An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Hepu 禾譜

Feb 10, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Hepu 禾譜 "On grain" is China's oldest book specializing on the cultivation of rice. It focuses on agriculture in the central Jiangxi region and reflect the technical level of the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126).

The book was written by Zeng Anzhi 曾安止 (1047-1098), courtesy name Yizhong 移忠, style Tulong Weng 屠龍翁, from Taihe 泰和 (today in Jiangxi). Zeng obtained the jinshi degree in 1076 and was district magistrate of Pengze 彭澤. After retirement, he began to cultivate peonies, lychees, and tea, and observed the local techniques of rice cultivation. His book was finished in the early 1090s.

The first part of the text is dedicated to different names and variants of wet rice (shuidao 水稻), and helps to differentiate various designations. The book then goes on with descriptions of 46 particular types of rice, with a focus on appearance, seasons, and places of cultivation. The author discerns between early rice and late rice, as well as between hard rice (jingdao 粳稻) and glutinous rice (nuodao 糯稻). Eight of the types described in the Hepu are mentioned in local gazetteers of the time. Quite interesting is the mentioning of a type of rice introduced in the mid-11th century from the Southeast Asian state of Champa (Zhancheng 占城).

The Hepu was first printed around 1114 and was still circulating in the original shape during the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368). Today, only fragments remain that are quoted in a genealogy book of the Zeng family called Kuangyuan Zengshi chongxiu zupu 匡原曾氏重修族譜 that dates from the late 19th century. In this book, all information going beyond the region of Taihe has been eliminated from the text.

Wang Yuhu 王毓瑚, ed. ( 1964). Zhongguo nongxue shulu 中國農學書錄 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 77.
Wu Jianxin 吳建新 (1995). "Hepu 禾譜", in Zhongguo nongye baike quanshu 中國農業百科全書, Vol. Nongye lishi 農業歷史卷 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 137.