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Chinese Literature
Yangzhou shaoyao pu 揚州芍藥譜 "Notes on the Peonies of Yangzhou"


The Yangzhou shaoyao pu 揚州芍藥譜, short Shaoyaopu 芍藥譜, is a description of peonies in the gardens of the city of Yangzhou 揚州, Jiangsu, written by the Song period 宋 (960-1279) writer Wang Guan 王觀. Wang's exact dates of live are not known. He once served as an academician of the Hanlin Academy 翰林院 but was then degraded to a district magistrate because Empress Dowager Xuanren 宣仁太后 felt insulted by some of his poems. His collected writings are Guanliuji 冠柳集.
The Shaoyaopu begins with an introduction of the peonies in Yangzhou as the most beautiful flowers of this kind in China. In Yangzhou, the peonies in the garden of the family Zhu 朱 were the best. Wang Guan then lists his criteria for rating a peony as good or not. This depends not only on the natural growth, but much more on the effort humans have put into the growing of flowers. He then describes the different kinds of peonies and rates them according to seven categories, beginning with the excellent kind guanqunfang 冠群芳 and ending with the inferior kind of xiaoyinzhuang 效殷妝. There is a supplement of eight different kinds of peonies.
The Shaoyaopu is included in the collectanea Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Baichuan xuehai 百川學海, Shuofu 說郛, Mohai jinhu 墨海金壺, Zhucong bielu 珠叢別錄.
There were also two other books with the name Shaoyaopu, one written by Kong Wuzhong 孔武仲 and one by Liu Ban 劉攽. Both are lost, except of some quotations included in Chen Jingyi's 陳景沂 botanic encyclopedia Quanfang beizu 全芳備祖. According to these quotations, it can be seen that Liu Ban's Shaoyaopu was very similar to Wang Guan's book, except that some names of peonies were different, and some kinds were given another category of quality. It seems that the postface of Wang's Shaoyaopu is in fact that of Kong Ban's book.


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1865. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.

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June 17, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail