Civil-service examination candidates in Ming and Qing China often encountered "small-topic" essay questions, which required them to restrict their analysis to a small fragment of a canonical text rather than a longer, coherent passage. Tang Xianzu's (1550–1616) "The Woman Would Have Excess Cloth" is one such essay. I argue that this essay goes well beyond the original passage of the Mengzi from which the topic was drawn: it proposes that the ability to exchange one's excess production on the market is appropriate motivation for an individual to continue to produce. Beginning from the specific case of the woman whose weaving exceeds the needs of her own household, Tang alludes as well to the written work engaged in by literati, framing the sale of cloth and the exchange of letters and prefaces as ethical means of sustaining the motivation on which social discipline is grounded.


明清時期的科舉考生常遇到立意狹窄的 "小題" 題目,迫使他們翻空出奇。 湯顯祖的 "女有餘布" 即為一例。此文超出了孟子原文的本意,展開一種經濟與道德並行的新分析。為避免盈餘對生產動機的負面影響,湯提倡文人、織女均可以售物而介入市場交換,以達致修身齊家的境界。