The Ming dynasty (1368-1644), a period of commercial expansion and cultural innovation, fashioned the relationship between state and society in Chinese history. This unique collection of reworked and heavily illustrated essays, by one of the leading scholars of Chinese history, re-examines this relationship. It argues that, contrary to previous scholarship, it was radical responses within society that led to a 'constitution', not periods of fluctuation within the dynasty itself. Brook's outstanding scholarship demonstrates that it was changes in commercial relations and social networks that were actually responsible for the development of a stable society. This imaginative reconsidering of existing scholarship on the history of China will be fascinating reading for scholars and students interested in China's development.