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Reading the Guides, Directories, Manuals, and Anthologies of Liulichang

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During the Qing dynasty, Liulichang became a prominent bookselling and publishing district in the imperial capital. Yet, most historical and scholarly writing on Liulichang has addressed only the antiquarian and rare book trade, and has neglected the prominence of commercial publishing of informational texts in Beijing. Commercial bookseller-printers formed a significant presence in Liulichang, and their research, publishing, and marketing practices were attuned to the changing dynamics of life in the capital. For clerks, merchants, and aspirant officials, Liulichang publishers offered books such as guidebooks, official directories, examination results, forensic handbooks, and administrative anthologies. Based on an examination of hundreds of books published in Liulichang and focusing on official directories ( jinshen lu) and guidebooks, this paper demonstrates how publishers managed connections with the state, cultivated sources, recycled texts, and crafted printing practices. It argues that publishing practices in Liulichang became more standardized during the dynasty, both in reaction to the state’s loosening of controls on publishing and to the growth in the market for informational texts.

Affiliations: 1: University of Kentucky


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