Feng Menglong’s Vernacular Short Stories: A Guide To The Rise of the Merchant Class in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644): A Complementary System of Confucianism and Capitalism
Haverford College. Department of East Asian Studies
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This thesis postulates that the rise of the merchant class during the Ming Dynasty, as interpreted from historical context and Feng Menglong’s short stories, created a complementary fusion culture of capitalism and Confucianism. Through a critical analysis of Feng Menglong and his vernacular short story, the Ming Dynasty’s unique fused culture is revealed. The structure of the short story and Feng Menglong’s interwoven social commentary also provides further proof of the Ming Dynasty’s fused culture. Specifically, in the critical reading of Feng Menglong’s stories: “Censor Chen Ingeniously Solves the Case of the Gold Hairpins and Brooches,” “Old Man Zhang Grows Melons and Marries Wennu,” “Jiang Xiangge Reencounters His Pearl Shirt” and “In Righteous Wrath, Old Servant Xu Builds Up a Family Fortune,” this thesis will examine this culture’s emphasis on physical objects as portrayed through jewelry, currency and even beautiful women. It will also show that cracks emerged in the foundation of traditional Confucian culture as a result of the ascendance of the merchant class. While significant, these cracks failed ultimately to uproot the Confucian literati from their perch at the top of the Chinese social hierarchy. In the final analysis, however, this thesis will prove that the merger of merchant class mores and the Ming Dynasty’s unique culture not only coexisted in complementary fashion, but also planted the seed for the blending of capitalism and Confucianism that ultimately took root in contemporary China.