1587, A Year of No Significance

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The Ming Dynasty in Decline

Ray Huang

View Inside Format: Paper
Price: $27.00
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Winner of the American Book Award for History 
 
"If you buy only one work on pre-modern Chinese history this year, make it this one."—W. S. Atwell, History

In 1587, the Year of the Pig, nothing very special happened in China. Yet in the seemingly unspectacular events of this ordinary year, Ray Huang finds exemplified the roots of China's perennial inability to adapt to change.

Through fascinating accounts of the lives of seven prominent officials, he fashions a remarkably vivid portrayal of the court and the ruling class of late imperial China. In revealing the subtle but inexorable forces that brought about the paralysis and final collapse of the Ming dynasty, Huang offers the reader perspective into the problems China has faced through the centuries.

"Huang shows a mastery of the intricate details of the ritualistic and practical sides of Ming court politics, and an ability to make them comprehensible. His story is cleverly constructed and deliberately paradoxical. If 1587 is, in the long run, a ‘year of no significance,’ it is nevertheless full of incident, and each incident carries promise of future drama."—Jonathan Spence, New York Review of Books

"A distinguished scholar has written a remarkable description of political style in the final decades of the Ming dynasty and placed in perspective the mixed motives of its major characters. . . . No other book presents as vividly the atmosphere of traditional Chinese government."—John Meskill, Asia

"Unusual and thoughtful. . . . Takes the poet’s or the novelist’s joy in turning a commonplace detail to the angle at which it reveals its glint of meaning."—David Lattimore, New York Times Book Review

"This is a superb book, one that answers many questions about the Chinese, past and present."—Srully Blotnick, Forbes Magazine

"1587, A Year of No Significance, for all its scholarship, has the surreal visionary quality of Kafka’s beautiful and frustrating story 'The Great Wall of China.'"—John Updike, The New Yorker

"Huang uses 1587 as a convenient focus for his study of late Ming developments through the lives of the Wan-li emperor, two of his grand secretaries, a famous official, a leading general, and one of the dynasty's most celebrated iconoclasts. Not all specialists may agree with Huang's conclusion that by 1587 the limit for the Ming dynasty had already been reached and the year stands as a 'chronicle of failure,' but there will be widespread agreement on the book's impressive achievement in providing vivid biographical and institutional detail within a highly readable text."—Library Journal

"No book of this kind in any language exists for the entire Chinese history field. Its most remarkable quality is the skill with which is conveys the texture of life, imparting to the reader a sense of having been inside the environment of Chinese politics and of seeing the complexities of another world as immediate and intelligible matters."—Frederick W. Mote, Princeton University

"It is top-hole, full of information, and a first-rate argumentation as to how China got the way it did. I know of none better."—L. Carrington Goodrich, Columbia University

"Excellent both as history and as a piece of literature."—Lien-sheng Yang, Harvard University

"A profoundly helpful book in our understanding of the Chinese tradition."—Eric Widmer, Brown University, The History Book Club Review

"Imaginative and resourceful. . . . Informed both by humanistic concern and a broad knowledge of technology and economics."—Edward L. Farmer, University of Minnesota

"Analytical and innovative. . . . It will galvanize our thinking for many years to come."—Hoklam Cham, University of Washington

"[An] impressive achievement in providing vivid biographical and institutional detail within a highly readable text."—Focus on Asian Studies

"Huang succeeds admirably for the general reader in evoking the atmosphere of 16th-Century China and the colour and tension of court life."—Elizabeth R. Hayford, Asia Week

"The author, an eminent authority on the period, has supplied a wealth of most valuable information based on original sources. . . . This is a book of significance."—Choice

"If you buy only one work on pre-modern Chinese history this year, make it this one. . . . The author displays great sensitivity in dealing with the tensions and contradictions in late Ming society, and even when one disagrees with his interpretation of certain facts or events, one cannot help but be impressed by the depth of his knowledge and his enviable ability to bring the characters in his story to life. In places, for example, his description of what it was like to be the Wan-li emperor is nothing short of masterly. . . . Will become required reading for anyone interested in this period of Chinese history."—W. S. Atwell, History

"1587 is immensely rich historical fare that provides great insight into the workings of the late Ming administration. . . . Huang's sensitive and well-informed descriptions of administrative life organized in a bold and readable way make [this] book more significant that the year was. It is essential reading for an understanding of late imperial China."—Tom Fisher, Journal of Oriental Studies

Winner of the American Book Award for History Paperback in 1983
ISBN: 9780300028843
Publication Date: September 10, 1982
280 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4