In The Death of Woman Wang the award-winning historian Jonathan Spence paints a vivid picture of an obscure time and place: provincial China in the late 17th century. Drawing on a range of sources, including local Chinese histories, the memoirs of scholars and other contemporary writings, Spence reconstructs an extraordinary tale of rural tragedy in a remote corner of the northeastern Chinese province of Shantung. Life in the county of T'an-ch'eng emerges as an endless cycle of floods, plagues, crop failures, banditry and heavy taxation. Against this turbulent background a tenacious tax collector, an irascible farmer, and an unhappy wife act out a poignant drama at whose climax the wife, having run away from her husband, returns to him, only to die at his hands. The Death of Woman Wang not only magnificently evokes the China of the late Ming period, but also deepens our understanding of the China we know today.