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56o China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997 Richard von Glahn. Fountain ofFortune: Money and Monetary Policy in China, 1000-iyoo. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University ofCalifornia Press, 1996. xii, 338 pp. Hardcover $55.00, isbn 0-520-20408-5. This is a richly impressive book. It deals witii long-neglected but important issues, and advances new perspectives on many aspects of the social, economic, and political history oflate imperial China. Money and monetary policy are notoriously complex and confusing, which is perhaps why they have received less attention than they deserve. It is now over forty years since the publication ofPeng Xinwei's study of Chinese monetary history. In the period since then, analysis of the emergence of a market economy has become one of the central features in the evolving historiography oflate imperial China. The increasing monetization of the economy is seen as being an integral factor in this process, as is the stimulus provided by the flood of foreign silver that poured into China from the mid-sixteenth century onwards. But the actual monetary history of the period has remained largely unexplored . We are familiar with the fact that people used coin in their everyday transactions, but beyond that we know little about die real role that this money played in the expansion of the market economy. Similarly, while we are aware that silver was used increasingly in the wholesale sector of the economy and in the payment of taxes, the real economic impact of diis foreign silver on China's domestic economy remains subject to much conjecture. Richard von Glahn's concern in this book is to provide a detailed consideration of these important issues. The book is organized around an investigation of the transition from the coin economy of early imperial China to the silver economy of late imperial China, a transition that von Glahn sees as marking a crucial watershed in Chinese history. It was of considerable political and economic importance, but also had social and cultural implications. Von Glahn argues that this transition began well before the influx of foreign silver in die sixteenth century: it had its origins, he suggests, in the Song and was essentially complete by die early Qing (hence the time period covered in the study, 1000-1700). Throughout his investigation of tiiis transition, von Glahn shows once again the value of a close familiarity with Japanese scholarship. He engages with many of the historiographical issues that are central to Western studies oflate imperial history (for instance, he questions the validity of using the term "early modern" to describe the period, and tiie notion that China experienced a "crisis" in the seventeenth century similar to that of© 1997 by University Europe), but it was Japanese scholarship that provided him with the greatest ofHawai ? Pressstimulus. In particular, von Glahn acknowledges his debt to the work done on the transition from a coin economy to a silver economy by a number ofJapanese Reviews 561 scholars associated with the Chügokushi Kenkyükai in Kyoto. These scholars emphasize the role played by the state in the monetization ofthe economy, through such things as tax remittances, monopolies, and military procurement. In contrast , von Glahn attributes less importance to the role played by the state. He argues that the transition to a silver economy had its origins in private commerce, not from the monetization ofstate payments. This came, he argues, in the transition from the Song to the Ming, as the state lost effective control over the monetary system. One of the many strengths of this book is the way in which von Glahn brings theoretical insight to bear on detailed empirical research. In the first chapter he provides a clear and succinct account of the analytical categories ofmodern monetary theory that he employs throughout the remainder of the book. He also discusses the classical doctrines that governed Chinese monetary theory throughout the imperial period. The dominant textual authority here was the Guanzi, which placed emphasis on the role of the state in managing the supply ofmoney so as to facilitate the exchange ofcommodities and thus secure the livelihood of all. In subsequent chapters, von Glahn details the multitude ofways in which...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 560-564
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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