Abstract

The rigors of the transition from Ming to Qing imposed harrowing moral choices upon Chinese elites during the 1600s. Some chose to collaborate uneasily with their Manchu conquerors. Others remained loyal to the Ming, even after all hope was lost for a restoration in the South. Yet a third group transferred its support from the fallen dynasty to the rising one, becoming so fiercely attached to the new rulers that its members were willing to endure martyrdom rather than turn against the Manchus during the Rebellion of the Three Feudatories. Although such choices were often situational and not always mutually exclusive, they were associated in contemporaries' eyes with distinct aesthetic tastes, specific philosophical positions, and particular political commitments. This essay attempts to identify those distinctions in the biographical trajectories of several eminent seventeenth-century literati, scholar-officials, and military statesmen.

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