By the late ming (1573–1644), the values of frugality and spending had often gone to battle. Those who promoted frugality sometimes did so with specific goals in mind—the acquisition of a plot of land, or the stockpiling of resources to ride out a failed harvest—and other times with a social conscience that militated against indulging the self while others suffered from want. Others claimed that spending was acceptable if it did not deplete one's resources or would benefit people in the long run. Yuan Ts'ai, for example, instructed his family: “A degree of luxury in accord with your financial resources is not what I am calling wasteful” (cited in Ebrey 1984:265).

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