Two new publications from Richard Wang

The Ming Prince and Daoism: Institutional Patronage of an Elite
Oxford University Press
ISBN13: 9780199767687 ISBN10: 0199767688 Hardback, 336 pages
Jul 2012

Scholars of Daoism in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) have paid particular attention to the interaction between the court and certain Daoist priests and to the political results of such interaction; the focus has been on either emperors or Daoist masters. Yet in the Ming era a special group of people patronized Daoism and Daoist establishments: these were the members of the imperial clan, who were enfeoffed as princes. In addition to personal belief and self-cultivation, a prince had other reasons to patronize Daoism. As the regional overlords, the Ming princes like other local elites saw financing and organizing temple affairs and rituals, patronizing Daoist priests, or collecting and producing Daoist books as a chance to maintain their influence and show off their power. The prosperity of Daoist institutions, which attracted many worshippers, also demonstrated the princes’ political success. Locally the Ming princes played an important cultural role as well by promoting the development of local religions. This book is the first to explore the interaction between Ming princes as religious patrons and local Daoism. Barred by imperial law from any serious political or military engagement, the Ming princes were ex officio managers of state rituals at the local level, with Daoist priests as key performers, and for this reason they became very closely involved in Daoist clerical and liturgical life. By illuminating the role the Ming princes played in local religion, Richard Wang demonstrates in The Ming Prince and Daoism that the princedom served to mediate between official religious policy and the commoners’ interests.

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Ming Erotic Novellas: Genre, Consumption, and Religiosity in Cultural Practice
Chinese University Press
ISBN: 978-962-996-458-0 Hardback, 336 pages

Richard Wang’s Ming Erotic Novellas is path breaking in its attention to a virtually ignored body of literature that certainly influenced the writing of the Jin Ping Mei, the Sanyan vernacular stories, and most likely Li Yu’s fiction. Compared to other titles in the field, this is the first scholarly monograph in any language to contextualize the erotic novellas of late imperial China. Moreover, existing studies in this area have tended to concentrate on a limited number of works of Chinese erotic fiction, or have only brushed up against these works tangentially during more general discussion of Ming and Qing literature. Ming Erotic Novellas adopts a provocative approach to fiction, moving beyond the traditional textual analyses of gender politics and the qing cult, and examining these erotic novellas as a new genre within the contexts of print culture, readership, consumption patterns, as well as religious dimensions.

Ming Erotic Novellas focuses on a group of mid to late Ming literary (wenyan) novellas, which are all stories of erotic romance. These novellas include a profusion of poems mixed with prose narratives that are characterized by “simple” literary Chinese, with a tendency toward the vernacular. Their plots are complex, with some running 20,000 characters or more, allowing for nuanced character development, rich dialogue, and psychological description.

Circulated widely during the Ming, the novellas had a significant impact on later erotic and “scholar-beauty” (caizi jiaren) novels. This particular group of novellas was of great importance in the development of Chinese fiction, functioning as a transitional link between the classical tale to the vernacular novel. By approaching these works through the lens of a cultural study, Wang is able to explore the social functions of the novellas as well as their significance in the development of Chinese fiction in the Ming cultural context.

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