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“Splendid . . . One could not imagine a better subject than Zhan Dai for Spence.” (The New Republic)

Celebrated China scholar Jonathan Spence vividly brings to life seventeenth-century China through this biography of Zhang Dai, recognized as one of the finest historians and essayists of the Ming dynasty. Born in 1597, Zhang Dai was forty-seven when the Ming dynasty, after more than two hundred years of rule, was overthrown by the Manchu invasion of 1644. Having lost his fortune and way of life, Zhang Dai fled to the countryside and spent his final forty years recounting the time of creativity and renaissance during Ming rule before the violent upheaval of its collapse. This absorbing tale of Zhang Dai’s life illuminates the transformation of a culture and reveals how China’s history affects its place in the world today.

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