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Printing and Book Culture in Late Imperial China

Cynthia J. Brokaw
kai-wing Chow
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 555
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  • Book Info
    Printing and Book Culture in Late Imperial China
    Book Description:

    Despite the importance of books and the written word in Chinese society, the history of the book in China is a topic that has been little explored. This pioneering volume of essays, written by historians, art historians, and literary scholars, introduces the major issues in the social and cultural history of the book in late imperial China. Informed by many insights from the rich literature on the history of the Western book, these essays investigate the relationship between the manuscript and print culture; the emergence of urban and rural publishing centers; the expanding audience for books; the development of niche markets and specialized publishing of fiction, drama, non-Han texts, and genealogies; and more.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92779-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Cynthia Brokaw and Kai-wing Chow
    (pp. xv-xvi)

    • ONE On the History of the Book in China
      (pp. 3-54)
      Cynthia J. Brokaw

      No one would dispute the special importance of books and the written word in China. Few cultures have enjoyed such a long tradition of literary production and scholarship; few peoples have more consistently expressed their sense of the value of learning and the mastery of the written word. By the Song period (960–1279) at the latest, literacy and education, measured by a civil service examination system, were the gateways to social status, wealth, and political authority. In short, possession of—or at least access to—books was essential to respectable success in Chinese society.

      Books were also highly valued...

    • TWO The Ascendance of the Imprint in China
      (pp. 55-104)
      Joseph McDermott

      In 1005 the chancellor of the Directorate of Education (Guozi jian) trumpeted a recent surge in the number of carved woodblocks deposited in his office’s storeholds:

      At the beginning of the [Song] dynasty the [number of] book woodblocks (shuban) was fewer than four thousand. But, now they are over one hundred thousand, with the Classics, the histories, and their proper commentaries all provided for. When I was young and made a career of Confucian learning, I observed that fewer than 1 or 2 percent of school students could be supplied with the Classics and their commentaries. Now woodblock editions (banben)...


    • THREE Of Three Mountains Street: The Commercial Publishers of Ming Nanjing
      (pp. 107-151)
      Lucille Chia

      For several reasons, a study of the commercial publishers of Nanjing during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) is now more feasible than ever. Although so far there is little work specifically on publishing in Nanjing,² the broader subject of books and printing in late imperial China has recently been engaging the serious efforts of scholars in the history, literature, arts, religions, and science and technology of China. Moreover, the growing availability of a variety of bibliographic sources has made the formidable task of compiling adequate lists of imprints for a given publishing center or category of works possible and slightly...

    • FOUR Constructing New Reading Publics in Late Ming China
      (pp. 152-183)
      Anne E. McLaren

      During the mid-sixteenth century, authors and publishers of vernacular texts realized, probably for the first time in the history of Chinese print culture, that their reading public was no longer restricted to the learned classes. Prefaces and commentaries of the era show an emerging awareness, which broadened and strengthened during the seventeenth century, that the potential readership for these texts was a heterogeneous one of officials, literati, collectors among the new class of nouveaux riches, members of the laity, common people, the relatively unlearned, and even the all-inclusive “people of the empire” (tianxia zhi ren) or “people of the four...

    • FIVE Reading the Best-Sellers of the Nineteenth Century: Commercial Publishing in Sibao
      (pp. 184-232)
      Cynthia J. Brokaw

      The case of Sibao, an important regional publishing center active from the late seventeenth through the early twentieth century, illustrates the special nature of the expansion in publishing in Qing China. Isolated in the mountains of western Fujian, with limited access to major centers of publishing such as Beijing or the cities of the Jiangnan area, Sibao township developed a cluster of household printing industries dominated by families from two major lineages, the Zou and the Ma.¹ The Zou and Ma printing houses served not only Minxi but also other hinterland areas in eastern Jiangxi, northern Guangdong, and Guangxi for...


