The Religious Ethic and Mercantile Spirit in Early Modern China by Ying-shih Yü
Translated by Yim-tze Kwong and edited by Hoyt Cleveland Tillman
Columbia University Press, March 2021
Why did modern capitalism not arise in late imperial China? The preeminent historian Ying-shih Yü offers a magisterial examination of religious and cultural influences in the development of China’s early modern economy. The book traces how religious leaders developed the spiritual significance of labor and how merchants adopted this religious work ethic. Yü argues that China’s early modern mercantile spirit was restricted by the bureaucratic priority on social order, and rejects the premise that China needed an early capitalist stage of development. Now available in English, this landmark work has been influenced scholars in East Asia since its publication in 1987.