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Lizhipu 荔枝譜 and other books on lychee

Mar 9, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

There were quite a few books on lychee (Litchi chinensis) written in pre-modern times, some of which deserve a closer description.

Table 1. Books on lychee
荔枝譜 Lizhipu (Song) 蔡襄 Cai Xiang
廣中荔枝譜 (殘) Guangzhong lizhi pu (Song) 鄭熊 Zheng Xiong
荔枝譜 Lizhi pu (Song) 曾巩 Zeng Gong
蒲田荔枝譜 (lost) Putian lizhi pu (Song) 徐師閔 Xu Shimin
增城荔枝譜 (lost) Zengcheng lizhi pu (Song) 張宗閔 Zhang Zongmin
荔枝譜 七卷 Lizhipu (Ming) 徐{火勃} Xu Bo
荔枝譜 (閩中荔枝譜) 八卷 Lizhipu (Minzhong lizhi pu) (Ming) 屠本畯 Tuben Jun
荔枝譜 (荔支食譜) 一卷 Lizhipu (Lizhi shipu) (Ming) 宋珏 Song Yu
荔枝譜 (荔枝小乘) 一卷 Lizhipu (Lizhi xiaosheng) (Ming) 曹蕃 Cao Fan
閩中荔枝通譜 (荔枝通譜) 四卷 Lizhipu (Minzhong lizhi tongpu, Lizhi tongpu) (Ming) 鄧慶寀 Deng Qingcai
記荔枝 一卷 Ji lizhi (Ming) 吳載鰲 Wu Zai'ao
荔枝譜略 二卷 Lizhi pulüe (Ming) 曾弘 Zeng Hong
荔枝話 Lizhihua (Qing) 林嗣環 Lin Sihuan
荔譜 Lipu (Qing) 陳定國 Chen Dingguo
荔枝譜 一卷 Lizhipu (Qing) 陳鼎 Chen Ding
嶺南荔枝譜 六卷 Lingnan lizhi pu (Qing) 吳應逵 Wu Yingkui

Cai Xiang's 蔡襄 Lizhipu 荔枝譜

Lizhipu 荔枝譜 "On Lychees" is a treatise on the lychee tree and fruit written during the Song period 宋 (960-1279) by Cai Xiang 蔡襄 (1012-1067), courtesy name Junmo 君謨, from Xianyou 仙游 (today part of Putian 莆田, Fujian). 知諫院、知州、龍圖閣直學士、端明殿學士, 又任職福州、泉州等地 xxx. Cai Xiang has also written a book on tea, Chalu 茶錄.

The Lizhipu consists of 7 short chapters and was finished in 1059. Cai came in contact with lychee cultivation during his service period as transport commissioner (zhuanyunshi 轉運使) in the province of Fujian. His book describes 32 different kinds of lychee mainly cultivated around the city of Fuzhou 福州. He provides details about the appearance of the fruit, its outer shell and the pulp, colour, smell and taste, and the location where these were cultivated.

Cai's descriptions are very important for the knowledge about the origin of modern cultivars of lychee. In oldest times the fruits used to be delivered to the imperial courts as a kind to tribute from the southern regions. Cai Xiang also provides information about the processing of lychee fruits and methods of storage, preparing food with lychees, as well as the medical use of the fruit. One chapter focuses on the cultivation of the lychee tree.

Cai Xiang's Lizhipu is included in the collected writings of Cai Xiang, Cai Zhonghuigong ji 蔡忠惠公集 (also called Duanming ji 端明集), as well as in the series Baichuan xuehai 百川學海, Shuofu 說郛, Gujin shuobu congshu, 古今說部叢書Yipu souqi 藝圃搜奇, Shanju zazhi 山居雜志 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編. It is also part of Deng Daoxie’s 鄧道協 collection Lizhi tongpu 荔枝通譜.

