History of Horticulture


This horticultural work dates from 1620. The title on the spine of the book’s case, preface, and table of contents is given as Zhi fu quan shu (Encyclopedia on how to build wealth). That was apparently a later title, indicating that horticulture could lead to wealth. However, the title on the upper portion of the central column of a preliminary leaf is Pu shi (History of horticulture). The author was Zhou Wenhua, courtesy name Hanzhang, a native of Suzhou, Jiangsu, and an official at the Court of Imperial Entertainments. In his preface, he referred to his work as Runan pu shi (History of horticulture in Runan), the title by which this work is often known. The original inscription reads: “Supplemented by Zhou Wenhua, Hanzhang, of Wujun.” According to the same preface, after he read Hua shi (History of flowers) by Zhou Yunzhai, Zhou Wenhua found that work incomplete, so he supplemented it based on his research of documents and records and his own experience and published this book. It consists of 12 juan in 10 volumes, grouped under these headings: seasons, 12 ways of planting, flower fruits, tree fruits, fruits, tree flowers, thorny leaf flowers, herb flowers, bamboo, grass, vegetables, melons, and beans. The classifications are clear and the entries are arranged in a well-organized manner. The section on seasons introduces, in great detail, horticultural activities for each month. The section on planting describes methods of planting and maintenance, such as sowing seeds, separating seedlings, cuttings, grafting, rooting, transplanting, arranging, watering, adding soil to protect the roots, picking fruits, and harvesting seeds. When he quotes from earlier works, the author also cites the sources. The work introduces a total of 32 kinds of fruits, 91 flowers, 22 species of bamboo and trees, and 40 vegetables, and it gives planting methods for the 185 species discussed. The three prefaces, all written in 1620, are by Wang Yuanmao, Chen Yuansu, and the author. This copy is bound in the traditional Chinese binding technique, called “gold inlaid with jade,” in which an extra sheet of paper is inserted in the fold of the double-page spread to strengthen and preserve the paper, and so it is in good condition.

Last updated: January 10, 2018