An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Bozhou mudan shi 亳州牡丹史

Mar 26, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Bozhou mudan shi 亳州牡丹史 is a book on peonies written during the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Xue Fengxiang 薛鳳翔 (jinshi degree 1607), courtesy name Gongyi 公儀, from Bozhou 亳州 (today's Boxian 亳縣, Anhui). He was Vice Minister of the Court for Dependencies (honglusi shaoqing 鴻臚寺少卿). Bozhou was famous for its peonies to which at least three books are dedicated, namely the book of Xue, Pingzhou Bozhou mudan 評亳州牡丹 by Zhu Youdun 朱有燉 (1379-1439, Prince Xian of Zhou 周憲王), Bozhou mudan zhi 亳州牡丹志 (anonymous), and Bozhou mudan shu 亳州牡丹述 by Niu Xiu 鈕琇 (1644-1704).

Xue's book of 4 juan consists of eight chapters – in the encyclopaedia Gujin tushu jicheng 古今圖書集成 (part Caomu dian 草木典) they are seen as separate "books on peonies" (mudan ba shu 牡丹八書), but dealt with as an integral text. On the other hand, the encyclopaedia also quotes two other texts by Xue on peonies, namely the table Bozhou mudan biao 亳州牡丹表, and the "history" Mudan shi 牡丹史.

The "eight books" are actually eight chapters dedicated to sowing, planting, dividing, propagation, irrigation, nourishment, care, and do-nots. The original text consisting of these three parts was thus written as a very tentative imitation of history books which usually include different types of biographies, treatises on statecraft, tables, and discussions, as well as information on extraordinary things, literature, etc.

In the table Bozhou mudan biao, peonies are classified according to their quality. Xue imitated a table of moral classification in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書, Gujin renbiao 古今人表 (ch. 20). He discerned between six classes of peonies (Hua zhi pin 花之品), namely divine (shenpin 神品), famous (mingpin 名品), numinous (lingpin 靈品), outstanding (yipin 逸品), average (nengpin 能品), and for everyday use (jupin 具品). The second part of the table discusses the quality of peonies according to their age (Hua zhi nian 花之年). They are first young (you 幼), then weak (ruo 弱), later robust (zhuang 壯), and finally – after eight years – strong (qiang 強). This part also informs about propagation and division in accordance with the seasons.

The "history" Mudan shi describes various types of peonies common in the city of Bozhou. The content has no relation to the title.

Ge Xiaohan 葛小寒 (2020). “Mudan, mudanpu yu wan-Ming Bozhou shehui: Yi Bozhou mudan shi wei zhongxin 牡丹、牡丹譜與晚明亳州社會 ——— 以《亳州牡丹史》為中心", Anhui shixue 安徽史學, 2020 (1): 158-168.
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Wang Yuhu 王毓瑚, ed. (1964). Zhongguo nongxue shulu 中國農學書錄 (Beijing: Nongye chubanshe), 172.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 719.
Wu Shihua 吳詩華 (1991). “Xue Fengxiang yu Bozhou mudan shi 薛鳳翔與《亳州牡丹史》", Zhongguo yuanlin 中國園林, 1991 (2): 53-54.
蜀漢 (221-263)