By Jonathan D. Spence

ISBN-10: 014005121X

ISBN-13: 9780140051216

“Spence exhibits himself instantaneously historian, detective, and artist. . . . He makes background howl.” (The New Republic)
 
Award-winning writer Jonathan D. Spence paints a brilliant photo of an imprecise position and time: provincial China within the 17th century. lifestyles within the northeastern county of T’an-ch’eng emerges the following as an unending cycle of floods, plagues, crop disasters, banditry, and heavy taxation. by contrast turbulent historical past a tenacious tax collector, an irascible farmer, and an unsatisfied spouse act out a poignant drama at whose climax the spouse, having run clear of her husband, returns to him, in simple terms to die at his fingers. Magnificently evoking the China of some time past, The demise of lady Wang additionally deepens our realizing of the China we all know this present day.

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The fields lay fallow through September, and in early October the winter wheat was sown; if the young shoots were visible by the end of October, the chances for next year's crop were good. Like every other county in seventeenth-century China, T'an-ch'eng had a fixed revenue quota that it had to pay every year to Peking. The bulk of the revenues needed for paying local expenses in the county, and for meeting the quota demands of the central government, was provided in the form of two taxes—one was a tax on the land, the other a tax on certain individual adult males (paid usually with cash, but occasionally with labor service).

Furthermore, though there had not customarily been a demand on T'an-ch'eng workers for service on the Yellow River and Grand Canal, because of the poverty of the county and its distance from the main waterways, this policy had been reversed in the early 1650s, again in 1666, and yet again in 1670 for the vast dredging and diking project on Lake E-ma to the south. Huang Liu-hung wrote of the people of T'anch'eng being sent nearly one hundred miles, without proper 42 O The Death of Woman Wang food or shelter, to work on this million-tael project.

Hsiao-erh dressed and climbed down from the bed, called her servants to her, and had them tie the thieves' arms behind their backs, one by one, while she made them confess to their plot; she reproached them, saying, "We came from far away to hide ourselves among your hills, trusting that we would get help from you; how could you have acted with so little humanity? All of us have periods of ease and periods of crisis; those who are in bad trouble had only to tell us; we are not the kind of people to hoard everything up for ourselves.

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Death of Woman Wang, The by Jonathan D. Spence


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