Since the rise in the 1990s of the academic trend calling for the “return of the state,” scholars have been paying more attention to the functioning of the state and the role it played in shaping the literati's social and cultural lives. State Power in China, 900–1325 represents another attempt in this context. The essays in this volume together provide a new perspective on examining the Chinese state and state power. As editors Patricia Buckley Ebrey and Paul Jakov Smith propose in the introduction, the state should be examined as one “cohabited by diverse and internally fractious elites” (p. 5).1 Tensions and even rivalries between and within the political classes, from the monarchs to the literati class, shaped Song political culture. Equally important in understanding state power is how it was received and reacted to by the subjects of the state, who, albeit less powerful, defined the limits of...

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