An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Sunpu 筍譜

Nov 11, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Sunpu 筍譜, also written 笋譜, is a description of different kinds of bamboo written by the monk Zanning 贊寧 during the early Song period 宋 (960-1279). Zanning, personal family name Gao 高, honorific religious name Yuanming dashi 圓明大師, came from Deqing 德清 (modern Deqing, Zhejiang) and was one of the nine great Buddhist monks of his time. He is known as a poet, painter and a scholar of phonetics. He had made himself a name under the rulers of the Wu-Yue empire 吳越 (907-978) and, at the beginning of the Song, was appointed secretary in the imperial Hanlin Academy 翰林院, where he compiled the Da-Song gaozeng zhuan 大宋高僧傳, a collection of biographies of eminent monks. He also wrote commentaries to the Confucian tractates Chunqiu fanlu 春秋繁露 and Lunheng 論衡.
It is not clear when the book Sunpu was finished, probably earlier than 960. It is also known with the title of Zhupu 竹譜 and has a length of 10 juan "scrolls". There was a contemporian called Qian Yu 錢昱 who had also compiled a book with the same title, but only with 3 juan.
The structure of Zanning's Sunpu imitated that of the famous tea classic Chajing 茶經 from the Tang period 唐 (618-907) and is divided into five parts, starting with names (Ming 名) and the place of origin (Chu 出), before going to the use in the kitchen (Shi 食) and the topic of bamboo shoots and its use in literature (Shi 事), and closing with miscellanea (Zashuo 雜說). Zanning describes 58 kinds of bamboo, mostly growing south of the Yangtze, and especially in the region of modern Zhejiang province and southern Jiangsu. The economical use of bamboo is a very important aspect in his book. He quotes from a lot of historical sources, valuable today because they are otherwise lost. Some paragraphs of the short text have been added by later persons when supplementing additional information.
Some bibliographical sources state that the Sunpu is only one juan long. The ensuing question if there are chapters lost or if the original 10 juan book is not identical to the received book, can not be answered.
There is a print from the Song period preserved as a faksimilie in the reprint series Baichuan xuehai 百川學海. The Sunpu is included in a lot of series, like Shuofu 說郛, Han-Wei congshu 漢魏叢書, Tang-Song congshu 唐宋叢書, Xunmintang congshu 遜敏堂叢書 and including the omni-present Siku quanshu 四庫全書, and is thus easily accessible.

Gou Cuihua 茍萃華 (1993). "Sunpu tiyao 筍譜提要", in: Zhongguo kexue jishu dianji tonghui 中國科學技術典籍通彙, Shengwu juan 生物卷, vol. 1, pp. 113-114. Ed. Ren Jiyu 任繼愈/Gou Cuihua 茍萃華. Zhengzhou: Henan jiaoyu chubanshe.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1866.