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Luxurious NetworksSalt Merchants, Status, and Statecraft in Eighteenth-Century China$
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Yulian Wu

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780804798112

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804798112.001.0001

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Merchant Culture in the Material World of Eighteenth-Century China

Merchant Culture in the Material World of Eighteenth-Century China

(p.1) Introduction Merchant Culture in the Material World of Eighteenth-Century China
Luxurious Networks

Yulian Wu

Stanford University Press

The introduction presents the Huizhou salt merchants, with emphasis on the unprecedented economic and political privileges they enjoyed in High Qing China. The author challenges the conventional analysis focused on merchant-literati status negotiations, arguing that this framework is based upon written texts produced by the literati themselves, and is hence not reflective of the merchants’ own concerns. By reviewing the extant literary descriptions of Huizhou salt merchants, the author proposes to explore their own voices and opinions by analyzing their interactions with material objects. This indicates the emergence of a novel and vital network between the Qianlong emperor, the imperial household department, court officials, and Huizhou salt merchants, constructed between the capital Beijing, the urban centers of Jiangnan, and the remote countryside of Huizhou. A focus on these salt merchants sheds new light on Manchu emperors’ political strategies and reveals merchants’ role in luxury consumption in High Qing China.

Keywords:   Huizhou, salt merchants, Qianlong emperor, Qing court, material culture, status negotiation, Manchu, luxury consumption, Lower Yangzi valley (Jiangnan)

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