The Nongsang jiyao 農桑輯要 "Collection of important matters of agriculture and sericulture" is an agricultural treatise written by an official team of compilers during the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368). The 7 juan "scrolls" long book was compiled on order of the Supervisor of the National Granaries (sinong si 司農司), the highest central institution of agricultural politics of the Yuan empire, probably under the supervision of Chang Shiwen 暢師文, Meng Qi 孟祺 or Miao Haoqian 苗好謙. It had been established with the purpose to raise the agricultural output of the Yuan empire. In the preface of the Nongsang jiyao, Wang Pan 王磐 says that only a few years after its creation large amounts of lands had been reclaimed and cultivated. In order to continue and intensify this success the institution decided to search ancient texts that provided information about better ways of farming and silkworm breeding. The book was finished in 1273 and instantly distributed in the whole empire. It is divided into ten chapters that cover practically all aspects of farming, from field crops to the breeding of domestic animals (including bees and fishes) and sericulture (silk production). Particularly worth mentioning is the production of textile materials like cotton and hemp that became more widespread under the Yuan dynasty. The authors claim that human invention and struggle can overcome the restrictions by nature and make it possible that plants like cotton can be cultivated in all parts of China. This had been proven in earlier times, when
crops like walnuts, water melons, sugar cane and tea were spread from their "natural" place in the northwest and southwest respectively, to other regions.
The first, introductory chapter of the Nongsang jiyao quotes from a lot of ancient books of all genres on agriculture in general and sericulture as a specific sideline industry of farming. Other chapters quote from very widespread and transmitted texts like Qimin yaoshu 齊民要術, Simin yueling 四民月令 or Sishi zuanyao 四時纂要, but also from books that have only survived as fragments, like the Fan Shengzhi shu 汜勝之書, Zhongshi zhishuo 種蒔直說, Hanshi zhishuo 韓氏直説, Shinong biyong 士農必用 or Wuben xinshu 務本新書. Yet the compilers also added new material to the text with matters information about which could not be found in earlier sources (marked with the words xintian 新添 "newly added"). The book is enriched by an appendix called Suiyong zashi 歲用雜事 in which miscellaneous activities through the seasons in northern China are explained.
The text is concise and concentrates on the most important aspects, so that it was in fact of great help for the reconstruction of the economy in the Yuan empire after many decades of war. Between the first publication and 1332 it was six times republished, allegedly in more than ten thousand copies. It continued to be used after the downfall of the Yuan dynasty. During the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) it was included in many collectanea like the Gezhi congshu 格致叢書. It is also to be found in the imperial collectaneum Siku quanshu 四庫全書 with a version based on the edition in the Ming period encyclopedia Yongle dadian 永樂大典, and, as a print with moveable letters, among the Wuyingdian juzhenban shu 武英殿聚珍版書. It is also included in the Republican collection Congshu jicheng 叢書集成. In 1979 the Shanghai Library 上海圖書館 published a large-character edition based on a Yuan period print that proved that a lot of errors had crept in in later editions. In 1982 the Nongye press 農業出版社 published a modern, annotated edition, and in a new version in 1988 under the title Yuanke Nongsang jiyao jiaoshi 元刻農桑輯要校釋, with the commentary of Liao Qiyu 繆啟愉.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe, vol. 2, p. 1647.
Lin Qitan 林其錟 (1994). "Nongsang jiyao 農桑輯要", in: Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Jingji 經濟, Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe, p. 212.
Liao Qiyu 繆啟愉 (1992). "Nongsang jiyao 農桑輯要", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Nongye 農業, Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe, vol. 1, p. 739.
Wang Guozhong 王國忠 (1996). "Nongsang jiyao 農桑輯要", in: Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Keji 科技, Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe, p. 412.
1. 典訓 Dianxun Introduction and evidence from ancient sources|
2. 耕墾 Gengken Ploughing methods and working the fields
3. 播種 Bozhong The art of propagation
4. 栽桑 Zaisang The cultivation of mulberry trees
5. 養蠶 Yangcan Breeding silkworms
6. 瓜菜 Guacai Melons and vegetables
7. 果實 Guoshi Fruits
8. 竹木 Zhumu Bamboos and trees
9. 藥草 Yaocao Medical plants (including tea and plants for dyeing)
10. 孳畜 Zichu Cattle breeding
(附) 歲用雜事 Suiying zashi Miscellaneous matters through the year