China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The late Ming witnessed a flourishing of the printing press and resulted in the production and dissemination of unprecedented numbers of essays and books belonging to a wide variety of genres. Among those, modern scholars have focused their research on novels, civil examination primers, and other writings closely connected to a burgeoning civilian appetite belles-lettres. Mostly absent from the history of the late Ming book and printing press is a consideration of the production and circulation of military knowledge. During the late Ming a peak in the writing and dissemination of military manuals can be discerned, which in sheer numbers overshadowed previous dynasties and even slightly outstripped the production of manuals during the succeeding Qing dynasty. These military writings could take the shape of large encyclopaedias, biographies of famous generals, practical manuals for field use, and commentaries on ancient military strategists. The social context in which this voluminous corpus took has, however, received scant attention. Especially in light of the oft-posited steep divide between civil and military society and culture, the question needs to be asked which social groups constituted the literary field in which this knowledge was produced, circulated, and consumed. Furthermore, how did these writings connect to concrete military praxis and experience? This panel aims to tackle these daunting questions and endeavours to make a connection between changes in civil literary tastes, cultural orientations, and the history of the late Ming military book.