The Art of Being Governed

The Art of Being Governed: Everyday Politics in Late Imperial China is a study of the lives of soldiers and their families in the Ming dynasty.  It was published by Princeton University Press in November 2017 and was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2018.

More information about the book, and a sample chapter, are available here

Purchase the English edition in hardback or paperback on here.

The simplified Chinese edition of the book was published in 2019. Purchase the Chinese edition here.

The traditional Chinese edition was pubished in 2021 by Lianjing Press.  I wrote a new preface for this edition; you can read the English version of it here

A podcast on the book: 

A short talk about the book:

A short talk about one of the chapters from the book:

A two-part interview about the book (in Chinese) with Gao Xiaosong (高晓松) here and here

Some recent press coverage on the Chinese edition:

Extended Glossary (Thanks to Bruce Rusk for the suggestion)

Extended glossary for The Art of Being Governed

Materials cut from the Chinese edition

In order for the book to be published in China, a small number of cuts were required by the publisher.  These are indicated by an * in the text.  To receive a file with all of the cut material, please send an email to

Original sources

This page - still under construction - provides the original unpublished Chinese sources used in the book, as well as many of the more rare sources. If there is a particular source that you think should be here but isn't, please send me an email and I will prioritize it.

I would welcome any comments and corrections of errors of translation or interpretation.