The Confusions of Pleasure Essay

Decent Essays

Timothy Brook’s book, The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China is a detailed account of the three centuries of the Ming Dynasty in China. The book allows an opportunity to view this prominent time period of Chinese history. Confusions of Pleasure not only chronicles the economic development during the Ming dynasty, but also the resulting cultural and social changes that transform the gentry and merchant class. Brook’s insights highlight the divide between the Ming dynasty’s idealized beliefs, and the realities of its economic expansion and its effects. Brook describes this gap through the use of several first hand accounts of individuals with various social statuses. Traditionally, the Confucian model of society was …show more content…

To combat landlordism, he employed various strategies such as heavy taxation on the largest landowners of Jiang-nan (Brook, p. 79). However, these attempts were not enough to undermine the gentry’s landholding power (Brook, p. 79). With his late-Ming perspective, Zhang Tao would later write, “the rich get richer and the poor, poorer” (Brook, p. 79). This reflection would further gain relevance and legitimacy as the Ming dynasty advanced. There was also resistance from the lower classes. Led by Deng Maoqi, in Fujian during 1448-1449. Early Ming representations of merchants include the view, “…people too up trade because they couldn’t service by staying at home and tilling the fields as they were supposed to. Faced with starvation, they took to the roads as peddlers (Brook, p. 71). However, the allure of a mercantilist life instead of the typical agrarian existence would soon fall into favor. Spring details the century between 1450 and 1550. Brook opens the chapter with Zheng Tao’s statement, “Those who went out as merchants became numerous, and ownership of land was no longer esteemed (Brook, p. 86). The soaring trade practice resulted in fluctuating opinions regarding merchants. Despite the commercial success, merchants were responsible for disrupting the Confucian social order. The resulting effects upon gentry culture are soon apparent.

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