書 classifies it as an agronomical text (nongjia 農家) and attributes authorship to Dai Kaizhi. The Song-period series Baichuan xuehai 百川學海 says that he lived during the Jin period 晉 (265-420) and explains that his courtesy name was Qingyu 慶豫 or 慶預.

Dai Kaizhi was an adherent of the Daoist school of the Heavenly Teacher (Tianshidao 天師道), according to which man was part of the nature and thus has to investigate natural phenomena in order to understand better his place in the universe. Another reason for writing the book Zhupu was Dai Kaizhi's interest into the growing economy of the lower Yangtze region during the Southern dynasties period. Bamboo plays a very important role for construction work and as a raw material used for the production of daily needed items. Dai Kaizhi travelled a lot around Southern China, and his book Zhupu is a result of the observations he made. The book was at latest written at the beginning of the Southern Qi period 南齊 (479-502).

In his small book, written in four-syllable verses, Dai Kaizhi describes more than 40 kinds of bamboo, its appearance, the environmental conditions, the regions where it grows, and its use. Dai explains that "bamboo" is a general term for plants with a physical appearance between herb and tree. It can be divided into different types, either according to the outer appearance (three types, namely qiaomuxing 喬木型 "forest-like", guanmuxing 灌木型 "shrub-like", or tengben 藤本 "reed-like"), or according to the stability of the shaft (gang 剛 "hard", or rou 柔 "soft"). Dai uses a special terminology for his descriptions, like mu 目 "eyes for the internodia (modern term zhujie 竹節), kongzhong 空中 for a hollow internodium (modern term kongxin 空心), or an internodium with a very small hole (shizhong 實中). Dai also describes how the germinal sheet (sunpi 筍皮) of various kinds of bamboo drops off. The author further describes the natural environment in which the different kinds of bamboo grow, whether they are resistant to coldness and at what time the bamboo florescences open.

The main text is arranged in headlines, which are then explained by quotations from all kinds of literature.

Dai Kaizhi's book was often quoted by later sources and became an inspiration for later compilations on that topic.

The original book was lost and has been reconstructed from quotations by the Song-period scholar Zuo Gui 左圭 (fl. 1273). It was first printed during the Song period and is included in many series like Baichuan xuehai, Shuofu 說郛, Shanju zazhi 山居雜志, Wenfang qishu 文房奇書, Han-Wei congshu 漢魏叢書, Longwei mishu 龍威祕書, Hubei xianzheng yishu 湖北先正遺書, Wuchao xiaoshuo daguan 五朝小說大觀 and Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

Liu Meizhi's 劉美之 Xu zhupu 續竹譜

During the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368), Liu Meizhi 劉美之 wrote a book called Xu zhupu 續竹譜 as a sequel to Dai Kaizhi's 戴凱之 (5th cent.) Zhupu 竹譜. It describes 22 types of bamboo, of which two types appear twice. It seems that the author, like in the book Dazaopu 打棗譜, just mentions species or types mentioned in other texts without doing individual research on the topic. The Xu zhupu is found in the series Shuofu 說郛 and Tang-Song congshu 唐宋叢書 and is quoted in full in the encyclopaedia Gujin tushu jicheng 古今圖書集成 (part Caomu 草木典, ch. Zhu 竹部).

Chen Ding's 陳鼎 Zhupu 竹譜

The Zhupu 竹譜 of Chen Ding 陳鼎 (b. 1650) is only one of his many writings, which include the biographical collection Donglin liezhuan 東林列傳 and the local gazetteer Huangshan zhigai 黃山志概. His Zhupu describes 60 kinds of bamboos, their properties and habitats, as well as the many uses of the material. Chen praises the quality of bamboo which can be straight or bent without changing its "rhythms" (the nodia, jie 節), and thus combines the virtue of culturedness and martiality (wen wu 文武), namely by the use of bamboo slips as writing material, as well as of bamboo sticks for arrows or bolts.

The book of Chen has not just botanical use, but is also of high literary quality. It is included in the series Zhaodai congshu 昭代叢書 and Nongxue congshu 農學叢書.

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