During the Ming-Qing transition (roughly from the 1570s to the 1680s), literati-officials in China employed public forms of writing, art, and social spectacle to present positive moral images of themselves and negative images of their rivals. The rise of print culture, the dynastic change, and the proliferating approaches to Confucian moral cultivation together gave shape to this new political culture. Confucian Image Politics considers the moral images of officials-as fathers, sons, husbands, and friends-circulated in a variety of media inside and outside the court. It shows how power negotiations took place through participants' invocations of Confucian ethical ideals in political attacks, self-expression, self-defense, discussion of politically sensitive issues, and literati community rebuilding after the dynastic change. This first book-length study of early modern Chinese politics from the perspective of critical men's history shows how images-the Donglin official, the Fushe scholar, the turncoat figure-were created, circulated, and contested to serve political purposes.
Ying Zhang is associate professor of premodern Chinese history at Ohio State University.
"The research behind this book is absolutely first rate. . . . Most often this story [of dynastic transition] is told from the point of view of the government, . . . [but here] we come to see late Ming and early Qing literati through their own eyes, and in their own words and metaphors."
-R. Kent Guy, author of Qing Governors and Their Provinces: The Evolution of Territorial Administration in China, 1644-1796
"A vast and erudite work. It encompasses a century in time and a cast of some hundreds of different scholar-officials. . . . The author makes a significant contribution to the study of Chinese history."
-John Dardess, author of Ming China: A Concise History of a Resilient Empire
"Confucian Image Politics takes on one of the most complicated and controversial political conflicts in Chinese history: the factional struggles that rent the early modern imperial court. Zhang provides a finely nuanced and thoroughly researched analysis of the 'image politics'-a politics of Confucian moralism-that propelled the conflicts, providing both a persuasive revisionist history of a crucial moment in seventeenth-century history and a useful tool for the understanding of political conflict in China today."
-Cynthia Brokaw, author of Commerce in Culture: The Sibao Book Trade in the Qing and Republican Periods