Earlier than you think

Information about China’s first “newspapers” is scattered. A reference in a short essay on border policy from Grand Secretary Yu Shenxing (1545-1608) is both explicit and negative. Probably writing during his retirement from public life after 1591, Yu expresses concern about panic caused by false information about the military situation on the northern border. He complains of “news bureau entrepreneurs (baofang guer) who are out for the most minuscule profits and give no consideration to matters of [national] emergency”. In the spirit that has come to dominate the relationship of politicians to journalists, he asks, “Why aren’t they strenuously prohibited?”


That is from Timothy Brook’s The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China. My take on the book, from the start of the year, is here.

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