Praying for Power

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Praying for Power
Praying for Power.jpg
Front cover of Praying for Power
Author Timothy Brook
Country United States
Language English
Genre History
Publisher Harvard University Asia Center
Publication date
February 1994
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 412 pp.
ISBN ISBN 0-674-69775-8

Praying for Power: Buddhism and the Formation of Gentry Society in Late-Ming China is a history book which explores the relationship between Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism during the 17th and 18th centuries in China (the late Ming Dynasty); tourism to Chinese Buddhist sites, and the patronage of Buddhist monasteries in China by Buddhist and Neo-Confucian gentry during this period.[1] This philanthropy allowed these patrons to "publicize [their] elite status outside the state realm" and promoted the growth of a society of gentry.[1]

The book is written by Timothy Brook, a distinguished[2] Canadian historian who specializes in the study of China (Sinology).[3]


Praying for Power is divided into three main sections:

In Part 1, "The Culture of Buddhism", Brook reviews the development of religious philosophy and politics and the new familiarity with, and openness toward, Buddhism, in what was a Confusianism-dominated society.[4]

In Part 2, "Monastic Patronage'", the author investigates the contributions of the new elite class of gentry, made in the form of "land donations; money and materials for building and renovation; exercise of social and political influence to forward and protect monastic interests; and 'literary patronage,' the composition of admiring poems and essays or the compilation and printing of an institutional history to elevate the prestige of a given monastery."[4]

In Part 3, "Patronage in Context", the author examines in detail patronage by the gentry in three distinct counties: one poor, "where Buddhist institutions were not well developed"; a second rich, where they flourished; and a third "in peculiar circumstances that allow Brook to highlight the ambiguous position of the county magistrate vis-à-vis[5] monastic patronage."[4]


Praying for Power is frequently cited in other scholarly works[6] and referred to in documents on the web sites of many educational establishments.[7]

Writing in the international journal of Sinology T'oung Pao, Barend J. ter Haar describes Praying for Power as a "splendid book".[8] He states that this "excellent introduction" is a "sound piece of investigative research" and that the author makes "important contributions" in two areas neglected in study in the West: the social history of Buddhism in late Ming China and social elites.[8]

In The American Historical Review, Lynn Struve writes that the author "makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of a lamentably neglected subject area: the place of Buddhism in late-Imperial Chinese culture and society."[4] She explains that "the core source material of this book is a large body of local and monastic histories, usually called 'gazetteers' (difang zhi and sizhi), and Brook masterfully shows what can be done through assiduous mining of this genre."[4] The reviewer does caution, however, that though the specialist will appreciate Part 3 of the book ("Patronage in Context"), the non-specialist will find it "heavy going".[4]

Foreign translations[edit]

  • (Chinese) Nanjing: Jiangsu renmin chubanshe, 2004.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b From the book's own product description. See Amazon Books page
  2. ^ Dirda, Michael (27 January 2008). "Painting the World: How a hunger for tea and tobacco created global trade.". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  3. ^ Conrad, Peter (29 June 2008). "A time when every picture told a story". The Observer. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Struve, Lynn (June 1995). "Praying for Power: Buddhism and the Formation of Gentry Society in Late- Ming China by Timothy Brook". The American Historical Review (American Historical Association) 100 (3): 930–931. JSTOR 2168690. 
  5. ^ vis-à-vis: "with regard to" or "in relation to".
  6. ^ See Google Scholar search
  7. ^ See Google web search on ".edu" web sites and ""
  8. ^ a b ter Haar, Barend J. (1999). "Praying for Power: Buddhism and the Formation of Gentry Society in Late-Ming China by Timothy Brook". T'oung Pao (BRILL) 85 (4/5): 515–520. doi:10.1163/1568532992642413. JSTOR 4528819. 


External links[edit]

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