An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Nongpu bianlan 農圃便覽

Jan 19, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Nongpu bianlan 農圃便覽 "Overview of agriculture and gardening", full title Xishiliang nongpu bianlan 西石梁農圃便覽, is a book of farming and horticulture written by Deng Yizeng 丁宜曾, courtesy name Shupu 椒圃, from the village of Xishiliang 西石梁 near Yizhou 沂州 (today's Linyi 臨沂), Shandong. He decided to engage in farming after having failed in the lowest state examination. The book is a result of his personal observations and experiences, enriched by quotations from older books.

The book, finished and first printed in 1755, is arranged according to monthly duties of the farmer and gives information to cultivation techniques of staple food, legumes, fruits and flowers, prognostication or the treatment and processing of agricultural produce, including brewing, cooking, and medical treatment. The author stresses that books of farming were basically not fitting to the local conditions in the whole of China, but each region required the observation of different aspects.

Some aspects mentioned by Ding are not found in earlier texts, for instance, the suggestion to soak the seeds of water melons (xigua 西瓜) in brandy, or the difference of planting winter wheat (dong damai 冬大麥) before and spring wheat (chun daimai 春大麥) after the solar term jingzhe 驚蟄. Ding Yizeng also explains a method to rectify the twigs of cotton plants (mianhua 棉花) as dependent from soil quality, soil treatment and weather.

The book was banned from circulation in the late 18th century because one of Ding's relatives was involved in the Qianlong Emperor's 乾隆帝 (r. 1736-1795) "literary inquisition" (Wang 2019c).

A modern, annotated edition was published in 1957 by the Zhonghua Shuju press 中華書局.

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