The Misidentification of ji since the Tang and Song Dynasties and Its Influence on the Vocabularies of Materia Medica and Modern Botany (Li Guoqiang)

The identification of the plant to which ji (稷) refers has been a major issue of debate for more than 1500 years. In the pre-Qin literature, the usage of ji is common knowledge and needs no explanation, but its linguistic context indicates that ji is foxtail millet (Setaria italica [L.] P. Beauv.). This correspondence is also clearly defined by Han scholars in their commentaries and dictionaries. However, by the 5th and 6th centuries AD, the herbalist Tao Hongjing (456–536) did not know what jimi (稷米) was, but speculated that it might be similar to millet (Panicum miliaceum L.). On this basis, the Tang Dynasty herbalists Su Gong (599–674) and Chen Zangqi (681–757) incorrectly identified ji as pancled millet (ji 穄) and broomcorn millet (mei 糜), which was later supported and further proved by Song dynasty scholars, while the Ming dynasty herbalist Li Shizhen identified ji as non-glutinous millet, which in turn became a professional term used in materia medica. The Qing dynasty scholar Cheng Yaotian (1725–1814) established a new explanation, when he erroneously considered ji to be sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.), which has been embraced by many exegetes. Today, these two misidentifications have been extended into the modern botanical scholarship and have entered some agronomic and botanical monographs as scientific names, and also almost all common dictionaries give these two meanings for the term ji.
The present study examines the background and causes of these two misidentifications and the lack of relevant research methods, especially the role of Song and Qing dynasties academic thinking in their use of theories and methods, and then examines their influence on the vocabulary of materia medica and modern botanical vocabulary.


对“稷”所指稱的植物的鉴定问题是一个争论了1500多年的大问题。在先秦文献中,稷的用法是常识性的、无需说明的,但其语用背景显示,稷就是粟(Setaria italica [L.] P. Beauv.)。汉代学者在其注疏和词典中也明确界定了这一对应关系。但是,到了公元5至6世纪,本草学家陶弘景(456—536)已不知“稷米”为何物,但推测可能与黍(Panicum miliaceum L.)相似。在此基础上,唐代本草学家苏恭(599—674)和陈藏器681—757)等错误地把稷鉴定为穄、糜(黍的一种),此后更得到了宋代博物学者的支持和论证,而明代的本草大家李时珍更把稷认定为不黏黍,进而成为本草学界使用的专业词汇。清代的程瑶田(1725—1814)则另立炉灶,错误地认为稷是高粱 (Sorghum bicolor L.),并得到许多训诂学家的拥戴。直至今日,这两种错误鉴定又延申到现代植物学界,且作为学名进入部分农学和植物学专著,同时,几乎所有的常用字典、辞典也将这两种鉴定定义为稷的重要义项。


Mapping the Origin and Significance of Selected Brassica Genus Plants in the Euro-Asian Steppe Continuum (Kateřina Šamajová)

The Brassica genus without doubt represents one of the most economically important plant species known to man. The multi-faceted use of their leaves, roots, oil-bearing seeds, as animal fodder or for human consumption, is universally well documented.
This paper will attempt to shed some light into the origins of Brassica rapa by tracing its presence in the Chinese written canon. Owing to the alternative plant naming strategies employed by the Chinese language, mapping the history of culturally significant crops may be a complicated endeavour. This paper therefore proposes a multidisciplinary approach to studying such phenomena.
In this talk, the first attestations of Brassica rapa, var. chinensis will be introduced, including theories relating to the origin of names assigned to chinensis, as well as to other species related to the plant, both those genetically related, or sharing similar morphological features. This presentation will draw an analogy of the complicated relations in the Brassica genus by introducing the circumstances of its appearance in the European written history. By adopting the utilitarian approach to plants, the cultural significance of cabbages, as well as the features common to both European and Chinese varieties will be closely analysed.

欧亚大草原上部分芸苔属植物的起源和意义 (Kateřina Šamajová)

本文将试图寻找中国典籍记录的芸苔种(Brassica rapa)植物,对其起源作出一些说明。由于中文中迥异的植物命名习惯,描绘具有文化意义的农作物的历史图景是一项复杂的工作。本文因此提出一种多学科结合的研究方法。
本文将介绍关于芸苔种中国亚种(Brassica rapa, var. chinensis)植物最早的典据,并讨论中国亚种,包括与其遗传学和形态学上相关的各种植物的诸多名称的起源。主讲人还将通过介绍芸苔属植物在欧洲文献中出现的情况,对其复杂关系进行类比,通过对植物采用实用的研究方法,来仔细分析“卷心菜”的文化意义以及其欧洲品种和中国品种的共同特征。


Verisimilitude and Validity: Illustrations, Plant Morphology and Folk Knowledge in Jiuhuang Bencao (Chen Sarah Huang)

Jiuhuang bencao 救荒本草 (Materia Medica for Famine Relief or the Famine Herbal), published in 1406 in Kaifeng, Henan, was the first printed monograph on famine foods in China. The book listed 414 entries of edible plants that could be consumed in times of scarcity, fully illustrated with detailed texts about plant identification, nutrition, toxicity, and food processing. According to the preface, a botanical garden was set up and planted with specimens collected from local farmers, in order to facilitate meticulous observation and live drawing. As a result, the morphological texts and images in Jiuhuang bencao were of extraordinary quality, celebrated by both Ming contemporaries and modern botanists.
I will situate Jiuhuang bencao in the tradition of illustrated bencao and argue that, the book employed innovative textual and visual strategies to carry on the conventional function of bencao as a source of authority. Plant morphology was highlighted as a key to the task of zhengming 正名 (rectification of names) — maintaining the link between names and real entities, and personal experience with plants was emphasized as a valid source of knowledge. As an effort to formalize folk knowledge in the framework of bencao, the book constantly contested and developed the established knowledge about plants.

迫真性与有效性——《救荒本草》中的插图、植物形态学与民间知识 (黃梣)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.