Commerce in Culture: The Sibao Book Trade in the Qing and Republican Periods

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Harvard University Asia Center, 2007 - Business & Economics - 673 pages

Sibao today is a cluster of impoverished villages in the mountains of western Fujian. Yet from the late seventeenth through the early twentieth century, it was home to a flourishing publishing industry. Through itinerant booksellers and branch bookshops managed by Sibao natives, this industry supplied much of south China with cheap educational texts, household guides, medical handbooks, and fortune-telling manuals.

It is precisely the ordinariness of Sibao imprints that make them valuable for the study of commercial publishing, the text-production process, and the geographical and social expansion of book culture in Chinese society. In a study with important implications for cultural and economic history, Cynthia Brokaw describes rural, lower-level publishing and bookselling operations at the end of the imperial period. Commerce in Culture traces how the poverty and isolation of Sibao necessitated a bare-bones approach to publishing and bookselling and how the Hakka identity of the Sibao publishers shaped the configuration of their distribution networks and even the nature of their publications.

Sibao's industry reveals two major trends in print culture: the geographical extension of commercial woodblock publishing to hinterlands previously untouched by commercial book culture and the related social penetration of texts to lower-status levels of the population.

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Contents

The Sibao Book Trade and Qing Society I
1
The Expansion of Commercial Publishing in the Qing
8
Sources for the Study of Sibao PublishingBookselling
20

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About the author (2007)

?Cynthia J. Brokaw is Professor of History at Ohio State University.

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