Peking : Temples and City Life, 1400-1900

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The central character in Susan Naquin's extraordinary new book is the city of Peking during the Ming and Qing periods. Using the city's temples as her point of entry, Naquin carefully excavates Peking's varied public arenas, the city's transformation over five centuries, its human engagements, and its rich cultural imprint. This study shows how modern Beijing's glittering image as China's great and ancient capital came into being and reveals the shifting identities of a much more complex past, one whose rich social and cultural history Naquin splendidly evokes. Temples, by providing a place where diverse groups could gather without the imprimatur of family or state, made possible a surprising assortment of community-building and identity-defining activities. By revealing how religious establishments of all kinds were used for fairs, markets, charity, tourism, politics, and leisured sociability, Naquin shows their decisive impact on Peking and, at the same time, illuminates their little-appreciated role in Chinese cities generally. Lacking most of the conventional sources for urban history, she has relied particularly on a trove of commemorative inscriptions that express ideas about the relationship between human beings and gods, about community service and public responsibility, about remembering and being remembered. The result is a book that will be essential reading in the field of Chinese studies for years to come.

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Product details

  • Hardback | 850 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 53.34mm | 1,111.3g
  • University of California Press
  • Berkerley, United States
  • English
  • 43 figures, 8 maps, 9 tables
  • 0520219910
  • 9780520219915
  • 1,103,944

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"Susan Naquin describes Peking during the Ming (1368-1644) when powerful eunuchs surrounded the emperor and highly educated scholars fell to factional infighting over issues of doctrine involving philosophical schools and theories of government. . . . As a central theme by which to grasp some of the patterns in the mosaic of Peking over the five hundred years covered by her study, Professor Naquin has selected religious temples as her point of reference. She describes something of the hagiography of the gods honoured in these temples (indeed, Part One of the book on the organization of popular religion and temples in pre-modern urban China could in and of itself constitute an excellent and useful book if published as a separate volume) and she outlines the activities of all the major religious groups in Peking, including Buddhists, Taoists, Tibetan Buddhists, the generic gods of popular Chinese religion, Moslems, Christians, and various Christian sects including the Russian Orthodox church." --China Review

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About Susan Naquin

Susan Naquin is Professor of History at Princeton University. Her earlier books include Millenarian Rebellion in China (1976) and Shantung Rebellion (1981); as coauthor, Chinese Society in the Eighteenth Century (1987); and, as coeditor, Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China (California, 1992).

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