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Praying for Power

Praying for Power

Buddhism and the Formation of Gentry Society in Late-Ming China

Timothy Brook

ISBN 9780674697751

Publication date: 01/01/1994

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.

    —Michael Dillon, Asian Affairs


  • Timothy Brook is Professor of History and Republic of China Chair at the University of British Columbia.

Book Details

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

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