In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century China, Buddhists and Confucians alike flooded local Buddhist monasteries with donations. As gentry numbers grew faster than the imperial bureaucracy, traditional Confucian careers were closed to many; but visible philanthropy could publicize elite status outside the state realm. Actively sought by fundraising abbots, such patronage affected institutional Buddhism.
After exploring the relation of Buddhism to Ming Neo-Confucianism, the growth of tourism to Buddhist sites, and the mechanisms and motives for charitable donations, Timothy Brook studies three widely separated and economically dissimilar counties. He draws on rich data in monastic gazetteers to examine the patterns and social consequences of patronage.
The author concludes that the phenomenon of gentry patronage is an important example of what he terms the separation of state and society in the late Ming. It is a careful, extremely well documented and well argued work and makes an important contribution to the field of gentry studies and China’s social and religious history.
Timothy Brook has written a splendid book which deals with two dimensions of Ming history that are still quite insufficiently studied in the West, namely, the social history of ‘Buddhism’ in the late imperial period (specifically the late Ming), and the study of social elites (the gentry). He makes important contributions to both fields, showing the vitality of Buddhist monastic institutions and the appeal of Buddhist religious culture among the highest levels of the local elite… The book presents a clearly structured argument, which is an enjoyment to read… Timothy Brook’s important contribution to the social history of the late Ming period and of Buddhist life in particular can be read in several ways. It can serve as an excellent introduction to the social and religious history of the late Ming period for students at all levels, but also presents the established historian with a sound piece of investigative research. I, for one, look forward to taking up the arguments formulated here as a starting point for my own future research.
- 412 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Asia Center
From this author
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