Bibliography on the Cultural History of Books in Later Imperial China

This is a slightly-revised version of a bibliography that I originally compiled upon the request of friends who wanted an introductory reading list on Ming-Qing book history. The list is not meant to be comprehensive, and contains works that I personally consider interesting or important. (It also includes a few works which I have not read.) I have not included the more traditional and technical areas of edition studies (banben xue 版本學) and bibliography (mulu xue 目錄學), although some leads can be found by tracing the footnotes of works in the Overview section. The list is stronger for the Ming and Qing periods, and contains very few works on periods before the Song.

For an introductory overview, I recommend first reading either of the two reviews by Brokaw (2005 and 2007) listed in the Overview section, followed by McDermott’s A Social History of the Chinese Book (2006) and introductory chapters in Chia’s Printing for Profit (2002). For readers of Japanese, Inoue (2002) is also very useful.

Last updated 2013.02.21


  • Inoue Susumu 井上進. Chūgoku shuppan bunkashi: shomotsu sekai to chi no fūkei 中国出版文化史—書物世界と知の風景. Nagoya: Nagoya daigaku shuppankai, 2002.

  • Cynthia J. Brokaw, “On the History of the Book in China,” in Printing and Book Culture in Late Imperial China, ed. Cynthia Joanne Brokaw and Kai-wing Chow, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).

  • Joseph P. McDermott, A Social History of the Chinese Book: Books and Literati Culture in Late Imperial China (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2006).

  • Cynthia J. Brokaw, “Book History in Premodern China: The State of the Discipline I,” Book History 10 (2007): 253–90.

  • Tobie Meyer-Fong, “The Printed World: Books, Publishing Culture, and Society in Late Imperial China,” Journal of Asian Studies 66.3 (2007): 787–817.

  • Tu Feng-en 涂豐恩, “Ming Qing shuji shi de yanjiu huigu” 明清書籍史的研究回顧, Xin shixue 20.10 (2009): 181–215.

Edited Volumes

  • Judith T. Zeitlin et al. eds., Writing and Materiality in China: Essays in Honor of Patrick Hanan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2003).

  • Cynthia J. Brokaw and Kai-wing Chow eds., Printing and Book Culture in Late Imperial China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).

  • Lucille Chia and W. L. Idema eds., Books in Numbers: Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Harvard-Yenching Library: Conference Papers (Cambridge and Hong Kong: Harvard-Yenching Library, 2007).

  • Lucille Chia and Hilde De Weerdt eds., Knowledge and Text Production in an Age of Print: China, 900–1400 (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011).

Commercial Publishing

  • Ōki Yasushi 大木康, “Minmatsu Kōnan ni okeru shuppan bunka no kenkyū” 明末江南における出版文化の研究, Hiroshima daigaku bungaku kiyō 50.1 (1991).

  • Lucille Chia, Printing for Profit: The Commercial Publishers of Jianyang, Fujian (11th–17th Centuries) (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2002).

  • Kai-wing Chow, Publishing, Culture, and Power in Early Modern China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004).

  • Cynthia J. Brokaw, Commerce in Culture: The Sibao Book Trade in the Qing and Republican Periods (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2007).

  • Shen Junping 沈俊平, Juye jinliang: Ming zhongye yihou fangke zhiju yongshu de shengchan yu liutong 舉業津梁:明中葉以後坊刻制舉用書的生產與流通 (Taipei: Taiwan xuesheng shuju, 2009).

Illustrations and Pictorial Publications

  • Robert E. Hegel, Reading Illustrated Fiction in Late Imperial China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988).

  • Sören Edgren, “Chinese Rare Books and Color Printing,” East Asian Library Journal 10.1 (2001): 24–52.

  • Francesca Bray et al. eds., Graphics and Text in the Production of Technical Knowledge in China: The Warp and the Weft (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2007).

  • Li-ling Xiao, The Eternal Present of the Past: Illustration, Theatre, and Reading in the Wanli Period, 1573–1619 (Leiden: Brill, 2007).

  • Alexander Van Zandt Akin, “Printed Maps in Late Ming Publishing Culture: A Trans-Regional Perspective” (PhD diss., Harvard University, 2009).

  • J. P. Park, Art By the Book: Painting Manuals and the Leisure Life in Late Ming China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012).


  • Anne E. McLaren, “Investigating Readerships in Late-Imperial China: A Reflection on Methodologies,” East Asian Library Journal 10.2 (2001): 104–59.

  • Li Yu, “A History of Reading in Late Imperial China, 1000–1800” (PhD diss., Ohio State University, 2003).

  • Lianbin Dai, “Books, Reading, and Knowledge in Ming China” (DPhil diss., University of Oxford, 2012).

Books and the State

  • R. Kent Guy, The Emperor’s Four Treasuries: Scholars and the State in the Late Ch’ien-lung Era (Cambridge: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1987).

  • Timothy Brook, “Building School Libraries in the Mid-Ming,” in The Chinese State in Ming Society (London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005), 98–113.

  • Timothy Brook, “State Censorship and the Book Trade,” in The Chinese State in Ming Society (London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005), 114–130.

  • Hilde De Weerdt, “What Did Su Che See in the North? Publishing Regulations, State Security, and Political Culture in Song China,” T’oung Pao 92 (2006): 466–94.

  • Hilde De Weerdt, “Byways in the Imperial Chinese Information Order: The Dissemination and Commercial Publication of State Documents,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 66.1 (2006): 145–88.

Books and Literati Pursuits

  • Susan Cherniack, “Book Culture and Textual Transmission in Sung China,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 54.1 (1994): 5–125.

  • Joseph Dennis, “Writing, Publishing, and Reading Local Histories in Ming China” (PhD diss., University of Minnesota, 2004).
    See also: Joseph Dennis, “Financial Aspects of Publishing Local Histories in the Ming Dynasty,” East Asian Library Journal 14.1 (2010): 158–244.

  • Hilde De Weerdt, Competition Over Content: Negotiating Standards for the Civil Service Examinations in Imperial China (1127–1279) (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2007).

  • Christopher M. B. Nugent, Manifest in Words, Written on Paper: Producing and Circulating Poetry in Tang Dynasty China (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2010).

  • Suyoung Son, “Writing for Print: Zhang Chao and Literati-Publishing in Seventeenth-Century China” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2010).
    See also: Suyoung Son, “Publishing as a Coterie Enterprise: Zhang Chao and the Making of Printed Texts in Early Qing China,” Late Imperial China 31.1 (2010): 98–136.

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