THE CONFUSIONS OF PLEASURE: A History Of Ming China 1368-1644 Secondary Title

In 701 B.C. the Assyrian empire was in its ascendancy. It had already vanquished the kingdom of Israel to the north including the capital at Samaria. It then prepared an assault on Judah and its capital at Jerusalem.

But in one of those significant events that changes the course of world history, Assyria was repelled. Jerusalem was saved until 586 B.C. when the Babylonians sacked the city, forcing its leadership class into exile.

Henry Aubin, in a major feat of scholarship, determines that Jerusalem was aided by a Kushite army from Africa which had marched northeast from the Nile valley. While the Bible attributes the Assyrian retreat to an angel and secular commentators cite pestilence, Aubin, in a meticulously documented work, demonstrates that an alliance with the African nation of Kush bolstered Jerusalem’s defences.

Kush, also known as Nubia, was located in what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan. A monarchy that existed for more than 1000 years, from 900 B.C. to A.D. 350, Kushites held sway over Egypt from 712 B.C. to about 660 B.C. Of Egypt’s 31 dynasties, this, the 25th Dynasty, is the only one that all scholars agree, was black.

The commander of the Kushite expeditionary force was Taharqa (or as the Bible calls him Tirhakah). This Kushite prince, who had his own interests in halting Assyrian expansion, likely caught the aggressors by surprise as they prepared their siege of Jerusalem.

Aubin offers a thrilling military history and a stirring political analysis of the ancient world. He also sees the event as influential over the centuries.

The Kushite rescue of the Hebrew kingdom of Judah enabled the fragile, war-ravaged state to endure, to nurse itself back to economic and demographic health, and allowed the Hebrew religion, Yahwism, to evolve within the next several centuries into Judaism. Thus emerged the monotheistic trunk supporting Christianity and Islam.


“This is joyful and comprehensive scholarship, full of motion and detail. Timothy Brook encases the fascinating and changeable world of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) in a clear conceptual and chronological framework which any non-specialist can follow. Here are a wealth of Ming people and their problems, along with the very stuff of their world: bricks and bridges; markets, monasteries, and mail; famines and fashion; printing, passion, and portents. This is the first book we have in English that shows the whole shape of Ming life in all its ebullient complexity.”
Jonathan Spence

University of California Press US/98


A History Of Ming China 1368-1644

The Ming era comes vividly to life in Timothy Brook’s masterful cultural history. His chronicle moves effortlessly from the precisely detailed brush strokes of anecdote to the panorama of Ming civilization.

As one of our guides, Brook selects Zhang Tao, a county magistrate, author and historian who lived and wrote during the sunset years of Ming rule.

Zhang Tao yearned for what he believed to be a simpler time when China was an ordered, self-sufficient, rural society. He lamented the slide in later years toward the decadence of urban commerce.

“The urge for pleasure confused people’s sense of what was right,” he wrote. Zhang Tao’s struggle with the conundrum of how to blend desire for commercial profit with a search for moral good has been a recurring theme of China’s history.

Brook uses Zhang’s perceptions and argues with him to reconstruct a complete history of the Dynasty. In additon, the dialogue offers shadings, texture, and a view that takes the outsider to the inside with remarkable ease.

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