Book Consumption and Commercialization in Late Ming China

The Bibliophile Qi Chenghan: Book Consumption and Commercialization in Late Ming China

Cathleen Paethe

This project dealt with one of the largest private libraries Dansheng tang of Qi Chenghan (1565–1628) in Shanyin of the Late Ming period (ca. 1550–1644). Private bibliophiles had become a common phenomenon in the Late Ming era's commercialized world and its significant expansion in the supply of books, both in terms of quantity and quality. Representative collections were built up, with some of them projecting general knowledge ideals and others counting on individuality.

Exemplifying by way of one book collector, this project delineated the changes of a library's contents and organization within a period of great political, cultural, and intellectual transformation. The bibliophile was examined in their role as the consumer and producer of books as well as on their function for the transmission and circulation of knowledge in China's late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. Keywords are networks of knowledge and the purpose of knowledge for identity construction and social status. The representation of the library in the catalog, its public face, gives view to the social function of knowledge assignments. The fact that Qi Chenghan enlarged the collection of his grandfather and father invites an examination of the issue of identity in its generational dimension and as regards the continuation or rupture of traditions.

Within this, intellectual and material networks were necessary to built up and maintain the library. In addition to the explicit, established, or legitimated network patterns that are already widely known, this study intended to uncover implicit intellectual and political networks and analyze their forms and functions.