Books for All: The Rise of Genealogies in China, 1500-1644


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation Travel Grants to China




With no technological changes, how did the number of books increase in late-Ming China at a rate close to that in Europe, a place having experienced the printing revolution? Taking genealogies as an example, my dissertation argues that instead of innovating printing technology, book producers in late-Ming China worked to make books into meaningful objects for broader audiences—including peasants, laborers, and bond-servants—and therefore boosted the book industry. Using methods from history, art history, and the digital humanities to tap the over 400 extant late-Ming genealogies, this project shows a distinctive trajectory of how books made their way into commoners’ homes in China, puts commoners’ needs at the center of the process, and brings commoners into book history.