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Chinese Literature
Xiangbeijing 相貝經 "The Classic of Prognostication by Shells and Conches"


The Xiangbeijing 相貝經 "Classic of prognostication by shells and conches" is a very short book on shells attributed to a Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) writer called Zhu Zhong 朱仲, of which virtually nothing is known. Zhu Zhong is said to have been a Daoist adept who learned the art of prolonging life from a certain Qin Gao 琴高. He might have belonged to some magicians sent out to search for materia prolonging life. On his travels he came to the Eastern Sea and studied sealife to find something suitable for his attempts to become an immortal. The book is also attributed to Yan Zhu 嚴助, prefect of Guiji 會稽 (modern Shaoxing 紹興, Zhejiang), but this seems quite improbable.
The book, of which only less than 400 characters have survived, describes 14 kinds of shells, all of them eatable, at least for Daoist adepts. The molluscs are named according to the patterns of their outer shell. The shortness of the description makes it impossible to identify them with living species. The descriptions of the molluscs in the Xiangbeijing are also not identical to such still used in traditional Chinese medicine, as Mauritia arabica L.
The text has survived in the glossary dictionary Piya 埤雅. It is included in the collectaneum Shuofu 說郛.


Source: Source: Gou Cuihua 茍萃華 (1993). "Xiangbeijing tiyao 相貝經提要", in: Zhongguo kexue jishu dianji tonghui 中國科學技術典籍通彙, Shengwu juan 生物卷, vol. 1, p. 17. Ed. Ren Jiyu 任繼愈/Gou Cuihua 茍萃華. Zhengzhou: Henan jiaoyu chubanshe.

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November 7, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail