An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Books on Agriculture and Agronomy (nongjia lei 農家類)

Jul 24, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Books on Agriculture and Agronomy (nongjia lei 農家類) is a subcategory in traditional Chinese bibliographies and part of the category of Masters and Philosophers (zibu 子部).
The so-called agriculturalists was a philosophical school during the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE). The tradition of teachings on agriculture goes probably back to a ministerial office for agriculture. Adherents of the school wandered around and instructed, according to the book Mengzi 孟子, the peasant how to sow grains, to till the fields and to raise mulberry trees. Their main purpose was, according to Confucius, to nourish the people. Only a few names of persons belonging to the tradition of agriculturalists are known, like Xu Xing 許行 from Chu 楚. He stressed that the worthy man has to work the fields together with the people. For his egalitarian standpoint, he was vehemently criticized by Mengzi. The Confucians countered that there must be division of labour in an advanced society. In fact, a lot of books from the Zhou 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE) and the Han 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) periods include informations about agriculture, and it is by no means justified to speak of a philosophical school from the Han period on. Their writings were still collected, but then had a purely scientific and practical purpose. Agricultural treatises were, furthermore, granted an important section among the "masters and philosophers", probably because of the importance agriculture played in the economy of traditional China.
There are actually a lot of books related to this section but put into other parts of the collectanea Siku quanshu 四庫全書, like books on plants and animals, or treatises on field allotment and taxation. The compilers of the Siku quanshu selected 10 books to be included in this section. The most important are the Qimin yaoshu 齊民要術, Nongsang jiyao 農桑輯要, Nongshu 農書 and Nongzheng quanshu 農政全書.

Table 1. Books on Agriculture and Agronomy
齊民要術 十卷 Qimin yaoshu (Later Wei) 賈思勰 Jia Sixie
耒耜經 一卷 (存目) Leisijing (Tang) 陸龜蒙 Lu Guimeng
農書 (陳旉農書) 三卷
(附) 蠶書 一卷
Nongshu (Chen Fu Nongshu)
app. Canshu
(Song) 陳旉 Chen Fu
(Song) 秦湛 Qin Zhan
耕織圖 (存目) Gengzhitu (Song) 樓璹 Lou Shu et al.
農桑輯要 七卷 Nongsang jiyao (Yuan)
農桑衣食撮要 (農桑撮要, 養民月宜) 二卷 Nongsang yishi cuoyao (Nongsang cuoyao, Yangmin yueyi) (Yuan) 魯明善 Lu Mingshan
農書 二十二卷 Nongshu (Yuan) 王禎 Wang Zhen
救荒本草 二卷 Jiuhuang bencao (Yuan) 朱橚 Zhu Su
農政全書 六十卷 Nongzheng quanshu (Ming) 徐光啟 Xu Guangqi
野菜譜 (王西樓野菜譜) 一卷 (存目) Yecaipu (Wang Xilou yecai pu) (Ming) 王磐 Wang Pan
農說 一卷 (存目) Nongshuo (Ming) 馬一龍 Ma Yilong
沈氏農書 (補農書) 一卷 (存目) Shenshi nongshu (Ming) 沈氏 Master Shen
泰西水法 六卷 Taixi shuifa (Ming) 熊三拔 Xiong Sanba (Sabatino de Ursis), 徐光啟 Xu Guangqi
野菜博錄 三卷 Yecai bolu (Ming) 鮑山 Bao Shan
授時通考 七十八卷 Shoushi tongkao (Qing) imp. ord.
經世民事錄 十二卷 (存目) Jingshi minshi lu (Qing) 桂萼 Gui E (comp.)
梭山農譜 三卷 (存目) Suoshan nongpu (Qing) 劉應棠 Liu Yingtang
豳風廣義 三卷 (存目) Binfeng guangyi (Qing) 楊屾 Yang Shen
Detailed index of books on agriculture
Methods of ploughing
Agricultural tools
Weather and prognostication
Farming with the seasons
Fruits of the field
Orchards, gardens and fruit trees
Bamboos and forestry
Mulberry trees and silkworm raising
Medical herbs
Domestic animals and veterinary medicine
Fishes and seafood
Pests and disaster relief
* not included in the collectanea Siku quanshu 四庫全書, the catalogue Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書總目題要, nor the Xuxiu siku quanshu 續修四庫全書