This book challenges the prevailing paradigm of the social and political history of middle imperial China (roughly the tenth through the fourteenth centuries), which sees a shift from an imperial court-centered “professional elite” in the Northern Song (960–1126) to a “local elite” in the Southern Song (1127–1279). Focusing on the relationship between the state and scholarly elites during the Southern Song and Yuan (1279–1367) dynasties in the southeastern coastal region of Mingzhou (the modern city of Ningbo), Lee argues that local governance occurred through negotiation between government officials and elite families whose claims to prestige and authority relied on both economic prosperity and cultural achievement. In contrast to views that posit the weakening of the bureaucratic state as a corollary to the growth of local-elite activism between the Northern and Southern Song periods, Lee emphasizes the overlap between state and local-elite interests, viewing the interactions between them as the defining...

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