ResearcherAlexander Jost, M.A. (Chinese Studies, Tübingen University)
Since earliest times, poetry in general and the genre of the rhapsody or prose poem (fu 赋) in
particular in China has been used to describe an extremely wide range of topics. In the Chinese educational
tradition, writing poetry was a well-liked way for officials to prove their academic status, their professional
competence and their exemplary attitude. The Song official Hong Zikui 洪咨夔 (1176-1236) served in a number of
offices up to the minister of justice, among them also at one post in an important copper producing region in
Jiangxi. One of the poems preserved in his collection, the Pingzhai wenji 平齋文集, is entitled "Rhapsody of the
Great Smelting" (Dayefu 大冶赋) and reflects his comprehensive knowledge in the fields of mining, minting and
metallurgy. Providing an English translation with extensive annotations for the western reader is the purpose of
State of the field.Although the development of the mineral industries during the Song
dynasty has aroused much interest within the western academic world and very valuable research has been carried
out for example by Donald Wagner or Peter Golas, Hong Zikui and his work remain basically unmentioned. In China
during the 1990s an annotated "translation" into modern Chinese as well as several additional articles concerning
its content were published by Hua Jueming 华觉明 and Wang Shengduo 汪圣鐸.
Relevance of the topic and research question.
The time of the Song dynasty in China was a period of enormous economic expansion as well as of
remarkable innovations in the fields of science and technology and is under various aspects even
regarded as the beginning of modernity. A massive increase in the casting of coins backed the economic
boom and made it at the same time dependent on an increasing mint metal production. The numerous
industries as well as the agricultural sector of the empire showed an growing metal demand, too. When
the loss of the northern mining regions to the Jurchen and the exhaustion of mines in the south lead
to a metal shortage, the mineral industries became a focus of attention and new technologies were
invented and applied. The Dayefu is an eye-witness report from the center of this both problematic
and innovative situation and gives us a picturesque impression of the actual execution of mining and
smelting activities in detail and of their cultural understanding at its time. Besides, it provides
the most detailed description of an important innovation, the copper precipitation process, and its
industrial application in China. Making the Dayefu accessible to the western public is thus a valuable
step towards a better understanding of the substantial changes that affected the Chinese society,
economy and technology during the Song period.
Sources. The translation is based on the version of the Dayefu preserved in the Sibu
congkan 四部叢刊. To achieve a clear understanding of the described content, which is often expressed in complex metaphorical
and allegorical wording, a range of other historical works contemporary to the poem or younger are consulted. Most importantly those
are encyclopaedias (e.g. Tiangong kaiwu 天工開物), collections of administrative regulations (e.g. Song huiyao jigao 宋會要輯稿), local
gazetteers (e.g. Longquan xianzhi 龍泉縣志) and private writings (e.g. Shuyuan zaji 菽園雜記).
Expected results. The aim of the project is the compilation of an extensively annotated
English translation, which also allows a western reader with limited knowledge on the history of Chinese science and
technology to understand the poem and the background of its content. Besides, the commentaries to the text and thus a
compact collection of source material helpful for understanding will be attached as well as explanations of crucial
technologies and their application at the time of the poem.
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