Chinese Business History Webinar (Oct 7): George Qiao – Silver Valley: The Merchant Society of Central Shanxi in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

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Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences

 Chinese Business History Webinar

Silver Valley: The Merchant Society of Central Shanxi in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Dr. George Qiao
Amherst College

Date and Time: October 7, 2022 (Fri), 9:00-10:00 am (HKT) / October 6, 2022 (Thu), 9:00-10:00 pm (EDT)
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During the Qing, central Shanxi was home to millions of traveling merchants who established the empire’s most powerful business network. These merchants went far afield, penetrated northern frontier regions such as Manchuria, Mongolia, and Xinjiang, and connected these markets with those in China’s southern provinces. Based on a wide range of primary sources, this talk examines the ways in which the outpouring of long-distance merchants and their commercial success had profoundly transformed the local societies of central Shanxi. I will show that the concentration of merchants and commercial wealth had eroded traditional sociocultural fabrics in central Shanxi that had characterized the late imperial Chinese society—such as the dominance of the gentry, the entrenchment of Confucian moral tenets, and the stability of family institutions. Instead, what we find in central Shanxi during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was a merchant-dominant society where unprecedented wealth quickly accumulated in an underdeveloped area, commerce replaced official careers as the purpose of education, and families and lineage organizations struggled to cope with the absence of men and the corrosive effects of wealth. With the confluence of all these factors, central Shanxi became a place like no other in pre-modern China. 

About the Speaker
George Zhijian Qiao is a socioeconomic historian of late imperial China. After getting his Ph.D. from Stanford in 2017, he joined Amherst College as assistant professor of history and Asian languages and civilizations. He is currently working on the manuscript of his first book, “Shanxi Merchants in the Qing Empire: How the Frontier Trade Transformed Chinese Business and Society.”

About the Webinar Series 
This monthly webinar series features the newest research on the history of Chinese business and entrepreneurship.

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