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[1]
Publication date
February 1994
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 412 pp.
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.[2] This philanthropy allowed these patrons to "publicize [their] elite status outside the state realm" and promoted the growth of a society of gentry.[2]

The book is written by Timothy Brook, a distinguished[3] Canadian historian who specializes in the study of China (Sinology).[4]


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.[5]

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."[5]

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[6] monastic patronage."[5]


Praying for Power is frequently cited in other scholarly works[7] and referred to in documents on the web sites of many educational establishments.[8]

Writing in the international journal of Sinology T'oung Pao, Barend J. ter Haar describes Praying for Power as a "splendid book".[9] 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.[9]

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."[5] 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."[5] 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".[5]

Foreign translations[edit]

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Timothy Brook (1993). Praying for Power: Buddhism and the Formation of Gentry Society in Late-Ming China. Harvard Univ Asia Center. ISBN 978-0-674-69775-1. 
  2. ^ a b From the book's own product description. See Amazon Books page
  3. ^ Dirda, Michael (27 January 2008). "Painting the World: How a hunger for tea and tobacco created global trade.". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  4. ^ Conrad, Peter (29 June 2008). "A time when every picture told a story". The Observer. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ vis-à-vis: "with regard to" or "in relation to".
  7. ^ See Google Scholar search
  8. ^ See Google web search on ".edu" web sites and ""
  9. ^ 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. JSTOR 4528819. doi:10.1163/1568532992642413. 


External links[edit]

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