As a historian of late imperial China, I am most interested in uncovering the interconnectedness and interactions between economic forces, political developments, and socio-cultural factors that shaped market institutions and molded the behavior of economic actors. I also aim to understand how people’s economic activities and business institutions help to change political configurations and transform socio-cultural landscapes. To illustrate, my current research traces the historical process through which the Shanxi merchants created the most powerful long-distance trading network in pre-modern China during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. I argue that the success of these merchants could be attributed to the new political economy on the frontier that resulted from the Qing Empire’s westward expansion, but their success also exerted profound impacts on the empire. On the one hand, these merchants created new business and social institutions to take advantage of the new market opportunities, and their activities also facilitated the socioeconomic integration between peripheral and core regions of the empire, thereby consolidating imperial rule in the borderlands. On the other hand, the new institutions helped the merchants to create an alternative social order—one that empowered businessmen and challenged the orthodox Confucian ideology promoted by the empire, which discriminated against merchants and profit-seeking activities.