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Tiangong Kaiwu

Tiangong Kaiwu (The Exploitation of the Works of Nature)


     Authored by Song Yingxing (1587-?) of the Ming Dynasty, the work was first published in 1637 in three volumes. It systematically records the production techniques and experience of agriculture and the handicraft industry in ancient China, with 121 illustrations. The first volume covers cultivation of grain, cotton and other fiber crops, raising of silkworms, filature, dyeing, food processing, salt making, and sugar making. The second volume deals with the production of bricks

and tiles, porcelain, iron and steel wares, ships and vehicles, limestone and lime, coal, sulfur, edible oil, candles, and paper. The third volume discusses mining of minerals; smelting of metals; production of weapons, gunpowder, ink, dyes, and yeasts; and manufacturing of pearls and jade articles.


The three volumes include 130 production techniques, detailing types of materials, the quantities to be used, their origins, the structures of tools needed, and the production processes. In concise description, the author sums up most of the world-advanced techniques of that time. Soon after its publication, the work caught the attention of people in other countries and was translated into several languages, but it was later lost in China. In 1920 a Chinese edition was published from a back translation of its Japanese version.


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