Table 1. Contents of Cai Xiang's 蔡襄 Lizhipu 荔枝譜
1. 原始末 Introduction
2. 標尤異 Strengths and extraordinary features
3. 志賈鬻 Merchandise
4. 明服食 Medicine and diet
5. 慎護養 Protection and cultivation
6. 時法制 System and rules
7. 別種類 Types and species

Xu Bo's 徐{火勃} Lizhipu 荔枝譜

Xu Bo 徐{火勃}, courtesy name Weiqi 惟起 or Xinggong 興公, hailed from Jin'an 晉安, Fujian, and was a famous poet.

His book on lychees has a length of 7 juan, yet the version in the series Shuofu xu 說郛續 is condensed to 2 fascicles. The first part describes 100 cultivars as known in the region of Fujian, while the second part focuses on the general rules for the cultivation of the trees, consumption, storage, and fruit processing.

The whole text is included in the collections Shuofu xu and Lizhi tongpu.

Deng Qingcai's 鄧慶采 Minzhong lizhi tongpu 閩中荔枝通譜 (Lizhi tongpu 荔枝通譜)

Minzhong lizhi tongpu 閩中荔枝通譜, short Lizhi tongpu 荔枝通譜, is a comprehensive book on lychee cultivation in the province of Fujian written during the late Ming period by Deng Qingcai 鄧慶采 (also written 鄧慶寀), courtesy name Daoxie 道協, from Fuzhou 福州, Fujian.

Deng quotes five whole books (16 juan) on the theme, namely Cai Xiang's classic Lizhipu from the Song period, Xu Bo’s 7-juan Lizhipu, the two books of Song Yu 宋珏 and Cao Fan 曹蕃, each with a length of 1 juan, and Deng’s own book. His own contributions refer not just to the consumption of the fruit, but also to various methods and techniques of cultivation. Deng corrects some errors of older books like Xu Bo’s assumption that less good cultivars could be refined by grafting, yet grafting is not possible with lychee cultivars.

The book was finished in 1628 and printed a year later. The texts included in the Tongpu are all quoted in the early Qing-period encyclopaedia Gujin tushu jicheng 古今圖書集成 (part Caomu dian 草木典, ch. Lizhi bu 荔枝部).

Chen Ding's 陳鼎 Lizhipu 荔枝譜

Chen Ding 陳鼎 (b. 1650), courtesy name Dingjiu 定九, hailed from Jiangyin 江陰, Jiangsu.

His brief text on lychee is the result of the observations during long travels through the provinces of Fujian, Sichuan, Guangdong and Guangxi. Chen’s book is outstanding because most other texts on lychees focus on the cultivation in the province of Fujian, while Chen speaks about the fruits as cultivated and consumed in all southern provinces.

It is found in the series Zhaodai congshu 昭代叢書, Lixiangshi congshu 粟香室叢書, Jiangyin congshu 江陰叢書 and Nongxue congshu 農學叢書.

Wu Yingkui's 吳應逵 Lingnan lizhi pu 嶺南荔枝譜

Lingnan lizhi pu 嶺南荔枝譜 is a book focusing on lychee cultivation in the region of Lignan, i.e. the province of Guangdong. The author of this book was Wu Yingkui 吳應逵, courtesy name Honglai 鴻來, style Yanshan 雁山, from Heshan 鶴山. Guangdong. He obtained the juren degree in 1795.

The book of 6 juan length (original arrangement 2 juan) was finished in 1826. The sources for the text were provided by Wu's friends who used to gather in the lychee gardens during summer. The first part of the book (Zonglun 總論) discusses the origin, history and physical appearance of the lychee fruits as well as methods of consumption. The chapter closes with literary quotations. The second chapter (Zhongzhi 種植) is dedicated to the cultivation of the tree and recommends methods for the protection against pests. Fascicle three (Jiehou 節候) describes the flowering and maturation process of the fruits and the influence of the weather on the quality of the fruit. Chapter 4 (Pinlei 品類) enumerates more than 80 different cultivars of lychee throughout the province, many of which are still known today. The rest of the book discusses "miscellaneous matters" (Zashi 雜事).

Wu quotes from no less than 94 books, and his book is therefore a valuable source for the preservation of pre-modern knowledge of lychee cultivation. It is included in the series Lingnan congshu 嶺南叢書 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編.

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蜀漢 (221-263)