Top positive review
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Amazing portrait of life in the Ming court
on June 10, 2010
I had to read a number of works on late imperial China for a project, and this was by far the most enjoyable, and one of the most illuminating. A group portrait of life in the court of the Wanli emperor, it provides an indelible image of reformers struggling, always in vain, against a tottering, corrupt political bureaucracy that thwarted them at every turn. Huang made me feel like I was peering over the courtiers' shoulders as the imperial system, which had lasted for so many centuries, finally collapsed.
The only reason not to give it five stars is that, in organizing each chapter around a single person, Huang necessarily crossed the same ground a number of times, which made the book seem, here and there, a bit repetitious. But this is a fine piece of work, always interesting and often enthralling. I've never read another book like it.