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The Commercial Revolution in Late Medieval China

Hsu Hsien-chung (ca. 1550), "Prose-Poem on Cotton Cloth":

Why do you ignore their toil? Why are you touched
Only by the loveliness that is born from toil?...


In the freezing cold they send the shuttle flying,
One up, one down, the warp-threads through the heddles run,
And as the footbar moves they rise and fall in turn.
A thread snaps; and is painfully joined again...


The chill night stretches out
As one foot, then another foot, is done.
The hens are cackling in the morning cold
When the piece is wound off the roller
And they hurry to market...


When a woman leaves for market
She does not look at her hungry husband.
Afraid her cloth's not good enough,
She adorns her face with cream and powder,
Touches men's shoulders to arouse their lust,
And sells herself with pleasant words.
Money she thinks of as a beast its prey;
Merchants she coaxes as she would her father.
Nor is her burden lifted till one buys...