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‘The Wuding Editions’: Printing, Power, and Vernacular Fiction in the Ming Dynasty

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The vernacular fiction ‘novel’ is a genre typically associated with the explosion of commercial printing activity that occurred in the late sixteenth century. However, by that time, representative works such as the Shuihu zhuan and Sanguo yanyi had already been in print for several decades. Moreover, those early print editions were printed not by commercial entities but rather the elite of the Jiajing court. In order to better understand the genre as a print phenomenon, this paper explores the publishing output of one of those elites: Guo Xun (1475-1542), Marquis of Wuding. In addition to vernacular fiction, Guo printed a number of other types of books as well. This paper examines the entirety of his publishing activities in order to better contextualize the vernacular novel at this early stage in its life in print.

Affiliations: 1: University of Arizona


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