Abstract: Since the publication of Kenneth Pomeranz’s seminal book The Great Divergence, the landscape of world and global history has changed dramatically. For the first time, living standards, instead of labour, land and capital productivities, have become the prime concern among historians in various parts of the world. The key to this decade-long debate hinges on quantity and quality of information for transnational and cross-regional comparisons. But due to the obvious constraints we historians constantly face, genuinely good data are frustratingly hard to obtain and thus set the upper limits for what we can possibly achieve. The task of the present study is to put some currently circulated nominal wages for the Ming-Qing Period (1368-1911) under the microscope to check their feasibility. Our main findings from Chinese sources suggest that published cash wages did not reflect the actual living wages needed in reality to support a worker and his family of the average size. This means that we may have been barking at the wrong tree.