An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Tao Zhugong zhifu qishu 陶朱公致富奇書

Jun 18, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Tao Zhugong zhifu qishu 陶朱公致富奇書 "Tao Zhugong's wonderful book of acquiring wealth" is a book on agriculture written by an anonymous person in the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644). The book is also known under the titles Zhifu quanshu 致富全書, Chongding zengbu Tao Zhugong zhifu quanshu 重訂增補陶朱公致富全書, Zengbu Zhifu qishu quanji 增補致富奇書全集, Zengbu Zhifu qishu 增補致富奇書, Chongding Zhifu quanshu 重訂致富全書 or Yungutang zengbu Tao Zhugong zhifu qishu guangji 藴古堂增補陶朱公致富奇書廣集.

Tao Zhugong 陶朱公 was the style of Fan Li 范蠡, an advisor to the king of Yue 越 during the Spring and Autumn period 春秋 (770-5th cent. BCE) who, after retirement, engaged in agriculture. His name as that of an expert in fish-farming has been borrowed as a "marketing" strategy for this agricultural treatise. It is believed that the common version of the book was edited by the collector and publisher Chen Jiru 陳繼儒 (1558-1639).

The book deals with a wide range of agricultural topics from the cultivation of staple food to fruits and vegetables, bamboo, flowers, cattle breeding, silkworm raising, tools and instruments, daily activities and medicine. The book is divided into 4 juan. The first scroll is divided into the chapters grain, vegetables, trees, and fruits and explains one hundred different crops. Juan 2 gives an overview of flowers (75 species), medical herbs (20 species) and cattle and various animals (like silkworms, fishes, poultry and honeybees). It includes a farming calendar (Nongjiali 農家曆) with tables for all months. The third scroll talks about prognostication of the right time for farming activities and includes a lot of poems and rhapsodies on farming. The last part of the book covers a lot of various themes from medicine (massage and gymnastics) to diet in the course of the year.

The book quotes from a lot of ancient writings, some of which are annotated and commented. Yet there are also passages in the Tao Zhugong zhifu qishu that are not to be found in other books, for instance, about peanuts (huasheng 花生) that only came to China during the Ming period. Amaranth (xian 莧) and its various forms are also for the first time mentioned in this book. Similarly, the Zhifu qishu is the first book in which a relationship is established between fish-farming and the plants cultivated around the fish ponds.

The anonymous text was published more than twenty times during the 18th and 19th centuries, with the most excellent editions being published by the Jingguo Hall 經國堂, the Shancheng Hall 善成堂, the Jinchang Wenye Hall 金閶文業堂, and the Lüeyecao Hall 綠野草堂. In 1987 the Henan Kexue Jishu Press 河南科學技術出版社 published a modern edition that includes a commentary by Sun Zhizhai 孫芝齋.

Table 1. Contents of the Tao Zhugong zhifu qishu 陶朱公致富奇書
1 穀部 Grains
2 蔬部 Legumes
3 木部 Trees and bamboos
4 果部 Fruits
5 花部 Flowers
6 藥部 Medical plants
7 畜牧部 Domestic animals
8 占候部 Prognostication
9 詩賦部 Poetry and rhapsody
10 四季備攷 Preparations over the four seasons
11 群花備攷 Preparations for the many plants
12 衛生 Hygiene
Wang Yonghou 王永厚 (1994). "Zhifu quanshu tiyao 《致富全書》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. 2, 921-922.
Wang Yuhu 王毓瑚, ed. (1964). Zhongguo nongxue shulu 中國農學書錄 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 188.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 760.
Zhou Zhaoji 周肇基 (1995). "Tao Zhugong zhifu qishu 陶朱公致富奇書", in Zhongguo nongye baike quanshu 中國農業百科全書, Vol. Nongye lishi 農業歷史 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 315.