The Mongol conquest of north China between 1211 and 1234 inflicted terrible wartime destruction, wiping out more than one-third of the population and dismantling the existing social order. In the Wake of the Mongols recounts the riveting story of how northern Chinese men and women adapted to these trying circumstances and interacted with their alien Mongol conquerors to create a drastically new social order. To construct this story, the book uses a previously unknown source of inscriptions recorded on stone tablets.
Jinping Wang explores a north China where Mongol patrons, Daoist priests, Buddhist monks, and sometimes single women—rather than Confucian gentry—exercised power and shaped events, a portrait that upends the conventional view of imperial Chinese society. Setting the stage by portraying the late Jin and closing by tracing the Mongol period’s legacy during the Ming dynasty, she delineates the changing social dynamics over four centuries in the northern province of Shanxi, still a poorly understood region.
In this new social history, Jinping Wang challenges the tired old clichés of ‘Sinicization,’ guided by a supposedly dominant ‘Confucian literati’ class.
A large body of important work has been produced on the social history and local history of middle-period China over the last thirty years, but virtually all of it has focused only on south China. Now the emergence of inscriptional sources, some newly available and some simply overlooked, has become the basis for a new wave of rich social-historical work on north China that is transforming our understanding of the middle period. Jinping Wang is a leader in this new wave of northern social history, and her book is a landmark in the field.
The whole book, as well as its remarkable quality of translations, are a model of sinological work. It improves our knowledge and understanding of society during the Mongol period and the Yuan dynasty, and from now on any sociological study in this vast field of research will have to refer to it.
This study of Han Chinese turning to a school of popular Daoism through a turbulent period of history is remarkable, especially because of the way Wang Jinping utilized epigraphic materials to demonstrate how this social phenomenon emerged. The resilience of Quanzhen institutions in the face of the challenges of Mongol-favoured Buddhism and then imperial Ming Neo-Confucianism has never before been so well described and explained. It is an admirable work of fine scholarship.
- 368 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Asia Center
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