    • SIX Niche Marketing for Late Imperial Fiction
      (pp. 235-266)
      Robert E. Hegel

      Recent studies by scholars in China, Japan, and North America have opened new doors in the study of print culture in late imperial China: they have demonstrated the complexities of publishing by exploring such questions as the specialization of particular booksellers or of regional publishers in specific varieties of books and the trade in books. Many of their findings address the question of marketing by demonstrating that certain types of books were produced for particular groups of book buyers at different levels of society.¹ Essays in this volume by Cynthia Brokaw, Joseph McDermott, Anne E. McLaren, and others provide more...

    • SEVEN Printing as Performance: Literati Playwright-Publishers of the Late Ming
      (pp. 267-303)
      Katherine Carlitz

      In the 1630s or 1640s, someone known to us only as the Master of the Silk-worm Studio (Jianshi zhuren) published a finely illustrated edition of the playXiang dang ran(How it must have happened).¹ The cover page advertised it as a work by the sixteenth-century eccentric Lu Nan, with commentary by the early-seventeenth-century poet Tan Yuanchun (d. 1637). The critics were not convinced. The connoisseur Qi Biaojia (1602–45) dismissed the attribution to Lu Nan, noting that the arias sounded like recent productions; and with regard to Tan Yuanchun, he observed that false claims were becoming all too typical...

    • EIGHT Qing Publishing in Non-Han Languages
      (pp. 304-331)
      Evelyn S. Rawski

      Given the significant role that non-Han peoples have played in the development of Chinese culture and the Chinese state, a history of the book in China must include an account of books written and published in languages other than Chinese. Such an account raises the same issues that are raised for book culture elsewhere. What kinds of materials (in terms of content) were published in non-Chinese languages? Who were the authors and publishers, and in what form did these works circulate? Where was and who constituted the reading public consuming these works? What impact did printing have on the non-Han...

    • NINE “Preserving the Bonds of Kin”: Genealogy Masters and Genealogy Production in the Jiangsu-Zhejiang Area in the Qing and Republican Periods
      (pp. 332-368)
      Xu Xiaoman

      Scholars generally interpret the proliferation of genealogies from the late Ming (1368–1644) on as a sign of the increased importance of lineages in local society in southern China. They acknowledge that lineages served a wide range of functions: they might serve as groups representing gentry interests to the state, as economic units that facilitated gentry investment in commerce, as alliances that strengthened elite networks and extrafamilial ties, and as institutions that helped to organize local society and even provide welfare services for its members and—more important from the state’s point of view—mechanisms for the collection of taxes....


    • TEN Visual Hermeneutics and the Act of Turning the Leaf: A Genealogy of Liu Yuan’s Lingyan ge
      (pp. 371-416)
      Anne Burkus-Chasson

      The printed book appeared in a variety of forms during the course of its in China. These included, among others, the “whirlwind” binding (xuan-feng zhuang), sometimes called the “dragon scales” binding (longlin zhuang), to describe the overlapping sheets of paper within the book; the “fold” binding(zhezhuang), also known as the “folding sutra” binding (jingzhe zhuang) or “Sanskrit” binding (fanjia zhuang), given its common use in the presentation of Buddhist texts; the “butterfly” binding (hudie zhuang), whose derives from the effect of fluttering papers that accompanies the opening of the book; and the “thread” binding (xianzhuang), a technical designation that refers...

    • ELEVEN Didactic Illustrations in Printed Books
      (pp. 417-450)
      Julia K. Murray

      The role of pictures in developing a common and widely distributed “Chinese” culture during the late Ming (1368–1644)–early Qing (1644–1911) period has not been much acknowledged in scholarship on the Chinese book. As Cynthia Brokaw describes in Chapter 1, woodblock-printed books became widely available during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for a number of reasons. Cultural knowledge moved into different social realms when commercial publishers reprinted books that were originally issued by government agencies or private individuals. The woodblock-printed illustrations included in some of them not only gave visible form to ideas contained in the texts but...

    (pp. 451-470)
    (pp. 471-510)
    (pp. 511-512)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 513-540)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 541-542)