An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Yecaipu 野菜譜

Jun 15, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Yecaipu 野菜譜 "On wild vegetables" is a book on eatable wild plants written by the Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Wang Pan 王磐 (c. 1470-1530), courtesy name Hongjian 鴻漸, style Xilou 西樓. He hailed from Gaoyou 高郵, Jiangsu, and lived during the Zhengde 正德 (1506-1521) and Jiajing 嘉靖 (1522-1566) reign-periods.

The short book had been written as a response to long-lasting famine period in the lower Yangtze area and the River Huai 淮水 region caused by inundations and drought. People during that time had to search for naturally grown plants to appease their hunger. Not a few of them died because they had consumed poisonous or non-eatable plants. In his short book Wang Pan described more than sixty plants that grow wild and can be consumed. Each plant is described in the shape of a poem and also shown in drawings. The poems are very simple and easy to remember, which made the book very helpful and easy to understand, and the content accessible even to those who could not read the book.

Figure 1. Illustrations from the Yecaipu 野菜譜
Images and description of dandelion (baiguding 白皷釘) and Japanese lettuce (Ixeris japonica, jiandaogu 剪刀股). 1551 edition.

The book not included in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, but described in an overview of existing texts. It is to be found in the series Shanju zazhi 山居雜誌, Sanxu baichuan xuehai 三續百川學海, Shuofu 說郛, Shuofu xu 說郛續 and the enyclopaedia Gujin tushu jicheng 古今圖書集成.

Gou Cuihua 茍萃華 (1993). "Yecaipu tiyao《野菜譜》題要", in Gou Cuihua 茍萃華, ed. Zhongguo kexue jishu dianji tonghui 中國科學技術典籍通彙, part Shengwu 生物卷 (Zhengzhou: Henan jiaoyu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 249-250.
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, 1648.