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This article develops data on the history of wages and prices in Beijing, Canton, and Suzhou/Shanghai in China from the eighteenth century to the twentieth, and compares them with leading cities in Europe, Japan, and India in terms of nominal wages, the cost of living, and the standard of living. In the eighteenth century, the real income of building workers in Asia was similar to that of workers in the backward parts of Europe but far behind that in the leading economies in north-western Europe. Real wages stagnated in China in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and rose slowly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth, with little cumulative change for 200 years. The income disparities of the early twentieth century were due to long-run stagnation in China combined with industrialization in Japan and Europe.