An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Sannongji 三農紀

Jan 27, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Sannongji 三農紀 "Records of the three country people" is an agricultural treatise written by Zhang Zongfa 張宗法 (1714-1803), courtesy name Shigu 師古, style Weiliaoweng 未了翁, from the district of Shifang 什邡, Sichuan. Zhang never achieved academic merits, but was a literatus engaging in farming. The title of the book refers to the knowledge of the "farmers of old" (laonong 老農), the skills of the cowherd boys (mutong 牧童), and the diligence of the cultivators (gengfu 耕夫).

The first three of a total 24 juan (in the two oldest editions; the others are divided into 10 juan) are dedicated to the weather of the seasons, prognostication, and farming activities in each particular month. Chapter 4 and 5 speak of soil treatment, general cultivation, and irrigation. Fascicle 6 is dedicated to disaster relief. The longest part of the book (ch. 7-18) describe the cultivation of individual plants from grains to legumes, fruits, bamboos, mulberry, tea or sugar cane, but also cover topics like ploughing, fertilization, the processing of fibre, oil, dye, and medical plants. This part is followed by two chapters on domestic animals, including medical care. The book closes with descriptions of farm buildings, tools, customs, and sideline work like food processing and health care.

Figure 1. Illustration from the Sannongji 三農紀
Paragraph on weather prognostication in the second lunar month. The small-character text under the black cartouche (left part) presents an old story (diangu 典故) from the book Guoyu 國語 on the topic of weather prognostication. Guilin Hall 桂林堂 edition.

Zhang's book does not just quote from older agricultural books, but also adds information based on his own experience. Quite if few information is related to the particular situation in the province of Sichuan.

The first edition of 1760 was published by the Wenfa Hall 文發堂. Later editions were published by the Qingli Hall 青藜閣, the Qingzhao Bookstore 藜照書屋 (best quality), the Rongmao Hall 榮茂堂, the Shancheng Hall 善成堂, the Guilin Hall 桂林堂 and the Hongdao Hall 宏道堂. A modern, annotated edition was published in 1989 by the Nongye Press 農業出版社.

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Min Zongdian 閔宗殿 (1994). "Sannongji suo yin Tujing wei Tujing bencao suo zhiyi 《三農紀》所引《圖經》為《圖經本草》說質疑", Zhongguo nongshi 中國農史, 1994 (4): 107-111.
Peng Shjiang 彭世獎 (1995). "Sannongij 三農紀", in Zhongguo nongye baike quanshu 中國農業百科全書, Vol. Nongye lishi 農業歷史卷 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 283.
Qu Chen 曲辰 (1981). "Sannongji ji qi zuozhe Zhang Zongfa 《三農紀》及其作者張宗法", Sichuan nongye keji 四川農業科技, 1981 (1): 48.
Wang Yonghou 王永厚 (1994). "Sannongji tiyao 《三農紀》提要", in Ren Jiyu 任繼愈, ed. Zhongguo kexue jishu dianji tonghui 中國科學技術典籍通彙, part Nongxue 農學 (Zhengzhou: Henan jiaoyu chubanshe), Vol. 4, 447-448.
Wang Yuhu 王毓瑚, ed. (1964). Zhongguo nongxue shulu 中國農學書錄 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 229.