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Localizing Learning

Localizing Learning

The Literati Enterprise in Wuzhou, 1100–1600

Peter K. Bol

ISBN 9780674267930

Publication date: 05/31/2022

As the first intellectual history of Song, Yuan, and Ming China written from a local perspective, Localizing Learning shows how literati learning in Wuzhou came to encompass examination studies, Neo-Confucian moral philosophy, historical and Classical scholarship, encyclopedic learnedness, and literary writing, and traces how debates over the relative value of moral cultivation, cultural accomplishment, and political service unfolded locally.

The book is set in one locality, Wuzhou (later Jinhua), a prefecture in China’s Zhejiang province, from the twelfth through the sixteenth century. Its main actors are literati of the Song, Yuan, and Ming, who created a local tradition of learning as a means of cementing their common identity and their claim to moral, political, and cultural leadership. Close readings of philosophical and literary texts with quantitative analysis of social and kinship networks consider why and how the local literati enterprise was built.

By treating learning as the subject, it broadens our perspective, going beyond a history of ideas to investigate the social practices and networks of kinship and collegiality with which literati defined themselves in local, regional, and national contexts.


  • What is learning? How might it be ‘localized’? What would ‘localizing learning’ do to local society? Peter Bol goes a long way towards answering these questions…An important book.

    —David Faure, Journal of Chinese History


  • Peter K. Bol is Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 418 pages
  • 7 x 10 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center

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