Brush, Seal and Abacus

Troubled Vitality in Late Ming China's Economic Heartland, 1500–1644

Jie Zhao

The Chinese University Press

Brush, Seal and Abacus

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Pub Date: February 2017

ISBN: 9789629967765

230 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $52.00

Brush, Seal and Abacus

Troubled Vitality in Late Ming China's Economic Heartland, 1500–1644

Jie Zhao

The Chinese University Press

This book is a study of the social and cultural change in Ming China's lower Yangzi delta region from about 1500 to 1644. It takes three social groups—literati, scholar-officials, and merchants—as the framework for discussing the political, socio-economic, and cultural forces that coalesced and reinforced one another to influence and facilitate the region's change. A still wider perspective reveals how the region's political ties with the state and commercial links with external markets impacted the region for better and for worse. The book also discusses the literati's reflection and discourse, which their participation in the change generated, on the issues of morality, money, politics, and disorder. The book evokes the richly textured social and cultural life of Ming China's heartland in an age of commercial and cultural vigor, which then descended into distress and despair. For scholars and for others conversant with Chinese history, and Ming history in particular, the extensive use of literati sources and the references to contemporary scholarship will be of interest.
This book is an outstanding descriptive profile of late Ming society in a key region of southeast China that was noted for its wealth and cultural sophistication. It is based upon a very wide reading both of the plentiful Ming sources, many of them rare, and of modern scholarship. Especially compelling are the living descriptions of the extreme inequalities in the distribution of wealth, of the immense power achieved by some bondsmen in the service of rich families and lineages, and of the ethical and intellectual contamination of the whole. The book should appeal to a wide readership of students, specialists, and general readers. John W. Dardess, professor emeritus, The University of Kansas
This work draws on many diverse Chinese primary sources and some secondary scholarship in Chinese and English to describe the lives and perspectives of key members of the elite in Ming China in the 16th and 17th centuries. It concludes that they acted in a wide variety of ways in efforts to cope with their highly mobile and ever changing society. It will contribute to important discussions about the structures of Chinese and world history. Roger Des Forges, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

About the Author

Jie Zhao is associate professor of history at the University of Southern Maine. She has published articles on Ming thought and society in T'oung Pao and Ming Studies.