1587, a Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline
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1587, a Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  167 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Cover has a little wear but book is in good condition. Will send USPS first class with delivery confirmation tracking number.
Paperback, 280 pages
Published September 10th 1982 by Yale University Press (first published July 1st 1981)
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Sandy Tjan
In 1987, I went to China and visited, among other places, the tomb of the Wanli Emperor near Beijing. It was the only royal tomb open to the public in the Ming Tombs complex at that time. Our Chinese guide led us down a ramp into a subterranean, vaulted chamber clad in white marble. Inside there were thrones carved with dragons and phoenixes, also of the same white marble, and huge blue-and-white porcelain urns. The chamber led into other chambers, just as massive and cold. One contained numerou...more
I have to preface this book by saying it's not a joke. That's the real title and it's a real look at the social history of China's Ming Dynasty.

I read this in college and it still sticks with me. It's like reading the diary of someone who is not important but is very detail oriented. If you get past some of the tedious aspects of this book, you can capture very interesting tidbits of the daily life of the Chinese 422 years ago.
"Part of Wan-li's failure was that he was too intelligent and sensitive to occupy the dragon seat. The more he gained an insight into its apparatus the more skeptical he became. He began to realize that he was less the Ruler of All Men than a prisoner of the Forbidden City." Pg. 93

This sums up the tragedy of this book. Huang offers profiles of not only the Wan-li emperor, but several office-holders as well. In each case, he assesses their failures, not necessarily as causes of the fall of the Mi...more
Harry Barnett
Peter Hessler recommended 1587, A Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline at the end of his book River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. I enjoyed River Town so much I thought 1587 would also be interesting.
The structure of the book 1587 is good enough. Ray Huang selects one year during the Ming Dynasty and tells us its history by describing the lives of several significant players at the time: the young emperor, a general, a bureaucrat, a philosopher etc. The problem is Ray Huang is...more
One of the most insightful pieces on Ming Dynasty.
Ethan Fulwood
This was a very informative examination of some of the key figures and social trends in the late Ming Dynasty. My one complaint has to be with its thesis that the trends described were the inevitable consequence of Ming social history and that they were by 1587 irreversible. I find myself skeptical of claims of inevitability in history, because they are too easy. What if Shih Shih-hsing had have moved decisively against Nurhaci? What if Wan-li had been more adept at manipulating the bureaucracy...more
Apr 24, 2014 21kr added it
The book I read is in Chinese.
Wenli Liu
Fascinatingly comprehensive of the year from different point of views, philosophy, military etc..
There's some interesting information here, and the overall theme of the power of the Chinese bureaucracy is well explored. But I found the organization at times confusing, and the writing style often turgid. I read this after seeing it recommended by Peter Hessler in the afterward to Rivertown. I've discovered a number of good books thanks to Hessler, but I was not captivated by this one.
I started respecting Ray Huang after this book. It is a great one, not long and focused on a seemingly 'unimportant' year in Chinese history. Though it reflected everything, culture, hierarchy of Chinese society, custom, et cetera. The book has a unique angle and is well delivered. One of the best ones to understand Chinese history.
Rui Ma
As someone said"There Is Special Providence in the Fall of a Sparrow." The fall of ming dynasty is much significant than sparrow. In the year of 1587, there were a lot of small things, which led to the inevitable fall. This book detailed these small clues and did a great job explaining how a mighty dynasty break apart.
I feel like I have been reading this book for a month. Had to force feed myself a chapter at a time. To dry for me. It could be great for a person really into China history but that is not me. Reading the dictionary is far more fun but I guess the book was not written to be for fun.
huang draws on court histories & contemporary chinese scholarship to vividly portray notable personalities in the reign of the Wanli emperor, noting the position each occupies both in their own era and in the wider history of the chinese bureaucracy.
This book gets extra points for its marvelous title. This really is about 1587, a year during the Ming Dynasty. It is thorough and sometimes tedious but of interest to Chinese history scholar.
Hui Sun
I find it hard to believe Ming was doomed since 1587. But the book still provides beautiful silhouettes of that age of prosperity, and the tragedy and inevitability of human destiny.
Read for a history of ancient China class early in college. I remember enjoying learning about historiography, how looking at the years of no significance, could make for good history.
Bcoghill Coghill
China in the year of the pig, 1587.
It was a very foreign place with a complex and oddly gracious government.
what a tragedy of rule a great emperor with the Confucian school!
Sep 29, 2007 Gk rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
Amazing look at China's bureaucratic system.
Apr 03, 2010 Yofish marked it as to-read
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