Timothy Brook


"This is joyful and comprehensive scholarship, full of motion and detail. Timothy Brook encases the fascinating and changeable world of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) in a clear conceptual and chronological framework which any non-specialist can follow. Here are a wealth of Ming people and their problems, along with the very stuff of their world: bricks and bridges; markets, monasteries, and mail; famines and fashion; printing, passion, and portents. This is the first book we have in English that shows the whole shape of Ming life in all its ebullient complexity."
Jonathan Spence

University of California Press US/98



A History Of Ming China 1368-1644

The Ming era comes vividly to life in Timothy Brook's masterful cultural history. His chronicle moves effortlessly from the precisely detailed brush strokes of anecdote to the panorama of Ming civilization.

As one of our guides, Brook selects Zhang Tao, a county magistrate, author and historian who lived and wrote during the sunset years of Ming rule.

Zhang Tao yearned for what he believed to be a simpler time when China was an ordered, self-sufficient, rural society. He lamented the slide in later years toward the decadence of urban commerce.

"The urge for pleasure confused people's sense of what was right," he wrote. Zhang Tao's struggle with the conundrum of how to blend desire for commercial profit with a search for moral good has been a recurring theme of China's history.

Brook uses Zhang's perceptions and argues with him to reconstruct a complete history of the Dynasty. In additon, the dialogue offers shadings, texture, and a view that takes the outsider to the inside with remarkable ease.