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Open Access Remonstrating Against Royal Extravagance in Imperial China

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Remonstrating Against Royal Extravagance in Imperial China

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Chapter Summary

The Chinese critique of royal extravagance and pleasure-seeking is relevant in more than one way to the effort to think comparatively about Chinese and European courts in the early modern period. The force of this rhetoric may have moderated the actions of Chinese rulers, who seem to have spent proportionally less on magnificence than European rulers did. Maintaining their traditions as mounted warriors, they took frequent trips to hunt, lead armies, or move among their multiple capitals. The Chinese dynasties of the same era, the Song and Ming dynasties, were different. Song and Ming court officials worked hard to keep their rulers inside the palace grounds and out of view. The critique of royal extravagance shaped how royal activities were discussed and recorded during these dynasties. Historians of Chinese courts need to know when accusations of extravagance can be taken literally and when they should be understood as political gestures.

Keywords: Chinese dynasties; European courts; Ming dynasties; pleasure-seeking; royal extravagance



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