Skip to main content

Black History Month: Select Books 30% Off

Harvard University Press - home
Martial Spectacles of the Ming Court

Martial Spectacles of the Ming Court

David M. Robinson

ISBN 9780674073371

Publication date: 11/11/2013

Like most empires, the Ming court sponsored grand displays of dynastic strength and military prowess. Covering the first two centuries of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Martial Spectacles of the Ming Court explores how the royal hunt, polo matches, archery contests, equestrian demonstrations, and the imperial menagerie were represented in poetry, prose, and portraiture. This study reveals that martial spectacles were highly charged sites of contestation, where Ming emperors and senior court ministers staked claims about rulership, ruler-minister relations, and the role of the military in the polity. Simultaneously colorful entertainment, prestigious social events, and statements of power, martial spectacles were intended to make manifest the ruler’s personal generosity, keen discernment, and respect for family tradition. They were, however, subject to competing interpretations that were often beyond the emperor’s control or even knowledge. By situating Ming martial spectacles in the wider context of Eurasia, David Robinson brings to light the commensurability of the Ming court with both the Mongols and Manchus but more broadly with other early modern courts such as the Timurids, the Mughals, and the Ottomans.


  • Martial Spectacles of the Ming Court contributes greatly to our knowledge of Ming rulership, the relations of Ming emperors and their ministers, and the place of the Ming in Eurasian patterns of rulership. In examining this neglected but major aspect of Ming governance, David Robinson has gathered an impressive array of sources, including Korean records of the Ming court, and placed them in their proper contexts. This work continues Robinson’s project of breaking down the scholarly Great Wall mentality by incorporating the Ming into Eurasian historiography in a way that facilitates comparisons between the Ming and other early modern empires.

    —Sarah Schneewind, University of California, San Diego


  • David M. Robinson is Robert H. N. Ho Professor in Asian Studies and History at Colgate University.

Book Details

  • 437 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center

From this author