The Nongzheng quanshu 农政全书 “Whole book on agricultural activities” is an agricultural encyclopaedia compiled by the lateMing period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Xu Guangqi 徐光启 (1562-1633), courtesy name Xu Zixian 徐子先, style Xuanhu 玄扈. He came from Shanghai 上海 and earned his jinshi degree with the age of 36 sui. In 1604 he participated a second time in the metropolitan examination and in 1632, as an elderly man, was appointed Minister of Rites (libu shangshu 礼部尚书) and Grand Academician (daxueshi 大学士) of the East Pavilion 东阁. A year later he was transferred to the post of Grand Academician of the Hall of Literary Profundity 文渊阁 but he died soon thereafter. His posthumous title is Duke Wending 徐文定公. Xu Guangqi is very famous for his cooperation with the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci (Chinese name Li Madou 利玛窦) together with whom he translated European treatises in astronomy, mathametics and mechanics, like Euclid’s “Elements” (original Greek title Stoichéia, in Chinese as Jihe yuanben 几何原本). He also compiled a treatise about the amelioration of the Chinese calendar, the Chongzhen lishu 崇祯历书. Xu Guangqi was also very interested in firearms because of their usefulness in the campaigns against the Jurchens (that were soon to become the Manchus).
The 60 juan “scrolls” long Nongzheng quanshu is only one of several book on agriculture that Xu Guangqi had authored. Others were Nongyi zashu 农遗杂疏, Tunyanshu 屯盐疏, Zhong mianhua fa 种棉花法, Ganshushu 甘薯疏, Zhongzhu tushuo 种竹图说, Yikenling 宜垦令, Nongji 农辑 and Beigenglu 北耕录. The Nongzheng quanshu is divided into 12 chapters that include a general introduction into agriculture (Nongben 农本), an overview of the field systems (Tianzhi 田制) of China through history, basic themes of farming (Nongshi 农事) like ploughing and the observation of weather and climate, hydraulics (Shuili 水利), farming tools (Nongqi 农器), the art of tree cultivation (Shuyi 树艺), sericulture (Cansang 蚕桑 and Cansang guanglei 蚕桑广类), the cultivation of plants (Zhongzhi 种植), cattle breeding (Muyang 牧养), the processing of agricultural products (Zhizao 制造), and famine relief (Huangzheng 荒政). The greatest part of the book consists of quotations from older texts that was only slightly amended or altered. Xu Guangqi nevertheless was able to bring these quotations in such a form that the text of theNongzheng quanshu appears in a coherent shape. He also commented many statements for clarification and rectification, based on his own research in agriculture. The Nongzheng quanshu is a complete overview of all aspects of farming in traditional China and shows the level that agriculture had reached in the seventeenth century.
The Nongzheng quanshu was actually not completed during Xu Guangqi’s lifetime, but this task was left to Chen Zilong 陈子龙 who amended the text and rearranged it. It was first printed in 1639 by Zhang Guowei 张国维 and Fang Yuegong 方岳贡. It is estimated that Chen Zilong cut about about a third of the whole original text, mostly redundant statements, and instead added some more text, constituting about 20 per cent of the original. Instead of his revision the text still includes a lot of errors.
The oldest print of the Nongzheng quanshu is known as the Pinglu Hall edition 平露堂本. It was again published in 1837 in Guizhou (the Guizhou edition 贵州本), in 1843 in Shanghai by Wang Jiakang 王寿康 (the Shuhai Hall edition 曙海楼本) and in 1874 by the public Shandong press 山东书局 (the Shandong edition 山东本). In 1956 the Zhonghua shuju press 中华书局 published a modern edition with a commentary written by Zou Shuwen 邹树文, and in 1979 the Shanghai guji press 上海古籍出版社 launched an edition with a commentary by Shi Shenghan 石声汉, the Nongzheng quanshu jiaozhu 农政全书校注.
The Nongzheng quanshu is included in the imperial collectaneum Siku quanshu 四库全书.
1.-3. 农本 Nongben The roots of agriculture