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2012 Minutes

Ming Studies Evening Meeting, 7:00pm, March 16, 20 12

AAS Conference, Toronto Ontario

The meeting was called to order by President Lucille Chia.

Part I: Society Business

  1. Tamara Bentley and Harry Miller were nominated and elected to the Board of Ming Studies, replacing Michael Szonyi and Sarah Schneewind, who are stepping down at the conclusion of their term.  Ming Studies currently does not have a graduate representative and the board is looking for nominations.
  2. Lucille reported that the finances of the Society are in good order.  She was reporting on behalf of the treasurer for Ming Studies, Ted Farmer, who is currently off teaching for the Semester-at-Sea program.
  3. Editor Ken Hammond reported that the publication of the Journal of Ming Studies is going smoothly with Maney Press (http://maney.co.uk/index.php/journals/mng/ ).  There were earlier troubles with the individual subscription process, but these problems have been resolved and there is now a functioning link on the website.  Ken also noted that past articles are now available FREE for download to all subscribers.Recent statistics on the journal are as follows:tr> 2012182 (so far)
    Subscriptions: 2010 200
    2011 213
    Online usage (website visits): 2010 8,669
    2011 23,770
    2012 24,206 (so far)
  4. Web-master Bruce Rusk reported that the Ming Studies website has migrated from Colby College to Cornell, but will soon be migrating again (with Bruce) to the University of British Columbia.  The website is up to date, and Bruce asked that Ming Studies members assist by updating their own links for the website.Bruce also noted that problems with the Minglist site have been noted and that the Minglist will soon be migrating to a new format and location.  Announcements will be sent out when this is ready.
  5. It was decided that the next round-table or panel discussion will be in honor of Ted Farmer’s work and the board is soliciting ideas for topics and participants for the event.  One of the aims of the discussions is, as always, to emphasize new directions in the field by new faces in the Society.
  6. Sarah made an announcement about the Ming History English Translation Project.The Ming History English Translation Project is up for you and your students to use, and please send me any translations from Mingshi, or any other Ming-related translations or resources that you would like posted on the site for public use.  We have: The Basic Annals of Ming Taizu, the military treatise; biographies of Li Shimian, Hai Rui, Li Sancai, Zhao Nanxing, Mu Ying, Wang Zhicai, Fang Keqin, He Jingming, Liu Jin, Zheng He, Gu Bingqian and Wei Guangwei, treatments of Annam, Japan, Champa, and the Western Regions.  We also have a collection of references to institutions in the Ming Shilu, and Lynn Struve’s AAS monograph on the Ming-Qing conflict.   My thanks to those who have already contributed, and I hope that as many of you work with Mingshi, or do other translations that you might not publish in full or that you would like scholars and students to have access to, you will think of the Project.
  7. Martin Heijdra passed out a flyer to remind society members of the opportunities available through the James P. Geiss Foundation, which encourages innovative perspectives in and interpretations of Ming history.  The foundation helps sponsor conferences and offers subvention awards to help publish qualified books about Ming studies.  For more information, see www.geissfoundation.org.

Part II: Panel Discussion

The panel discussion was a continuation and development of Panel 27 entitled “So How Bad was it? Comparative Decadence of the Jiajing and Wanli Eras.” The participants were:

Katharine Burnett (University of California Davis):

In “Decadence Disrupted: Arguing Against Decadence in Late Ming Art History,” Katharine questioned the interpretive strategy active in late Ming art history that reads the idiosyncratic painting compositions as representations of and responses to the political decadence of the Wanli bureaucracy. She asked why art produced during the similarly decadent Jiajing era was not interpreted with the same strategy?  She inquired why it mattered if something is charged with decadence or not? In light of new research available, she argued that calling late Ming art decadent misses the point of what the artists were trying to communicate. And, she concluded, if one misunderstands the art, one is likely to misrepresent the culture.

Peter Ditmanson (University of Oxford)

Peter discussed the uses of the early Ming as a late Ming foil for the discourse on decadence.  He also argued that the person of the emperor was a central focal point for late Ming perceptions of decadence.  And he discussed the Wanli era ahistorical perceptions of their own era.

Ken Hammond (New Mexico State University)

Ken considered the realities and perceptions of decadence in the Wanli period and discussed the elements of Wang Shizhen’s views that led him to diagnose his era as one of crisis.

Harry Miller (University of Southern Alabama)

Harry focused on the wealth of the later Ming dynasty and how it would have been viewed as a provocation by the Wanli emperor, Zhang Juzheng, and others, who took a zero-sum view of economics and reasoned that the wealth of society came somehow at the expense of the state. One of Zhang’s memorials referred to the limited amount of wealth and implied that the country had too much and the government too little of it. Miller traced this zero-sum conception to Legalists such as Shang Yang and Song Hongyang (the ‘Lord Grand Secretary’ in the Salt and Iron Debates). Elements of free trade philosophy could be present in Mencius, but more research is needed to shed light on the question of whether wealth was viewed as a fixed quantity or as something that could be created, in the late Ming.

Richard Wang (University of Florida)

“From the Ming Prince to the ‘Later Seven Masters’: The Change of the Literary Patronage Pattern in the Late Ming”

Richard discussed the change of the literary patronage pattern from the Ming princes to the ‘Later Seven Masters’ between the Jiajing and Wanli eras. For most of the time in the Ming, due to the fanjin system, the Ming princes were able to patronize disenfranchised lower-status literati, or shanren, who failed in the official examinations, and the princes’ subordinate officials/functionaries serving at their princely courts who in turn were the disfavored members of the imperial bureaucracy. But the patronage pattern change that took place in Jiajing-Wanli eras switched the patron-client relationship, with the princes as disciples and the ‘Later Seven Masters’ as their masters. This change, from the princes’ point of view, would certainly have lowered their social status and cultural merits, thus constituting decadence.

Zhao Yifeng (Northeast Normal University)

To understand the political culture of the Ming dynasty, a meaningful perspective is looking into the relationship of the scholar-officials with the emperors. The scholar-officials of this time commonly involved arguments with the emperors, reflecting different values of politics. In this respect, the Grand Ritual Controversy constitutes a turning point in the Ming political culture. After this event, the frustrated scholar-officials lost their leading force because the Grand Secretariat gradually changed its role in the court politics. The Ming dynasty therefore started its decline. This political picture is somehow connected with the economic situation but there is not a direct causality between then economy and the political chaos.

The Friday meeting was adjourned for drinks.

Submitted by Peter Ditmanson, Secretary of Ming Studies.

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