Qi Min Yao Shu


Qi Min Yao Shu

Qí mín yào shù (TC: 齊民要術; SC: 齐民要术; Literal translation: "Main techniques for the welfare of the people") is the most completely preserved of the Ancient Chinese agricultural texts, and was written by the Northern Wei Dynasty official Jia Sixie. The book is believed to have been completed in the second year of Wu Ding of Eastern Wei, C.E. 544, while another account gives the completion between C.E. 533 and 544.

The text of the book is divided into ten volumes and 92 chapters, and records 1500-year-old Chinese agronomy, horticulture, afforestation, sericulture, animal husbandry, veterinary medicine, breeding, brewing, cooking, storage, as well as remedies for barren land. The book quoted nearly 200 ancient books. Important agricultural books such as "Fàn shèng zhī shū" (氾勝之書) and "Sì mín yuè mìng" (四民月令) from the Hàn and Jìn Dynasties are now lost, so future generations can only understand the operation of agriculture at the time from this book.

Since the publication of the book, historical Chinese governments have long attached great importance to it. Since the book spread overseas it has also often been considered a classic text to study changes in species. When Charles Darwin was researching the theory of evolution he made reference to an "Encyclopedia of Ancient China". It is said that the book he referenced was in fact "Qí mín yào shù". The book's name "Qí mín yào shù" can be explained as "techniques by which common people make their livelihood", but can also be explained as "techniques to harness the people's livelihood".


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