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Many of these books are available at local bookstores including Books Inc and Keplers, or at your local library.
Short List of Recommended Resources
Compiled by Chuck Sieloff.
A short overview of the Ming period from several different thematic perspectives can be found in John W. Dardess’ Ming China, 1368-1644: A Concise History of a Resilient Empire (2012, 135pp.). The dramatic voyages of Zheng He’s massive armada are the central focus of Louise Levathes’ When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433 (1994, 203pp.) and of Edward L. Dreyer’s biography, Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty, 1405-1433 (2007, 186pp.). There is also a National Geographic documentary, Treasure Fleet: The Adventures of Zheng He (2007, 1hr 33min, available on YouTube), that provides historical context and also retraces the path of the voyages to seek out modern evidence relating to the long-forgotten encounters. For a different and colorful depiction of everyday life among a broad cross-section of Ming society, try an excellent collection of short stories by the prolific late Ming writer, Feng Menglong, The Oil Vendor and the Courtesan: Tales from the Ming Dynasty (2007, 257pp.)
Do you only have time for one read?
Try this one: Dardess, John W. Ming China, 1368-1644: A Concise History of a Resilient Empire. Rowman and Littlefield, 2011.
Reading and Resources
Anon. The Plum in the Golden Vase. Tr. David Roy. 4 volumes. Princeton, 1993-2011.
Antony, Robert J. Like Froth Floating on the Sea:the World of Pirates and Seafarers in Late Imperial South China. 2003.
Brook, Timothy. The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China. UC Press, 1999.
---. Praying for Power: Buddhism and the Formation of Gentry Society in Late-Ming China. Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series. 1994.
---. Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World. Bloomsbury Press, 2007.
---. The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010. Chapter 9, "The South China Sea," is particularly relevant.
Clunas, Craig. Pictures and Visuality in Early Modern China. Reaktion Books, 2006.
Dardess, John W. Blood and History in China: the Donglin Faction and its Repression, 1620-1627. University of Hawaii, 2002.
---. Ming China, 1368-1644: A Concise History of a Resilient Empire. Rowman and Littlefield, 2011.
Dreyer, Edward L. Zheng He:China and the Oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty, 1405-1433. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007.
Feng, Menglong and translators Shuhui Yang and Yunqin Yang, Stories Old and New: A Ming Dynasty Collection. 2000.
---. Stories to Caution the World, 2007.
---. Stories to Awaken the World, 2009.
Gardner, Daniel K. The Four Books. Hackett, 2007.
Hammond, Kenneth J. Pepper Mountain:The Life, Death and Posthumous Career of Yang Jisheng. New York, NY: Routledge, 2007.
Huang, Ray. 1587, A Year of No Significance. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981.
Levathes, L. When China Ruled the Sea:the Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Mungello, David E. The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500-1800. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005.
Robinson, David M. Bandits, Eunuchs, and the Son of Heaven:Rebellion and the Economy of Violence in Mid-Ming China. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2001.
Shang-Jen, Kung. Peach Blossom Fan. Tr. Cyril Birch. 2000.
Schneewind, Sarah. A Tale of Two Melons: Emperor and Subject in Ming China. Hackett, 2006.
Spence, Jonathan. The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. Penguin, 1985.
---. Return to Dragon Mountain: Memories of a Late Ming Man. Penguin, 2007. Available in Kindle Edition.
Struve, Lynn. Voices from the Ming-Qing Cataclysm: China in Tigers’ Jaws. Yale, 1993.
Tang, Xianzu. Peony Pavilion. Tr. Cyril Birch. 2009.
---. Scenes for Mandarins. Tr. Cyril Birch, 1999.
Tsai, Shih-Shan Henry. Perpetual happiness:The Ming Emperor Yongle. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001.
Volpp, Sophie. Worldly Stage: Theatricality in Seventeenth-Century China. Harvard University Asia Center, 2011.