The open access edition of this book was made possible by a grant from the James P. Geiss and Margaret Y. Hsu Foundation. Support for the book was also provided by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange; the University of California, Davis; and the Traditional Chinese Culture and Society Book Fund, established through generous gifts from Patricia Buckley Ebrey and Thomas Ebrey.
A forgotten century marks the years between the Ming dynasty's (1368–1644) turbulent founding and its sixteenth-century age of exploration and economic transformation. In this period of social stability, retired scholar-official Lu Rong chronicled his observations of Chinese society in Miscellaneous Records from the Bean Garden (Shuyuan zaji). Openly expressing his admirations and frustrations, Lu provides a window into the quotidian that sets Bean Garden apart from other works of the biji genre of "informal notes."
Mark Halperin organizes a translated selection of Lu's accounts from Miscellaneous Records from the Bean Garden to create a panorama of Ming life. A man of unusual curiosity, Lu describes multiple social classes, ethnicities, and locales in his accounts of political intrigues, farming techniques, religious practices, etiquette, crime, and family life. Centuries after their composition, Lu's words continue to provide a richly textured portrait of China on the cusp of the early modern era.