This new history of urban life is both empirically rich and theoretically stimulating. It highlights the growth of pleasure consumption and the changing city space to shed light on urban culture in late imperial Jiangnan. The author, Wu Renshu, is a leading historian at the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica.

The book consists of three parts, each with two chapters. Part one focuses on pleasure activities and shopping space in Jiangnan cities. Recorded in many Ming-Qing miscellaneous jottings are a number of important facilities for leisure activities, including temples, theaters, brothels, pleasure boats, wine shops, teahouses, public baths, and cricket and quail-fighting courts. Most of these were not new, but they enjoyed further growth and spread from urban centers to market towns. This urban space was stratified in response to the needs of different urban customers. In Ming times, shopping centers emerged in many big cities.

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